Much like developing an addiction to opioids, recovering from that addiction and reclaiming a healthy, happy life takes time. I learned that the hard way, facing a problem I should have seen coming from a mile away yet somehow didn’t realize until it was too late.

The first time I ever drank was at 15 years old. Like so many kids, I didn’t see it as a big deal, it was just what kids do. When I started smoking pot at 17, I had the same thought. One night my boyfriend and I had friends over. Vicodin was being passed around and everyone was taking it. I took it too, without a second thought. I don’t really remember feeling amazing or terrible, nothing that dramatic. It just made me relax and forget about things, which I liked. I had an older sister and boyfriend who used drugs, and it just didn’t seem like something that would become a problem.

My older sister was addicted to heroin, so I probably should have realized that if I took opiates it could be a problem, but the thought honestly didn’t occur to me at the time. I wasn’t scared because I had grown up around it, and with my sister, boyfriend and friends all doing it, it was easy to get caught up. I just kept taking it, and it progressed into an addiction very quickly.

I can say honestly that I had a good childhood, though it wasn’t without its issues there wasn’t a trauma I could easily point to as the reason for my addiction. My mom and grandparents were great, and we are now very close again. They always supported me and do to this day. My parents divorced when I was young and my dad remarried quickly. He was very involved in parenting my step-mother’s kids, and that left my sister and I feeling abandoned. He didn’t show interest in what we were doing or what was going on in our lives. That hurt was definitely a driving factor in my drug use, though I didn’t realize it at the time.

About a year into my use I knew it had become a problem. It was certainly something I had seen before in my sister, and things around me were starting to fall apart. My boyfriend got in trouble for possession of drugs, and I took the fall for him, so I was then on probation. Our family business, a pizza restaurant, was being stolen from by people my sister and I used drugs with, and it began to go downhill. At the age of 21, I knew that I needed to be in a different place if I was going to be okay, so my boyfriend and I moved away.

A new place sadly didn’t change much for us. We continued to use drugs, and once again my boyfriend was arrested, this time finding himself in jail. I moved into his family’s house, and in an attempt to get cleaned up, I was taking Suboxone® purchased on the street, but was not attending a treatment program or making any other changes. With just his family in the area, I began to feel quite lonely and chose after 5 months to move in with my grandmother. Once at home, I picked up using heavily again right away. Despite the mounting problem of my addiction, I was blessed during this time to meet the man who would become my husband, and the first reason for me to start looking seriously at changing my life came into focus. From the time I realized I had a problem, I used for almost 5 years before deciding to get help.

During my use, and subsequent attempts to get clean on my own, my sister had continued to use heroin heavily. She got out of jail one day after another run in with the law, and immediately went to use with friends. That night, she overdosed, and the people she was with didn’t seek any help for her for hours. By the time they did, she was gone. The disease that took my sister was also slowly killing me, and I knew I had to stop. I was done.

Shortly after the tragedy that began to shape my future, came the great joy that would be the final catalyst for change. I was pregnant. At 25, I knew this was my chance, so I stopped taking the Suboxone® and went to MedMark, then known as MedTech Rehabilitation, and I’ve been sober ever since. That makes it sound easy, but it was anything but. This was my first real attempt to get sober. I’d never done inpatient, IOPs or 12 step programs. My sister had tried 12 step programs in the past, and they hadn’t worked, so I had little faith they could help me.

The key to success was to approach the program with patience and commitment. I had to utilize the amazing counseling services in addition to the medication to really heal and begin to recover. If you work the program the right way, and you really want it, you are going to succeed. Taking your time, and tapering down the right way is how I was able to successfully discharge from the program this year, never having suffered a single significant withdrawal symptom. When I got to a place, if I started to feel bad, I would stop for a couple of months, stabilize at that dose, and then taper down another level. Though I often wanted to rush ahead and “be done”, and my family wanted that as well, my patience was a critical element of successfully completing treatment.

5 years into my sobriety I have a great life. My husband and son have been the biggest reasons for and benefits of my recovery. I am the kind of wife and mom they deserve thanks to the medication-assisted treatment I received at MedMark. I had embarrassed and disappointed my family for so long. I feel a great sense of pride in knowing that my grandmother, mom and aunts can be proud of me again. I know what my relapse would do to all of the important, supportive, amazing people in my life and it gives me motivation every day.

I hope to find a way to give back to the recovery community in the future. I’ve always loved helping people, and by becoming a counselor, or working in the industry, I can give back to others still suffering. I’ve been there, I’ve seen it, I’ve lost many friends and loved ones, and I survived.