My Journey to Addiction Recovery: Beth M.
I grew up in South Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia, in a good family. Drugs and alcohol were not part of my story at a young age, I actually got a pretty late start compared to many other stories that I hear. I just wasn’t exposed to it. My parents drank occasionally, but were just social drinkers, and I wasn’t around drugs at all even in high school. I certainly had a curiosity to try pot and to drink but never had the chance.
I spent my first two years of college at Penn State’s main campus and suddenly had a LOT of freedom. Penn State is a huge party school and so weekends were spent going to fraternity parties and I started drinking and smoking pot. I definitely slacked when it came to focusing on school though, my classes were so big that I was really just a number and my grades suffered. Early in the spring semester of my sophomore year I was raped by someone I thought was a friend and my fall into addiction began. Full of shame, I didn’t tell anyone at first and it was about 2 weeks before it was reported to the school. After numerous hearings the end result was basically nothing. The guy didn’t get in trouble, I felt that the school didn’t believe me, and every day for the next 15 or so years I either drank or got high.
I left school at the end of that semester to transfer to a school near home. That summer, I met my future husband (now ex-husband). Luckily, he was a big support for me where the rape was concerned. But he also liked to party so there was always a lot of drinking and smoking pot going on.
When I was 23, about a year before we were to get married, I was in a near fatal car accident. I broke everything on the left side of my body, all of my ribs as well, and collapsed my lung. The doctors feared I might not be able to walk down the aisle for my wedding and warned that it would be a long, painful recovery. And it was. For 4 years I was prescribed massive amounts of painkillers. This was in 2001, before pain pills were the epidemic that they are now and at the time I had no idea that I was becoming addicted to them until about 2 years in. But I couldn’t stop and didn’t understand how I could be an addict if they were prescribed by a doctor. I also noticed that my mental state was deteriorating. I was very depressed despite being happy in my marriage and having a pretty good life all in all. I ended up in a dual diagnosis hospital, my first of many stays. I was introduced to the 12 steps there but didn’t see how it would apply to me. I was from a good family in an affluent area! Things like this didn’t happen to people like me!
But it did. 4 years after starting the pills I told my doctor I had a problem. It was suggested that I go to a methadone clinic and I did that for 3 months to get off the pills. All the while, I kept drinking and smoking pot because I thought just the pills were my issue.
About a year after finishing methadone I had to have surgery on my elbow and was again prescribed pain pills. A month after the surgery, my doctor cut me off from the pills and despite the fact that none of my friends did hard drugs, I had the idea that I would just go get some heroin. The town I lived in was about 20 minutes from Camden, NJ, where my mom had taught for years, and I knew I could easily get heroin there. So off I went, I found someone selling and I will never forget the first time I bought heroin because here I am, a girl that looks like a librarian or a teacher, wearing glasses and a cardigan sweater, getting out of my car at a street corner in Camden and saying something along the lines of “I’d like to buy some heroin please”. The guy that first sold to me asked if I had ever done it before and when I said no, he actually tried to talk me out of it. But the true addict that I am, my mind was already made up and I bought some and well, the rest is history.
For a while my husband didn’t know. I was buying a lot of coke as well which we were using together and so I always just lied about how much that cost. But after a few months my husband went to pay the mortgage one day and realized there wasn’t enough money in our account. I came clean about the heroin and tried methadone again. Meanwhile, we had to sell our house so we separated and my trips to psych wards/ detoxes/ rehabs were more frequent. I moved back home with my family where my brother was also deep in active addiction.
In February of 2010 my brother and I both decided to go to treatment. I went to a place in Pennsylvania and my brother ended up at Stepping Stone. When I left treatment, I moved into an Oxford House in NJ where I lived for about a year and a half. I went to meetings but honestly, I half assed working the program. When I celebrated 2 years I was living on my own, thought that I really had it together despite constantly making poor choices and totally acting out in other ways – shopping, men, etc. With just over 2 years sober I stopped going to meetings and relapsed within a month.
The next 8 or 9 months were hands down the worst of my life. My entire life was a lie. I still told people I was sober but I had this double life. Every “never” and “yet” came true. My level of what was acceptable behavior and what wasn’t grew lower by the day. I really think the only reason I am still alive is because I had a dog to take care of and he gave me a purpose. The last 2 months of my using I was facing eviction, getting my utilities shut off (it was New Jersey in winter so it was cold) and losing my job. My dad told me he couldn’t talk to me anymore and my mom called me to find out my wishes for my funeral.
I woke up one morning and it was just another day. I got high and started walking my dog before I went to go buy more drugs. Literally out of nowhere on that walk I called my dad and told him I needed rehab. Immediately the plan was in motion. My mom told me that I was going to Stepping Stone and then moving to a halfway house in Delray Beach, FL, as my brother had done. I didn’t argue it. It was clear my way wasn’t working. I drove to spend the night with my sister and to leave my dog with her and the next day I was on a plane to Jacksonville.
Stepping Stone was tough at times… it was BUSY! I heard stuff about myself I didn’t want to hear and got honest about things I didn’t want to admit. But I stayed and did the work. My mom worked on finding me a halfway house and I told her to go ahead and pick it because I was in no place to make good decisions. And when I got to the halfway house, I kept taking suggestions. My house manager suggested a sponsor to me and now, almost 4 years later, I still have that same sponsor. I am NOT half-assing sobriety this time around. I can’t afford to. Had I stayed out there any longer I would’ve died and probably sooner rather than later.
These days I like routine and I like to stay busy. Idle time isn’t good for me. A year ago, I landed a dream job that is literally only because I am a responsible person today. So, I travel a lot for work but when I’m home every day is the same… work, gym, meeting. I have supports that I can turn to and they can turn to me, I sponsor other women, and most importantly, I have the respect of my family back. ALL of that is thanks to the 12 steps. I truly am a grateful recovering alcoholic and addict.