Sally’s Story: Hope in the Face of a Drug Epidemic
Our country is experiencing a drug epidemic. 100 people die a day from drug overdoses. Heroin is taking out entire cities. People are becoming hopelessly addicted to painkillers. Meth labs are everywhere.
But all’s not lost. There is hope. There is healing. Today we are sharing with you a story of one of our friends, a graduate of Turning Point Recovery, Sally.
Sally’s story is one of pain and destruction but also hope and inspiration. This may mirror your life. This may mirror the life of your loved one. We want you to know that addiction can be treated and a fulfilling life can be had. Sally is proof. Read on.
What is your background? When did you start using drugs or drinking?
I grew up in a good family, I just did not like rules. So, at the age of 15, I left home and started life with the man that I was in love with. We had a wonderful relationship until about 6 months into it. Then the name calling, mind games and fighting started. I became pregnant at the age of 21. The kid’s dad cheated on me. I stayed because I did not want my child to not have a father. When I was 22, I had my first child 10 weeks early. I was having back problems and started taking opiates and Xanax. I became addicted to the high that the opiates gave me. I was able to manage my family, my job and just life in general better. They made everything numb. At one point, I got in trouble for doctor shopping.
I stayed with my kids’ dad for 17 years – he was also involved with prescription pills. There was a lot of mental and emotional abuse in our relationship. It really caused me to put up a wall – I thought that’s just how it was supposed to be, so I stayed to keep my family. At 30, I became pregnant again. I abused opiates my entire pregnancy.
We finally broke up about 4 years ago, and I knew I needed to stop using pills – so, about one week before I moved into my new house, I flushed all of them down the toilet. I actually then spent three years dry and sober, going to NA meetings. I had emotionally built up a wall, and had become codependent, taking care of other people. My codependency was pretty much the same as the drugs, to keep the focus off of myself.
After the meetings, I would go home and drink – because NA never really specified alcohol.
It started out I would drink Fridays and then Saturdays, and then I started going out after work to ease some stress. Eventually, I was drinking just to get out of bed in the mornings. Then, I started doing crack cocaine to stay up longer.
What happened after that?
I started losing weight, and people began commenting on it and asking about it. I told them I was taking vitamin B-12 and running – which I was, I just didn’t tell them about the drugs. I was really able to hide it. I’d get up and drink everyday, but function normally. People I worked with really thought I was just high on life.
I knew what I was doing though.
I wasn’t talking to my mom – but if I did, it usually ended in screaming and arguing. I ignored calls from my best friend who was pregnant at the time. I still had problems with my kids’ dad, and I wouldn’t let the kids see me when I was drunk – so I didn’t see them much.
How did you get into Turning Point Recovery for treatment?
I work for a large, international company and I won an award that only a small number people across the entire world receive each year. What should have been a great moment, wasn’t. I knew what I was doing at work. I was drunk and high – I was a high functioning addict, and I was hiding it. This award started the trigger in my mind that I was not normal.
I was using so much alcohol and cocaine by that point, I started having blackouts – which really scared me because I’ve always been in control. One day, I fell, and I didn’t know how it happened. I had a scar on my knees and arms and it terrified me.
I knew I couldn’t do it anymore. My kids were suffering, my friends were suffering, my family was suffering.
So one Saturday morning I was lying in bed and realized I just couldn’t do this anymore. My epiphany. I called my best friend, Jenna. It turns out, she had been talking to my mom the night before for two hours. She had a plan, and number for Addiction Campuses. She dropped everything and came down and got me and took me to the Mayo Clinic. She believed in me, even though I had pushed her away with my addiction.
Jenna and I talked to Jamie at Addiction Campuses, and they were waiting for me. I remember thinking before I got on that flight, “ I’ll go down there, but when I get home, I’ll be able to drink again.”
My father, who is one of my best friends, was a meth addict. I called him to tell him I was going to treatment. He did not come to see me off at the airport. I was also unable to speak with him on Father’s Day. This was something that broke my heart.
What was did you experience going to TPR?
When I first got there, I was in the car with my recovery coach and another client, and I remember the vibe: “This is probably going to suck, but we’ll get well for us and for our families.”
That first week did suck. It was tough. But the more I got into, the better. I started picking up the DBT skills, and the trauma group with Alan helped me a lot. I learned that the emotional wall that I had put up wasn’t strength, it was my prison – and that was one of the smartest things I had ever heard. I did my first psychotherapy group with Alan- that group changed everything. I got out things that I had hidden for years. I sobbed harder than I ever had in my 34 years on this earth. After that – I was physically and emotionally tired, like a ton of bricks had been released off my back. I felt relief, without having to take a drink or drug.
TPR makes you look at everything in another way. For so long, I blamed my kids’ dad, but it was things within myself. It is one of the most important things that you can learn. It is ultimately you and your reaction to things, not others.
I also had thought that by going to treatment, that it was selfish – being away from my own kids, leaving work, leaving Minnesota. TPR made me realize that I was selfish by being alcoholic and drug addict, because I was hurting all around me.
I learned that me trying to help others to not focus on myself had a term called co-dependency. I can’t save everybody – which had always been a struggle for me.
What was the biggest thing you learned about yourself while in treatment?
It’s not other people making my problems. Having a mask of happiness is harder than taking it off and being yourself – so be free. People are going to like you, and if they don’t – they’re not worth your time. Don’t let people rent space in your head.
Addiction is a disease – not something we choose to do. It’s because we don’t know how to function, and we have to find ourselves. But when you find yourself – you get it. I learned that simple things in life matter.
What is your life like now in recovery?
Everyday isn’t easy, and it isn’t sunshine and rainbows. But those days, I remind myself: It’ll all be worth it tomorrow. Even if it’s a bad few days, or a bad week – it will get better.
I’ve been able to take my skills home and apply them – and even help my dad. He is 100 days sober this week – because I went to rehab. If I didn’t learn those skills at Turning Point, I wouldn’t have been able to pass them on.
I see things differently now: the leaves, the sunshine, the lakes, my children’s laughter. I can appreciate so much more. When I say that I am blessed or grateful, I actually mean it. It isn’t just words coming out of my mouth.
People didn’t understand when I got home. And I’ve had to give up some friends, because when you’re sober, some people don’t want anything to do with you. The statement “Get sober and find out who your friends are”, rings true. TPR teaches you that you can not expect everyone to understand what you are going through while in rehab, the disease of addiction. Even if they looked at every single note, or watched videos of every single group or class – people aren’t going to understand what you went through. But that’s ok, because it’s a whole different experience for me now. It is ok they don’t understand, the only person that needs to understand is yourself.
It’s a fight, but it’s a fight worth fighting.
What would you tell someone who is maybe walking a similar path that you did?
You have to be ready to make this change. If you’re not, you’re wasting your time. You have to be ready to get your life back.
It’s the scariest thing that I’ve ever done – and I’ve had babies, and cancer – but this was the most terrifying thing. But it does get better. Sharing your feelings releases the pain that you have been hiding for so long; you are able to come out of the dark tunnel you have dug for yourself. Even though you are with a group of strangers at first in rehab, you will find it easier to express feelings because they have been there/done that like you have.
You never realize how much support you have until you finish. When you can be honest with yourself and others that you have an addiction and sought treatment, there is support. Addicts do not not go to rehab for praise, but when you receive it, it is just another thing that makes it all worth it. And remember that Faith without action is dead. Keep up on what you learned. Do what you need to stay sober.
What would you tell someone about Turning Point?
- TPR is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get sh*t right. So use it.
- Take it all in. Someone may something that will trigger your brain, and let you open up and get something off of your chest.
- The staff cares about you. You’re not treated as a number, and they honestly care – and that’s the best thing in the world.
- They don’t sugar coat things. Addicts aren’t dumb – and they didn’t treat us that way.
- Use the DBT skills. Take time to process each one. You will use them when you get back home. You can teach them to others. I have them pinned up at my desk at work.
What keeps you going each day?
Believe it or not, I have a sobriety calendar on my phone that keeps me going everyday – it’s one of the simple things that matter. I will be 6 months sober December 14th. I didn’t do this for other people to be proud of me – this is for me. If I didn’t work on my problem, I don’t know where I’d be – I wouldn’t have life skills to use and to pass onto others in my life. If I get to reach one person and be an agent of God, that’s all I need. My true happiness keeps me going. The new healthy relationships that I am repairing keeps me going. My clearer mind keeps me going. Knowing that my future is going to be much brighter keeps me going. I have control of my life now. I drive now, the drugs and alcohol don’t.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
I’ve built such a bond, such a connection at TPR that I take my vacation time to go back there. I went through it with a great group of people and we’re still friends and still in contact. Use your contact skill. It can save you in moments of desperation. This past week, I was able to go down there and talk with other people in the program and share my story. I was also able to meet Jamie – the lady that picked up the phone that day. She is the 3rd piece of my life puzzle ( first being my best friend who picked up the phone that morning, my Mom next) that saved my life. I still have the text from her that June 15 could be my sober date – and it is.
It all happens for a reason. God/your higher power has a plan, take and roll with it. It will save your life. You can change. You can find yourself. You can function without putting a pill in your mouth, a needle in your arm, a drink in your mouth, or simply ingesting any poison. I am proof. If you are given the opportunity of help, please take it. Everything will not change in one day, you will be a work in progress daily, but every moment of sobriety is worth it. Know you may never receive all the answers to questions that have, but that is the past. Release it. You will be at peace with yourself. You will find that emotions are actually true and meaningful. Below is what I wrote 2 days before I got on the plane to TPR along with a song “Something to Remind You” by Staind, that hit a nerve with me.
Sometimes it is not about one being weak. It is about a person being smart and strong enough to see that the road ahead needs work – work that requires the very guidance that I have thought of as the enemy. Pride sometimes takes over one’s ability to to see that guidance is not an enemy. My pride is not allowed to drive right now. Instead, I will open my mind and let guidance drive: Drive me to find that strength that one can be proud of. Drive me off this road and to the road that where I live. It is paved with my heart, soul, strength, intelligence and wisdom. Weakness is not a word in my road atlas at this moment. Faith, love, gratefulness, strength, intelligence and wisdom that I want in my road atlas to carry. And you best believe, I will always remember this road trip.