I was born and raised in Philadelphia, in the Bucks County Area. I spent a few years down south through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, and have been back in Pennsylvania since December 2017. About eight years ago, I was in a seven-car collision and broke my neck. I was prescribed opioids for the pain and soon found myself in a cycle. I realized that the more pills I took, the more I hurt, and the more pills I needed. I realized I had a problem when I was taking more than 30 pills in a 48-hour period. I had to buy them illicitly to satisfy my habit. My ex-husband told me that enough was enough, and I needed to enter rehab. I was afraid to stop, but knew I had to. I was clean for about a year, but began taking opioids again after I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. At this point, I was dealing with different doctors who didn’t know I had past issues with opioid addiction. A friend of mine had been diagnosed with cancer, and after seeing what she went through, I feared facing it without opioids.
I didn’t tell any of my kids about my cancer because I didn’t want to worry them. On top of the cancer and going into work, my mother-in-law fell very ill, and I had to care for her. I began taking the pills again because it helped me deal with everything. My mother-in-law passed away, and I became cancer free; I was still taking the opioids though. My marriage started falling apart, and I got arrested for submitting fraudulent prescriptions. I did another bout of rehab and became free of opioids. I was diagnosed with cancer again two years ago and am proud to say that I stayed sober through it all. Despite this, I would still have issues with addiction.
I had a severe alcohol issue but haven’t had a drink since December eighth. Something that really helped me out was a recovery home. I was homeless and living out of my van until a friend introduced me to True Light Recovery. Tracey, the founder of True Light Recovery, welcomed me into her recovery home, and it was wonderful. I had access to a warm house, food and a bed after being homeless. I’m forever grateful to Tracey and True Light Recovery for providing that. Homes like this are needed for women, not just for addiction, but abuse as they all go hand in hand. We’ve all been through things in our life, and we have to choose whether we let it make us or break us. I’m choosing to let it make me at this point and this home has helped me do that. I’m now a general manager for the house. I’m trying to make something good come out of all the wrong I did. That’s what keeps me sane and sober, along with my new-found faith in Jesus and helping the ladies that come into this house. I try to use myself as an example that those in the house can learn from. I want to show them that we are not our past, we are who we choose to be today.
Unfortunately, I’m not the only person in my family to experience substance use disorder. My mother was addicted to painkillers. She didn’t think she had a problem, but I would eventually find her after she overdosed. She didn’t make it. Two of my children would become addicted to heroin and meth. My daughter’s been sober for over a year now, but my son still struggles. Being somebody who’s been in recovery myself, it’s very hard to watch. My daughter had a difficult time in recovery that was made even harder by the fact that we lived far from each other, and I was drunk whenever she called. All I could do was lend an ear for her. Another aspect of it that was hard for her was the fact that several of her friends were addicted to opioids. She decided to white-knuckle through it, as she didn’t want a prolonged recovery. She fortunately did get through it, but not everyone can make it through this method. When I came to visit her, she didn’t want to see me because my alcoholism was a trigger for her. That’s when I decided to get sober from alcohol, so that I would not put her in position to use again.
My son is still in active addiction. I know he’s trying to recover, but I don’t know how well that’s going because he lives out in Illinois. All I can do is pray for him and his family. In the past, I would do everything in my power to save them, whether it was drugs, financial, or living situations. I now realize that stepping away and not being part of their everyday life is showing them that they have to be their own safety net at this point. I’m old and wise enough to know that I need to focus on my own recovery. I had to learn how to let everything go and not be so hard on myself. For me, I found the only way to do that was to give my life up to God. It’s a sense of freedom that I know anything can carry me at this point.
My best advice for others going through addiction, is to just take the leap and jump into recovery. Just do it, it’s so worth it. It’s a real joy to wake up every morning. I sustain that joy with the knowledge that everything I’m doing is going to benefit somebody else.
This is why I am sharing my story, so that my experiences can inform someone else. It’s important for people to ask their doctors about the prescriptions they are receiving. On the other side of that, doctors should be careful about how much they’re prescribing to their patients. My addiction started through doctors, and the medical profession needs to do more to prevent future occurrences of that.