I wish I could tell you that there is a reason I am an alcoholic and addict. However, my childhood was idyllic; my parents were supportive and encouraging, my brothers were even my best friends. In the simplest form, I suffer from the disease of addiction, a progressive illness. My body prefers the way it feels under the effects of drugs and alcohol and will chase that feeling to my death. I had my first drink the summer I was fifteen. I was on vacation, and I wanted to impress a boy. That night I had sex for the first time, my first cigarette, and my first beer. I was not the alcoholic or addict that was off to the races, it was just my introduction. I drank through high school and graduated in the top 5% of my class. I went to college and ultimately ended up at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy.
I drank throughout college, sometimes heavily and sometimes not at all. I adamantly opposed illegal drugs since I was going to be a pharmacist one day. The summer before my last year in pharmacy school, someone offered me the opportunity to intern for a pharmacy on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was an amazing summer, I had a great time working and going to the beach. One morning on the beach, I started talking to an Ocean Rescue Guard, who would eventually become my husband. I was offered a job at the pharmacy I was working for and moved to Nags Head the day after graduation. That summer I passed my pharmacy boards and was living at the beach with my boyfriend where things were perfect. Eventually, he began working as a firefighter/paramedic for the town of Nags Head where he would work 24-hour shifts. I was lonely and bored while he was gone and would have a drink for something to do. As my disease progressed, I drank not just for something to do but when I was happy, sad, lonely, bored, to celebrate, or to mourn because I had a rough day at work, honestly for any reason.
Meanwhile, life was continuing. We got married, bought a house, a dog, and had a baby. Eventually we decided to move to Pittsburgh (my hometown) as I was suffering from a serious medical condition and needed more care than I could obtain where we were. Through the course of my treatment, the doctors introduced me to benzodiazepines, which were critical to helping me get better in the beginning. My disease progressed further but my medical condition was under control. I quickly learned that I loved the effect I got from the pills. As my disease progressed more, I discovered that mixing pills and alcohol was even better. Things got to a point where I did not know how to cope if I was not under the effect of pills, alcohol, or both. I would not allow myself to use while I was at work, and I ended up on a medical leave. While I was on the leave, things continued to get worse, more and more quantities were necessary to achieve the same effect. One evening I was in a social situation and someone put a line of cocaine in front of me. The version of me that was adamantly opposed to illegal drugs would have been offended and gone home. However, my disease had taken over and that never crossed my mind. From that first line, my entire life became about the drug. The next 6 weeks I spent all of our savings, went places I had no business being, with people I normally wouldn’t know, and did things I didn’t know I was capable of doing. Every morning I would say I was not going to keep doing what I was doing, and by noon, I was back in the middle of it. I became a liar, a cheat, and a thief. I hated who I was but honestly did not think I had a problem. I thought I knew what I was doing and that the problem was everyone else. If they (my husband, my child, my parents, my brothers, my friends) would just let me be, I would be okay.
Through a series of events, my physician became involved and reported me to the state board. I could either surrender my pharmacist license or become involved with SARPH; which is the Pennsylvania State Board of Pharmacy officially recognized peer assistance program to help pharmacists suffering from addiction or other mental disorders. I did not really want to get clean and sober, I wanted to get out of trouble so I started what was to become the most amazing journey of my life. SARPH facilitated my entry into a rehab program and somehow I started to hear what they were saying. One day the light went on, and I realized I was an alcoholic and addict. I signed a 3-year contract with the State Board that involved many random urine and hair tests, regular 12 step meeting attendance, and many other hoops I had to jump through to prove I was worthy and capable of hold a pharmacist license. It was involved, it took time, but I was able to do just that. I have not found it necessary to take a drink or mood/mind altering substance since September 5, 2006.
As a direct result of being clean and sober, today I am still happily married to that Ocean Rescue Guard I met all those years ago, and we have three children. I get to be a mommy to three amazing children and a wife to a husband that I love very much. I work as a pharmacist in a job I love. I get to give back to SARPH by serving as the Vice President on the Board of Directors. I still attend 12 step meetings on a very regular basis. I share my story wherever and whenever asked. I believe that one of the ways we can battle the disease of addiction as a society is to reduce stigmas and stereotypes by showing that recovery is possible and that addiction does not discriminate. I am a ‘good’ girl, brought up right by loving parents, academically successful, and a professional member of the healthcare community. I ended up no different from the street addict, selling their soul to the devil for that next high.
This is why I am sharing my story. Today I am in recovery, but I cannot forget what I can become if I take a drink or a drug. All the things I have worked so hard for will disappear because even though I have not used or drunk, my disease is progressive, and as soon as I pick up I will be worse than I was 11 years ago. Today my life is blessed and I am not willing to give it up.
Today I am clean and sober.