There are countless stories of hope and recovery to be told about everyday people living with substance use disorders. To view a collection of stories from people in our community who are living with substance use disorder, please see the stories below. If you would like to share your story, please email email@example.com.
“My name is Caitlyn. I am 27 years old. I am currently 20 months clean off of heroin and methamphetamine. I was about 21 when I first started using. It started with smoking and it just continued into where I became an every day several times a day IV drug user, I would mix heroin and meth. When I first started I was working full time and going to school full-time paying for my own apartment, and I had a really good life. After the first couple months of using, I quit my job, I dropped out of school, and I received an eviction notice for not paying my rent. So from there, I became homeless and soon after lost my car. Next, I went about for five years just on the streets stealing daily from stores just to be able to support my habit. Recovery was always in the back of my mind, but I never knew which direction to go so I just kept using. Soon my family and friends didn’t even recognize me and wanted nothing to do with me. I met a guy, and we both used together. After about a year we found out I was pregnant!
At first that was really scary news. I was in and out of jail on the run from the cops and things weren’t looking good. Eventually we both ended up in jail at the same time and I began methadone. After I got out of jail, I decided I needed to get into a residential program. I completed that program and gave birth to my daughter! After that I went to a Transitional Living Program. My boyfriend had gotten out of jail and I saved up enough money for us to have our own place! We moved about 30 minutes away from where we were when we were using. Since then I have gone from 196 mg of methadone a day down to 14 mg of methadone per day. I have been tapering off of methadone every week. I am almost there! My life is so amazing now. I am a mom. I have a job. I have taken care of so many responsibilities, and it makes me feel so great! I am pursuing a career as an ultrasound technician, which I’m really excited about! I have my family and my friends back, I just got my driver’s license back after 4 years of not having it! Life is a crazy thing, but I have come to realize that it’s not important to live in regret or guilt. The most important thing is to look forward and know that everything happens for a reason. A positive attitude will get you through anything! I am the happiest I have ever been in my life. Even though it’s not always the easiest path to decide to get your life on track, it is the best path and the most rewarding! My daughter is definitely the light of my life. I have her to thank because she was the reason for my sobriety at first because I didn’t know how to do it for myself! Now I know that I am sober for myself, my child, my family, my friends, my conscience, and my heart! Thank you and always remember that you can do this too
“Hi, my name is James. My story with opioid abuse started in the early 1990’s, I would smoke black tar heroin in my weed, and soon after I was eating morphine tabs. All of this was recreational, but the seeds were planted. Then in 1997, I started pain medicine therapy because of back problems. My doctor had me on 10-500 Lortabs, 100 of them every 3 week’s along with 2mg Xanax, 100 of those every 3 week’s. At first, everything was going well but after about a year I started buying more pills on the street because my prescription wasn’t covering me with the pain issues. It wasn’t long after that I started using heroin again, snorting it. I lost my job with the Franchise Tax Board because I was addicted to opioids. I now couldn’t afford to go to the doctor, so I started injecting heroin. I did that for about 2 years. Then I sought out help from a methadone treatment program. At first I used the treatment program to get well and continued to get high by taking benzodiazepines with my methadone, I did that for awhile, and I even over dosed at a methadone clinic eating 90 1mg xanax in a 24 hour period plus smoking cocaine. My counselor had called me in that morning. I am lucky he did otherwise I would not be alive today. After that I slowly started to use my counseling correctly. Finally, I started to process all of the things I needed to so I could move forward in life. I was moving forward inch by inch, and then I received the best counselor ever. She helped me so much going deep into my past and helping me figure things out. Then in 2015, my counselor told me about a new program at CCAPP called Peer Support Specialist. It was funded by the State and was free if you passed the interview. I passed and received my first counseling credential after graduating in January 2016. I received an internship at Salvation Army and counseled men there for 2 years helping them graduate from the Adult Rehabilitation Center in Sacramento. And now I am back at CCAPP getting my CDAC 1. I have used methadone for 16 year’s now for a chronic back problem. It’s a great drug. It relieves my pain from the degeneration of my back very well I must say. I can live a normal life. I have had my take home doses for 7 year’s now. I don’t get high. It just takes the pain away. If it wasn’t for methadone and a methadone clinic, I wouldn’t be what I have become today. Thank you for letting me share this story. Methadone isn’t a monster, it’s a solution, at least it is for me. Thank you LORD GOD!
“I graduated from nursing school and my nurse practitioner program before the opioid epidemic came to light. In school, we were taught to focus on providing pain relief by whatever means necessary. As the severity of the opioid problem became more obvious, I held to the belief that this problem only pertained to other people. Honestly, I saw those patients as very hard to deal with. I always guarded my narcotic prescribing and made sure I sent “those patients” back to their primary care provider as soon as I could.
In early 2016, I began to work part time at an inpatient addictions treatment center where I really learned about opioid addiction. I soon realized that my assumptions about the patients were wrong, and I began to understand the causes of, as well as treatment for this disease. I came to understand it was not a matter of “just cutting patients off from narcotics.” Addiction is a chronic, challenging disease, much like diabetes or high blood pressure. I had the opportunity to learn about it in my work with patients by encouraging them, believing in them, providing hope, and most importantly, not judging them. I wasn’t perfect in my care, but my mind set was changing a little at a time.
Then in April 2016, my world completely changed not only as a nurse practitioner, but also as a mom. You see, my beautiful daughter, was arrested for burglary of our home. She stole from us to support her opiate addiction. My husband and I knew she was struggling with drugs, but we had no idea to what extent. We offered help, but she refused — until she was arrested. She was sentenced to an 18-month drug court, which she completed with support from counselors and NA. As hard as it was to watch her struggle in jail and through the program, I also saw hope and healing. And for the first time in many years, we saw what her life could be like clean and sober.
Kate accomplished two years of sobriety, but unfortunately relapsed last year. I was blessed to walk through acute withdrawal with her in January, and she is maintaining her sobriety at this time. It is one thing to see patients detoxing in the emergency department or in a treatment center. It was a whole different experience sitting with my daughter at 1:00am in the morning holding her hand; reminding her that she deserved more, and she could start living a sober life again. My mom heart broke as I watched her struggle, but I never gave up hope for her. I will never, ever give up on her.
My daughter’s struggle has grown me in ways I never thought possible, both as a mom and as a nurse practitioner. As a mom, with coaching from a beautiful friend, I joined Al-Anon. For the first time I have been able to talk with others about my journey. I no longer feel alone nor unsupported. I have learned that “I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it”.
As a nurse practitioner, I have become bolder in talking with patients about my concerns regarding their opiate use and abuse. I am now better able to offer treatment options and can relate to patients in their daily struggles. I see that keeping silent about addiction only leads to more secrecy and more stigma. I have realized that opiate addiction affects people from all walks of life and socioeconomic classes. And, I also understand that addiction really is a chronic and relapsing disease, and that as such we can never quit encouraging and believing in patients.
As the epidemic worsens, I continuously remind myself (and others) that this disease is treatable, and therefore, there is always hope! But we must talk about it – publicly. We must educate people about it. We must take away the stigma and the judgment of those who suffer under its weight. We must shift our focus. As Fr. Gregory Boyle, the founder of Homeboy Industries says, “Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor (substitute “addicted”) have to carry rather than stand in judgement at how they carry it.” I am convinced that with education and communication, we can change this world just a little bit at a time.”