What Opioid Addicts Want You to Know About Recovery | Iris

published on July 2, 2020

if a drunk man falls in the gutter and

he's laying and he gets up a man when a

woman drunk woman falls in the gutter

she's no longer a woman to them they

look down on us she just fell just like

the man she just fell we're held to a

difference dead


when I went to rehab for the first time

I was one of three women there were

about thirty of us there I was the

youngest person there by ten years and I

was the only heroin addict there is a

barrier for a lot of women to getting

help because of the specific stigma

attached to female drug addicts

particularly for mothers there's an idea

that you can't be a good mother that you

can't be valid as a woman if you also

have this addiction and it prevents a

lot of women from getting help I was the

only mom at my detox facility most of

the people who were there were men or

boys in their late teens and early

twenties there were a few women there

the same age but most people there were

there because of heroin abuse and I felt

kind of ridiculous going to the same

place where they were because I had

never used heroin it was the same kind

of justification that I used at the

detox facility that I used in my real

life well I wasn't using heroin my

addiction isn't that bad or things could

be much worse so why did I need to be

there but the truth was I needed to be

there because it was a safe place to be

a woman has a much higher rate of

getting involved with sex work than a

man who is in his addiction a woman has

a much higher likelihood of being raped

or sexually abused a woman has a much

higher rate of being a victim of

domestic violence all of these kinds of

things that I am absolutely not saying

don't also happen to men but an

astronomically higher rate for women

that by their very nature are scary

horrific shame inducing experiences I

think part of what happens for women in

addiction is this shame factor which is

there for men as well I think that women

carry shame differently than men from a

very early age young women are not

taught that it's okay to express anger

and all that anger becomes internalized

shame I was raised there certain things

that women just don't do you had to

conduct yourself in a certain way

to be respected I didn't want to have

that look I just felt bad enough I

didn't need the look when I was living

in the treatment facility soon as women

got clean they wanted their kids and the

guilt and shame of leaving their

children for so long haunts them and now

they can't medicate the feeling so a lot

of times it's a struggle for them to UM

make a decision between their kids and


recover Lee I used my daughter as an

excuse in a lot of different ways and a

big one was I didn't want to leave her

that was the way I saw it in my mind and

when I finally went in the treatment I

even tried to use her as an excuse once

I was in treatment they wanted me to

extend and stay longer inpatient I hid

my end of my 30 days I was like I'm good

to go I caught this guys like my

daughter needs me the counselor happened

to strike when the moment was right she

pulled me aside and she was like look

Jess what's the big deal of you to stay

here for another 30 days for you to

really get this so she never has to go

without her mom again

relapse isn't always about getting high

relapse is about wanting to feel the way

you used to feel the way you used to

feel normal not high or not out of it

relapse is a part of recovery the

recovery process around opiate addiction

is not linear there are expectations

that people have that someone's going to

go to rehab for 28 days and then it's

all going to be fine that once they

detox and go to a 12-step program that

it's all going to be solved and it's

just not that simple when I was finally

caught after this on and off use for ten

years I did go to rehab and it took me

another five years of relapsing and

another trip to rehab to finally have

something click for me no one wants to

become an addict even if you know you're

suffering from addiction it is an

illogical thing you can't just wake up

one day and decide that you're not going

to take the drugs that you've been

taking because not only is it your new

normal but you get very physically sick

opioid withdrawal is a long and painful

process I tried to quit several

on my own and each time I got so sick

that I would start using pills again not

to get high but just to make sure that I

wasn't sick I didn't know how to recover

it was so overwhelming that I could

never ever get high again

at the 30 years you trying to tell me I

could never get out again that was a

little overwhelming I'll just give one

example my mom is a breast cancer

survivor and not even addressing all of

the issues like her insurance company

didn't challenge her they didn't wait

for it to be Stage four until they

addressed it not even addressing all of

that on the last day of treatment right

my mom was told okay so this is all the

aftercare recovery support was built

into her treatment plan because cancer

is a chronic relapsing condition and

that's very different with the way we

treat addiction or lucky if you get 28

days of insurance benefits or ability to

access a bed and then it's kind of like

see you later and then we wonder why

people are unable to maintain their

recovery and our rien gauging in use I

think it's important to have a level of

awareness that there could be a

likelihood for a relapsing condition to

relapse but it doesn't have to be I had

to change some things and at first in

the beginning I was stubborn I you know

I said some things I'm just not willing

to change if I really wanted to recover

everything had to be up for grabs I just

wanted to feel good about joy again

that's where the work begins is when you

come home you have to have a plan and

stick to it on a daily basis it's not a

sometimes thing because of disease waits

patiently to uh creep up those months

where I was clean for months that I

could have overdosed and died that's not

a waste there's days where I couldn't

put an hour let alone 30 minutes

together without having to use so being

able to say that you got three months or

six months that is a huge accomplishment

I had somebody one time telling me when

they asked how long I had clean-ass ago

I only have four months he's like no you

earned that four months I worked

one day at a time I just can't get hot

today just a day and that's all I do I

just just for today I don't use and I

worry about tomorrow when it gets here

cuz we're think all the way down the

line and we paint up about the past and

afraid about the future let's just do

today I've been in recovery for two and

a half years and it's two-and-a-half

hard and thoughtful years I was

terrified just help people about my

secret I thought they would judge me I

thought they would hate me I thought

they wouldn't understand but the truth

was everyone I've spoken to has been so

understanding and loving and supportive

and I wouldn't be able to be in recovery

without their help part of recovering is

being able to look at the past and not

hold on to the shame attached to that

that shame doesn't belong to me if

somebody else has an issue with it or it

makes them uncomfortable that's not my


the bottom line and I this is something

I want to impart to anyone that's going

through recovery from addiction is that

part of the reason the honesty is so

important is that our character is not

built on the mistakes that we made our

character is built on how we got up

after those mistakes were made and

changed things and moved forward I got

sober when I was 21 which I just think

is important to say because so often the

narrative is that like young people

can't get well or that it's just a phase

and young people don't need to get sober

neither of which I have found to be true

so my life is pretty awesome I'm married

I'm a homeowner I'm a dog mom I show up

as a daughters and on does a sister as a

friend I'm a you know an active member

of my community I am employed I'm an

employer I'm a recent graduate with my

masters degree and equally as important

if not more so is that like take all of

that away and I'm just relative ly like

whole human being that like nagging and

security and fear and anxiety that I had

my whole life has been diminished

because I filled my life up with things

that make me feel good about myself

don't give up just after

side of getting well I'm getting better

every day I'm not reduced to thinking

like I thought and acted like I act I

can be joy now I don't have to be tough

all I have to be is me and I've never

had that freedom and that's all I ever

really wanted I just wanted the

opportunity to be joy without that cloud

hanging over me all the time so now I am

a peer recovery coaching Johns Hopkins

Bayview I gotta tell you I really like

my job I like helping people a lot of us

when we get clean and sober we don't go

back to the neighborhoods we don't try

to pull anybody out because we're

worried about our sobriety our recovery

well when somebody for once tells you

that you're not so bad that I see the

good in you it gives them a reason to


I've been working in the substance abuse

treatment field for coming up on three

years now which I absolutely love what I

do I believe in what I do and it gives

me purpose and fulfillment every day I

truly believe the opposite of addiction

is connection so find somebody that you

can open up to and connect with and I

promise you that if you choose and

decide to get help you won't regret it a

day in your life

I thought to myself what am I going to

do if I stop using I've been using for

thirty years what what am I going to do

when that door closed a new world opened

for me I couldn't imagine my life like

it is now come to the new life and it's

enough room for everybody


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