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Substance Abuse



“My name is Karen. I have 6 and a half years clean and sober. I am a nurse. I work in the fast-pace environment of the emergency room. I feel as though I live with a dark secret due to my history of addiction. The majority of my life I have lived a normal and routine life. My troubles occurred when I was under more stress than normal. The first time I used drugs inappropriately was my first year in college. I was in way over my head. I was distracted by a bad break-up. Marijuana made life bearable and I smoked, drank and experimented with other drugs almost every day. I think what sets me apart from some substance abusers is that I kept it together, was able to graduate from college, kept my job and used. I worked and paid my way through school. I have always been a functional user. After I graduated from college, I met my first husband. He did not smoke or drink. I followed his lead and stopped smoking and drank in moderation. We had two children. This was a period of relative normalcy. I went back to school and got my nursing degree. I would not say it was a perfect marriage, but who has one? After 17 years of marriage, my husband cheated on me. This eventually led to the end of my first marriage. This precipitated a downward spiral into sexual promiscuity, excessive alcohol consumption, resumption of cigarette smoking and abuse of an Ativan prescription. During this period, I met my second husband. We met while he was on the rebound from his first divorce. He was a drinker. He has a lot of his own issues so he was willing to overlook mine. During this time, my use had escalated into diverting benzodiazepines from work and using intravenously. I knew I had a problem and had visited some NA and AA meetings. Nothing was sticking though. I married my second husband during this period. I also was dabbling with opiates but not heavily. Things came to a head in 2004 when my husband caught me with a needle in my arm. I marched myself to inpatient rehab at that point. I stayed 28 days. I did a long stint of intensive outpatient and was clean for 2 years. Again, I was able to do this while keeping my job and getting treatment under the radar. I did very well for that time until my daughter was getting ready to get married. There was incredible stress leading up to the wedding and I actually drank and used at the wedding. That started a 3 year battle of primarily opiate use. Again, I was able to keep it under the radar. My husband never caught on. But quite frankly I got sick and tired of being sick and tired, as they say. I finally confessed to my daughter that I was using. Once it was out, I felt compelled to get treatment. I reached out to an outpatient treatment center. This time I also made an appointment with a psychiatrist specializing in addiction. I weaned myself off of the opiates. By the time I saw the doctor I had not used in more than a week. He started me on naltrexone. This medication has changed my life. I no longer fear temptation at my job. It has gotten me over the hump and allowed me to change my coping methods without backsliding. I did not want to use Suboxone because of the narcotic that is included. For the first 2 years, I did go to NA fellowship meetings. But I have not felt the need for them since then. I continue to see the psychiatrist. The biggest test of my recovery is occurring now. My husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last October. My life has been full of challenges since then. But with the help of my support system, healthy living habits and naltrexone, active addiction relapse is far from my mind. I am aware that I must be vigilant though. As an addict in recovery, I know how easy it is to slip back into a state of mind that could lead me to relapse.

I feel that naltrexone is an under used resource. I believe that if more addicts realized that they could take away the effects of the opiates without the abuse potential of Suboxone, it would allow more addicts to get over the hump to recovery.”

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