The Paths to Addiction and Recovery: Alicia’s Story

For 35-year-old Alicia, a mother of two, there were several factors that led to addiction, including her father’s opioid use and her own diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma in her early 20s.

“For the most part, my life as a teen was pretty normal,” said Alicia. “I drank occasionally, but nothing really significant. Then, I was diagnosed with cancer, and my journey with opioids began.”

An undergraduate college student at the time, Alicia used an array of pain medications to offset the effects of chemotherapy and radiation. “My life spiraled downward as my dependence increased,” she recalled.

Alicia received medication-assisted treatment (MAT) at a facility in northwest Connecticut to help decrease cravings and foster abstinence, but she continued to struggle. A recent series of significant life events further imperiled her recovery, including the fentanyl-related death of her father in August 2016, her husband’s death last fall from a heroin overdose, as well as home foreclosure.

“I did a lot of cocaine last year to process the loss of my father, and I eventually came to Wheeler, where I continued MAT treatment and started intensive outpatient therapy,” she said. “At that time, I was also introduced to Stephanie, my Wheeler peer counselor, someone who had been through addiction as well and who actively helped me navigate my treatment and the recovery community.

“It took three tries before I was successful in intensive outpatient therapy,” she said. “My counselors knew that I was lying about my feelings, and they worked very hard to get me to open up and to feel my grief,” she said. “With their patience and persistence, I finally made progress.”

Now, clean for nine months, Alicia manages a full schedule that includes raising two children, participating in monthly MAT treatment and outpatient family therapy. She also is actively working to restore her driver’s license, and she is planning to finish her bachelor’s degree in English, a goal very much within her reach, as she is only two classes away from completing her degree.

“It’s been a long, hard road to get here,” said Alicia. “I don’t know where I’d be without Wheeler and my counselors, especially my peer recovery counselor, Stephanie. She kept me on track. She made sure that I showed up – in every way possible.

“I continue to receive such great care from Wheeler, and I feel like more than just a number,” she added. “The staff truly cares about me, and because of this team, I have a bright future ahead.”

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