A self-described “wild child” born in the 1970s, Rebecca, 49, used all kinds of drugs for years — weed, cocaine, prescription opioids. She’d amp up her use, then dial it back, especially when her kids were young.
But in her mid-30s, the slow rollercoaster became a high-speed train destined to derail.
An old back injury flared up, and Rebecca blew through her oxycodone and morphine. When the government cracked down on opioid prescriptions, she turned to the street. When pills got too expensive, she began hunting for heroin. Her connection didn’t have a car, so she served as the driver three or four times a week.
“The risk was part of the high,” Rebecca says. “I was so wrapped up in my addiction that I didn’t worry about getting arrested. I was a little delusional.”
She was also lucky: she didn’t get caught. But her life began to splinter apart.
“I was falling asleep with a cigarette in my hand,” she says. “My life revolved around my meds. Birthday parties, baby showers – I’d come up with excuses. People were like, ‘You don’t ever feel well.’”
Rebecca, who lives on a farm, stopped washing the dogs’ bowls and neglected the garden. “It was so full of weeds you couldn’t see the tomatoes growing the size of baseballs.”
Her ex-husband, whom she lived with, would wake her in the middle of the night, screaming that she’d stopped breathing.
Still, her drug use escalated. Snorting heroin was no longer enough. “I was contemplating shooting up — it would be a better high.”
At the same time, the idea terrified her. Her kids, now grown, would notice the marks on her body. “How many times, could I say, ‘Oh, I had bloodwork done’?”
A good friend had died from an overdose, and she worried that was her fate, too. She spent most of her time alone and thought: Who’s going to be there to give me Narcan?
“You can only push your luck so much,” she says. “I knew if I started shooting up, that would be the end. It came down to: Am I going to let my kids bury me, or am I going to live?”
Rebecca chose to live, but finding her footing in recovery took a while. First, she tried methadone. “It made me feel heavy,” she says. “It felt toxic, like poison.”
She tried Suboxone at a different clinic but wasn’t fully committed. She’d alternate the medication with pills or heroin, as a form of rebellion against providers whom she felt looked down on her.
By the time she found Ideal Option, she was serious about recovery and felt supported by the providers. “They treated me with respect, like an equal.”
She took her medication as directed, and the cravings stopped. A year later, she occasionally thinks about using, usually when the weather’s nice and the radio plays a song that reminds Rebecca of her party days.
But the idea quickly vanishes. “I think: No, nothing good will come of it. It’s fake. It’s a mirage. I’d rather go walk in the woods with my dog.”
These days, her garden is well tended. She feeds the chickens, collects the eggs, and picks the tomatoes right when they’re ripe. She takes body sculpting classes on Zoom and spends time with friends.
“Before,” she says, “I was the walking dead. Now I feel alive.”
Recovery from addiction is always a challenge, but in the midst of a pandemic, the climb is steeper in some respects. We celebrate those who are thriving in recovery despite the extra challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis.