Only now — after 30 years of drug use, after 8 months in prison, after serious soul-searching and sticking with Suboxone — does Tera Thompson realize she misjudged herself entirely.
“I always thought that underneath all the drugs, I was a sad and broken person,” says Tera, 42, an Ideal Option patient. “Turns out, I’m not. That was just me coming down off the drugs.”
Joyful, loving, capable, energetic — Tera now realizes she’s all of those things and more.
“I’m like: This is me? This is how I feel when I’m sober? If I had known that, I would have chosen sobriety a long time ago.”
Tera had never experienced sobriety as an adult. By age 12, she was skipping school, drinking alcohol, and smoking pot. Her mom taught her to roll joints, and in her late teens, Tera and her smoked crack together.
“That’s what I grew up with,” Tera says. “That’s what I knew.”
She hadn’t taken opioids, though — not until she hurt her back on the job as a nursing assistant, while hoisting a heavy patient.
Her doctor gave her a “big, huge bottle” of Vicodin, and Tera became dependent right away. Soon, her world revolved around maintaining her pill supply. Everyone she associated with was using or selling.
“I became a part of a group of people I didn’t know before,” she says.
Tera took Vicodin while pregnant with her son, now 8, and her daughter, now 7. Her daughter was born early, before Tera had time to taper off the pills. Tera held her baby girl “skin to skin” for 5 days, while the baby overcame withdrawal.
After both deliveries, Tera stayed drug free for 3 or 4 months so she could nurse her babies. Then she was “right back at it,” convinced she needed the pills in order to care for two young children and hold her job as a hairdresser.
She saw herself as a good mom, though she now has a different perspective.
“My kids were on the backburner,” she says. “Yes, I cooked and cleaned for them, but I wasn’t paying attention. I wasn’t loving them properly.”
Instead of playing with her kids, she was busy snorting pills in the bathroom. When her supply ran low, she’d put the kids in the car and drive to see a dealer. Always broke, Tera couldn’t afford toys or outings for her kids.
For a brief time, her fortunes changed: Tera and her husband scored a $30,000 insurance settlement from a car accident. But in just 6 months they blew the entire windfall on pills.
By the time the money ran out, Tera’s dependence had escalated. Over and over, she tried to wean herself, but withdrawal proved too powerful.
She’d lie in bed sweating, shaking, crying, punching her restless legs. Some days, she’d sit in the bathtub and run hot water over her legs to make them stop kicking.
“I was sad and depressed, hating myself for being an addict,” Tera remembers. “I used to pray I could go to sleep and never wake up. I just wanted it to end.”
At a low point, Tera called a treatment center, started taking Suboxone, and stayed off drugs for a while. But after she and her husband divorced, Tera fell into depression and stopped taking her medication.
“I felt like I had failed at life,” she says.
She took up with a boyfriend who used drugs and fell back into active addiction. A series of circumstances landed her in jail for 6 weeks and then in state prison for 8 months. During that time, Tera’s children lived with her mom, who had gotten sober.
While incarcerated, Tera turned her life around. “Prison was a blessing to me,” she says.
She joined a prison fellowship academy and spent her days praying, reading the Bible, and working to understand all the reasons she’d used drugs in the first place.
“I worked on myself really hard,” Tera says. “I let go of things that pained me and found forgiveness for those who hurt me. I learned what boundaries are and how you have to protect yourself from what’s not good for you.”
That included the “friends” she’d used drugs with.
“When you’re high, you think they’re such great people. Now I realize they weren’t my friends at all. When I was in prison, not one of them called me or gave a crap. That was painful to learn.”
Tera thought constantly about her children — how much they needed her and how much she needed and loved them. Upon her release, she regained custody of her son and daughter.
Now back on Suboxone, Tera doesn’t even think about using drugs and has cut ties with her old associates.
“It’s total freedom,” she says. “I can’t explain how good it feels.”
Today, Tera works as a bartender and focuses entirely on her kids. “I make them breakfast, drive them to school, pick them up from the Boys and Girls Club, help them with their homework. We’re very close, and we’re always busy.”
Tera marvels at what she’s able to provide for her kids now that she’s not blowing her paycheck on pills.
“We have a trampoline, a fire pit, a hammock. My son has a dirt bike, my daughter has dolls. We go places and have fun. It’s the best.”