One afternoon when Crystal was 33, her son stepped off the school bus only to find their driveway blocked by police vehicles. The cops were executing warrants pertaining to the manufacture and sale of heroin.
“My son sat outside watching while the cops tossed our house upside down,” recalls Crystal, now 41 and an Ideal Option patient.
Crystal landed in jail — for the second time. She lost her home and both of her kids. Her family, fed up with her addiction, stopped speaking to her. But she was given another chance: 90 days of inpatient treatment plus 2 years’ probation in exchange for avoiding prison time.
She felt supremely lucky. She’d already been to rehab for opioid addiction and had relapsed after back surgery. This time, Crystal vowed to appreciate her new lease on life. She enrolled in beauty school and stayed busy.
“You’d think that would be the end of it, right?” Crystal says.
As it turned out, she was barely getting started.
Once her probation ended, Crystal began dabbling in heroin. “My life wasn’t under a microscope anymore, and I thought: I can do this a little bit. I’m in control. Why can’t I have fun like everyone else?”
Soon she was using heroin daily, shoplifting to maintain her supply. “I stole anything that wasn’t nailed down — TVs, clothes, make-up, anything I could trade for drugs.”
Her kids had food and shelter, Crystal says, “But I was making all kinds of bad decisions.”
She drove while high. Once, she passed out while doing the dishes and woke up to find the kitchen flooded.
As Crystal became more dependent on heroin, her health declined. She contracted a blood infection that “ran rampant” in her body and triggered a stroke. She was hospitalized with congestive heart failure. Her brain and kidneys were failing. In the hospital, she suffered a second stroke.
The doctors told her: “Best-case scenario, you have 6 months to live.”
Crystal spent a lonely 3 months in the hospital during the pandemic.
“Nobody could come see me because of COVID,” she says. “I knew if I didn’t do something about my addiction, not only was I going to die, but I was going to die by myself.”
Her strokes left her with a useless left hand, a foggy brain, and the heart of a 94-year-old. But Crystal re-learned to walk and to feed herself and was surprised by the intensity of her will to live.
“When I was on heroin, I wanted to die,” she remembers. “I’d go to bed at night thinking, God, please don’t let me wake up. And then in the morning I’d be mad.”
Despite the doctors’ dire predictions, Crystal’s health kept improving, and before long, she was feeling invincible again. “I figured: I can use here and there. I didn’t think I was going to have a problem this time.”
She was back to shooting heroin daily and could feel her health slipping away. Her boyfriend caught on and gave her an ultimatum: “It’s me or the heroin.”
“For once,” Crystal says, “I picked the right road.”
Crystal’s first Ideal Option appointment fell on her 41st birthday. This time, she approached treatment differently: She took a hard look at why she used drugs, and she started on Suboxone.
During her two stints in inpatient rehab, Crystal had avoided soul searching and more or less counted the days until she could go home. “So much had gone on in my life that I hadn’t dealt with — my parents’ deaths, my marriage falling apart. Now I see that I was using drugs to cover up the pain.”
With the help of Ideal Option providers, Crystal reflected on the trauma she’d experienced and embraced Suboxone, a medication she’d always rejected as “substituting one drug for another.”
“I used to make fun of people on Suboxone, but Suboxone saved my life.”
Today, with the support of her boyfriend and family, Crystal has learned to manage stress without using drugs. She’s more easygoing, and she takes nothing for granted.
“I’ll have congestive heart failure forever, and my liver is still pretty damaged,” she says.
“But I’m so grateful. Not only did I get all these extra chances, but I got Suboxone. I don’t crave drugs. I don’t even think about it. Everything that happened feels like a million years ago.”