I was a mother and a wife with a career where I made six figures. My life probably looked charmed from the outside, but I was hiding a painful secret. I was addicted to opioids.
That years-long addiction eventually prompted me to check into Retreat Behavioral Health for substance use treatment. It happened the day after Thanksgiving last year. I did not want to leave my family in the middle of the holidays, but I knew I could not wait any longer. I became so desperate for a high that I was considering heroin and knew I was at a breaking point.
I became addicted to opioids in my early 40s. My father had been prescribed Percocet after suffering paralysis from a stroke, but he did not want to take his pills. I began taking them and quickly became dependent on them. I started calling my father’s doctor to get more prescriptions and eventually began doctor shopping. The pills made me feel superhuman- like I could do anything and everything. I believed that I could stop taking them at any time, but that was not the case. I would stop for several days only to crash and start the whole cycle again.
When I finally realized that I was fighting addiction and needed help, I essentially staged my own intervention. I came clean with my family, who had no idea what was going on. They were shocked because I hid it so well. A friend helped me get into Retreat, where I went through detox, withdrawal and spent a lot of time in intensive therapy sessions. It was one of the most challenging times in my life, but it was worth it. I got clean and just marked a year of recovery.
Now that I’ve marked this monumental milestone, I want to pay it forward and share the critical lessons that I’ve learned.
First and foremost, you don’t have to suffer in silence; tell your loved ones if you are battling addiction or mental health struggles. They will want to do whatever they can to get the help you need. Additionally, do not wait to seek treatment. It can be tempting to put it off until the new year, but you are putting yourself at greater risk.
The holidays are a time of celebration, but they can also be a time of great sadness. The stress of planning gatherings for family and friends, shopping for gifts, and other pressures can take a toll. Many people suffer from loneliness during the holidays because they don’t have family or friends to celebrate with. When you couple all of these challenges with the fact that we are heading into our second Christmas during a global pandemic, things can feel even bleaker.
In fact, there have been plenty of studies showing the heavy mental toll the pandemic has taken. That includes nearly one in five Americans turning to “heavy drinking” to cope with the stress.
A CDC survey also found increased anxiety and depression symptoms, trauma and stressor-related disorder symptoms, and suicidal ideation. Additionally, 13.3 percent of American adults have started or increased their use of substances during the pandemic.
When I came home from Retreat, it was right before Christmas Eve. While I was thrilled to be home again with my family, that did not mean it was easy to navigate my new normal during what is supposed to be a celebratory time. Thankfully, I could join Narcotics Anonymous meetings at any time over Zoom and reach out to my network for support.
Although my journey has been difficult, I have never regretted my decision to get professional help. So if you are suffering from addiction or mental health struggles, do not delay. Seek treatment as soon as you can. Waiting until the new year could be a dangerous choice.
Bea* is a woman marking one year of recovery. She made the tough decision to check into Retreat Behavioral Health for an addiction to opioids during the holidays last year. She has opted not to share her last name for publication.
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