Recovery Is Her Thing

At age 21, Nicole F. lived for painkillers and heroin—now she lives to tell the truth about addiction

On a whim, Nicole F. tried a Percocet pill. It was love at first high.

"I adored Percocet," she recounts. "It didn't alter my mind like marijuana. It didn't make me overly full and nauseated like alcohol. I'm a super high-strung person, and being able to relax and feel good without paranoia or other side effects felt perfect to me."

From that moment, Nicole took Percocet every day until she realized her life was revolving around using the drug or figuring out how to get more. Still, she convinced herself she didn't have a drug problem.

To prove it, Nicole tried quitting drugs. Panic quickly set in.

"I was sweating and sick. I was jumping out of my skin. My boyfriend said I was experiencing withdrawal, and I didn't believe him. I couldn't be addicted. Something else was going on. I had things under control."

To ease her symptoms and mute her fears, she turned to a cheaper, more accessible substitute: heroin.

Nicole's best friend saw through the addiction denial. The two were planning a get-together in California, and Nicole, who would be arriving from Vermont, was preoccupied with where she would find drugs during her stay. Nicole's friend was distraught. She reached out to Nicole's parents and filled them in on the situation.

Instead of a plane ticket to California, Nicole was booked on a flight to the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation's addiction center for teens and young adults in Plymouth, Minnesota.

"I did not want to go to treatment; I didn't think I needed it. I argued with my parents and told them I was only physically addicted, that I just needed to get through drug withdrawal and everything would be okay. I was so mentally and physically ill, I actually thought drug rehab would be a vacation. So I packed vacation items. I arrived in Minnesota to two-below weather."

Weeks of medically supervised detoxification and withdrawal followed.

Once her head cleared and she calmed down, Nicole realized the truth.

"Damn, I thought. I'm not going to get my way with this. I am an addict. I can't control this."

The door to healing opened wider during addiction treatment as Nicole recognized herself in the readings, assignments, and group discussions. "In the beginning, rehab for me was less about getting off drugs and more about learning to accept myself. That was a real gift."

When she finished treatment, Nicole moved into Hazelden's Tribeca Twelve sober living home in Manhattan for 15 months. The built-in structure and support helped Nicole gain her bearings in early addiction recovery.

"When you're newly sober, it feels like you're shot put back into the world and society crashes back in. You need a solid support network."

Today, Nicole surrounds herself with sober friends, keeps up with Twelve Step meetings, and draws strength from her loving family.

And she takes every opportunity to let others know she's a grateful recovering addict.

"People are caught off guard when I tell them I'm in recovery from painkillers and heroin. There's way too much stigma with addiction, and I try to open people's eyes. I think that's what I'm meant to do in my recovery."

Recovering Hope

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"Going to the Betty Ford Center saved my son's life. Participating in the Family Program changed my life. I have been so moved and am so profoundly grateful for these experiences that I can't help but get involved and give back."
John, a loyal donor

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By the Numbers icon
>In 2015, a total of 17,587 Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation patients were served through primary care addiction treatment, continuing care, family programs, mental health services, and other programs.

> More than $9.6M in financial assistance was provided to Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation patients who couldn't afford the full cost of care.

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