We Are Proof

Learn more about Elizabeth's struggles with addiction, and the life-changing treatment that led to her recovery.

Why I couldn’t see where drugs were taking me.

Meet Elizabeth D., age 23. Today, with four years in recovery from opioid/heroin addiction, Elizabeth describes the awakening during treatment that saved her life.

When did you start drinking or using drugs?

When I was 15, in high school. It started with drinking and study drugs (Ritalin, Adderall). On weekends, mostly. I had good grades and was involved at school; I was in marching band and took Advanced Placement classes. But by senior year, my weekends got crazy. I drank a lot, and I don’t really remember much of what happened. Even today, friends from high school tell me stories about what we did, and I don’t remember.

I went away to college, and I was on my own for the first time. That’s when I went completely overboard. I was taking Oxycontin. Later, when it was difficult for me to get Oxycontin, I switched to heroin.

I didn’t go to classes. Didn’t make friends. Just wanted to do drugs or “have fun,” as I called it.

What was your day like?

I would wake up at two or three in the afternoon; missed all of my classes. And I’d immediately go to the bank and withdraw cash from the savings account my parents set up for me. I’d withdraw $200 or so, thinking it would get me through a few days, which it never did. It lasted one day. I had a guy living in my all-girls dorm room with me. He would drive me about an hour away from campus where we picked up what we needed at a hotel room. Then I would go back and hole up in my dorm room and watch Netflix until I passed out. That was my life.

I didn’t do anything else. I didn’t eat. I didn’t want to spend money on food when I could use it to buy drugs. I don’t know where all of that time went. Sometimes on Sundays I would try to clean up and eat something and not use. But by the end of the day I would feel so sick that I always ended up back at the hotel room buying drugs.

When did you know you needed help?

I didn’t. My family did an intervention when I was home for winter break. It was the classic scene where they each read their notes to me about how my actions made them feel. Right out of the TV show, I was thinking. Even then, I didn’t think I had a problem. I mean, I wasn’t using needles. I wasn’t out on the streets. Those were the kinds of thoughts going through my head.

My family had an assessment and treatment program all lined up for me at Hazelden and a plane ticket to Minnesota. I was extremely angry and didn’t want to go but decided to play it out so my family could see I didn’t have a problem. I was completely convinced the assessment would show I wasn’t an addict and didn’t need treatment.

Were you scared to go to treatment?

I didn’t know anything about treatment outside of what I saw on TV. I thought it would be cold, sterile, scary, uncomfortable. It’s not like that at all. It’s a really nice place to be. You’re completely taken care of the whole time. Everybody gets their own treatment plan, so each morning your schedule is printed off for you listing your appointments and assignments for the day.

What changed in treatment?

My counselor told me I was in denial about my situation and gave me the assignment to talk with a peer about it. So I asked one of the other girls in treatment what she thought. She told me to think about myself before I started using, to look at my 19-year-old self through my 14-year-old eyes.

And to ask myself what, back then, I thought my life would be like. And that’s when it dawned on me. I’d pictured going to Duke University. Becoming an attorney. Being surrounded by lots of friends and family. Instead, I was alone. Miserable. So, so low.

That was your turning point?

Completely. I got a before-and-after picture of my life, and I could finally see that drugs and alcohol were ruining everything. Once I realized where my life was going, I was so extremely grateful to be in a place where I could get help. There was a solution for me. Things could be different. I was thirsty for this new knowledge. That’s how I started to learn about my addiction and how to start living again.

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