Nurse on the Outside, Addict on the Inside, Healing Came Only When Linda P. Spoke her Truth Linda P. knew she was addicted to prescription painkillers, but she couldn't imagine letting anyone in on her secret. Hidden behind her outward appearance of an ambitious and accomplished young nurse was an exhausted and despairing addict too consumed with shame to ask for the help she needed. The opioid medications Linda was prescribed to relieve debilitating migraine headaches had become her go-to remedy for all of life's struggles. Unresolved emotional trauma from her teenage years seemed to magically dissolve with each dose. Very soon, however, the pills became an absolute necessity for Linda in meeting the demands of each new day. "By the time I could admit to myself what was going on, it was too late. I was already hooked," she quietly recalls. Whenever Linda tried to wean herself from the painkillers, the monstrous nausea-fever-ache of withdrawal proved too much. "I got to the point where I was barely hanging on until I could get more pills," Linda relates. "I needed the drugs just to avoid feeling sick." Desperate for a Way Out "Imagine going to work and taking care of all of your responsibilities and trying to look like everything's okay while feeling like you have a raging case of the flu," she says. "That was my existence." Linda knew things were not going to end well if she didn't get help. She began searching online for information about drug rehab programs in the Twin Cities—especially evening outpatient programs that would allow her to keep working so she could keep her secret. Once she believed there could actually be a way out of her increasingly desperate dependence on pain pills, Linda opened up to her fiancé—and his unconditional love and support opened the door to healing. Next, Linda worked up the nerve to talk with her supervisor who, she says, "couldn't have been more understanding." With a 30-day medical leave and the full support of her boss, Linda was on her way to inpatient treatment at Hazelden in Center City, Minnesota. She'd already researched Hazelden's medication-assisted treatment protocol for opioid addiction and knew that was the path for her. "When I got to Hazelden, I was like, giddy-up, let's go! You're the experts. I'll do whatever you tell me to do to get off these hideous drugs." A Battle Worth Fighting Linda completed 30 days of inpatient treatment at Center City and then transitioned into an evening outpatient program at Hazelden in St. Paul, which allowed her to return to work full-time. Her evenings at outpatient helped Linda navigate the challenges of early recovery, providing accountability, support and tools to work things through with a counselor and her peers in the treatment program. Hearing about the struggles and triumphs of others in recovery was one of the most powerful aspects of treatment for Linda—especially during the first days and weeks of coming to terms with the disease. "When you meet other people who have the same 'addict brain' and you hear others describe the same self-talk and denial that come with addiction, you get a whole new understanding of how this disease works—and you also realize you're not alone," Linda shares. She also gained tremendous hope and strength from speakers who visited campus to share their personal stories. "Here were these wonderful, accomplished people who had years and decades of sobriety, which seems like such an impossibility when you've got just days or weeks of sobriety. But their stories helped me understand that long-term success could be possible for me, too. I wasn't a lost cause." Now, with nearly two years of hard-won sobriety, Linda continues to make her recovery a daily priority. "With addiction, you don't have the luxury of going into remission and putting the whole ordeal behind you. Addiction is a disease I will battle every single day for the rest of my life. But it's a battle worth fighting—for me, personally, and for all of us, together, because the world needs to know that we are good people with a terrible disease—and that healing is possible." Linda can see now that help was always within reach throughout her solitary struggles with addiction. She just needed to take a leap of faith and share her truth. "There's a saying that the greatest prison a person can live in is the fear of what other people will think," Linda relates. "That's exactly the mindset that keeps people trapped in addiction." In recovery, she's found a freedom that was once unimaginable.