Reimagining Life after Addiction

Let's Talk Addiction & Recovery Podcast
Female City Rooftop

Listen in as host William C. Moyers talks with three young adults about the process of rebuilding their lives after struggling with the disease of addiction. Panelists describe how and why they made the turn away from addiction to seek help, and share the biggest lessons learned along the way—about shame, adversity, strength, perspective and gratitude. The best thing about getting clean and sober as a young adult? You can actually become the person you always wanted to be.

I've learned to not only know myself, but I've learned to have love for myself.


0:00:15 William Moyers
Hello and welcome to Let's Talk, a series of Podcasts produced by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation on the issues that matter to us and the issues that we know matter to you, too. Prevention, research, treatment, and recovery support. I'm your host, William Moyers, and today we come to you from the vaunted stage of the Bigelow Auditorium at Hazelden Betty Ford's facility in Center City, Minnesota. This historic place where over the decades at least since 1970, people have stood on this stage and shared their own experience, strength, and hope. Today, we have three young people to share their own experiences and their journeys in recovery. We have Nina, Holly, and Mike. Welcome to the three of you. Thank you.

0:01:01 Three Alums
Thank you.

0:01:01 William Moyers
Nina, tell me just a little bit about what it means to be a nurse in addiction and a nurse in recovery.

0:01:08 Nina
It means a lot. It's—it's at first it was really tough to—I felt like I was very alone in being a nurse in recovery. I came to find out that I was very much not alone. There's AA, NA groups, there's tons of counselors here who had been through similar situations as me. Making me feel so much more part of a group and really taking away that—that factor of shame that I struggled with a whole bunch at the beginning. So now for me, being a nurse in recovery, it is it—right now, it's just about education, trying to help support people who are going through the same thing in the beginning stages of a really tough time in their life. And making a lot of changes and trying to better themselves.

0:01:56 William Moyers
Mike, you were at Notre Dame. An athlete, student athlete at Notre Dame. What happened?

0:02:01 Mike
Well after my junior year, I ended up having a—a total of four hip surgeries and two core surgeries. And in that time, I withdrew from school and went down a pretty dark path. And became heavily addicted and dependent upon the opiates that I was prescribed.

0:02:20 William Moyers

0:02:21 Mike
And which just led to an overall addiction to painkillers and opiates I could get my hands on. And if it weren't for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and me seeking treatment here 18 months ago to the day, tomorrow, I truly do not know if I would be alive today. And that's—it sounds harsh but it's the truth.

0:02:47 William Moyers
A lot of times, the public perception is that young people are addicted to quote "hard drugs" or they're smoking too much weed and we forget that alcohol is—is—is a drug just like any other drug in terms of how its impact can—can turn somebody's life upside down. Holly, that was your experience, correct?

0:03:05 Holly
Yeah, it was. I grew up with a dad who was in active addiction. His substance was alcohol. When I went to college, I drank throughout high school but I had sports and so those sports were my main priority. I also went—I also played a sport or I ran track in college. My freshman year I was prescribed Adderall. And then my sophomore or my junior year, I was the Captain of the track team, I was getting the majority of my school paid for. And I quit and left to be in a relationship, an unhealthy relationship that I was in, and moved to Oklahoma. Oh yeah, I know, right? I really thought that was the next best thing. So, that my addiction was playing out in relationships as well. And so, after dropping out of school twice, because I had to take incompletes I mean I was failing time after time. And my classes, I couldn't keep it together, my anxiety, just my mental health had totally depleted. And I was also in a really dark place where I knew I had two decisions. You know I could get help or I can die. And I—I've talked with you guys a little bit as my dad did pass away almost two years ago from addiction, and so, that—that put in front of me the decision I had to make.

0:04:41 William Moyers
That was your bottom.

0:04:42 Holly

0:04:43 William Moyers
Nina, what was your bottom that caused you to make that turn from being addicted to seeking help?

0:04:49 Nina
For me I think I had a couple different bottoms. It was realizing, which all ended up being I guess one big one which was realizing my constant and only thought was like when and where to get the next you know pill to take. The next high to get to. But also realizing I had an incredible dependence of the same amount that—you know. And just the obsession around that. And then once getting you know the drugs the way I was wasn't working, I started stealing from the hospital I was working at. And got caught doing it and that you know I—I wanted to be a nurse my entire life and I—I worked really hard through high school and college and got that. Achieved that goal. And it—it was being taken away from me by, you know, essentially this addiction that had taken over my entire life. So, I think the—the phone call from the DEA and no longer having—or having my nursing license suspended were—were definitely my ultimate rock bottom.

0:05:52 William Moyers
Mike you have shared with me that your bottom required you to come to treatment at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. But you have aspirations to go back to school.

0:06:02 Mike
I do.

0:06:03 William Moyers
How are you gonna do that as a person in recovery?

0:06:04 Mike

0:06:06 William Moyers
Are you nervous?

0:06:07 Mike
I wouldn't call it nervous. I believe you know over the past 18 months I've really been able to practice it practice myself in recovery and also practice studying and being a student again.

0:06:20 William Moyers

0:06:21 Mike
The last two semesters I've done two semesters at Concordia. And you know that's really been beneficial. I'm very active in the—in the recovery community. And I mean there's no bigger recovery community than what you find in the Twin Cities area.

0:06:36 William Moyers
Right, right.

0:06:38 Mike
And yeah so over the course of the last 18 months I've been able to practice those character traits. So, I'm not—so when I go back and I kinda open those old wounds if you would, I'm not blindsided by extreme emotions and what not.

0:06:52 William Moyers

0:06:53 Mike
And so, in other words, I'm confident in myself to go back. Because I have a goal in mind to go finish my degree and finish what I started there. And yeah, and I have—I have faith in myself, I have faith in God—

0:07:05 William Moyers

0:07:06 Mike
And my relationship with God has also played an incredibly essential part in my recovery.

0:07:11 William Moyers

0:07:12 Mike
And yeah, so.

0:07:14 William Moyers
We all need a Higher Power whether that's something up above--

0:07:15 Mike
Yeah we all need a Higher Power.

0:07:17 William Moyers
Or community or nature, yoga, whatever it is.

0:07:20 Mike
Nature. Yeah. Yoga.

0:07:21 William Moyers
We all gotta find something that's greater than us if we wanna overcome this.

0:07:23 Mike
We do. We do.

0:07:25 William Moyers
Holly, you've gone back to school. As a young woman, as a student in recovery. Tell us about that experience.

0:07:31 Holly
Yeah. I was—I could really relate to what you said about opening up old wounds per se. I was really nervous to go back to Mankato. As it's kind of where I—I really spiraled down. And I went there with a different perspective of gratitude.

0:07:50 William Moyers

0:07:51 Holly
And I was just with the open wounds that I did have I was actually able to speak to the people who I you know needed to close—close that door. And, it's been awesome. I mean I had to drive back to Mankato three days a week to finish one 50-minute class.

0:08:11 William Moyers
That's a long drive every day. Yeah.

0:08:12 Holly
It's a long drive every day. And I definitely couldn't have done that had I not been in recovery.

0:08:17 William Moyers

0:08:18 Holly
Right. I, I had two classes to finish the last three years of my life. And I couldn't—I had a really hard time getting it done.

0:08:25 William Moyers

0:08:26 Holly
And so, to be done and to not have to have this fear of like failing again and again, I just have this like new—new sense of the gratification and it makes me wanna help others—

0:08:38 William Moyers
Right. Right.

0:08:41 Holly
—Who are going back to school and be like 'It is possible, it's actually ten times better' [William Moyers and Mike both laugh] being sober, you know, without all the distractions.

0:08:47 William Moyers
Yeah. We know there are many pathways to recovery. We all walk that pathway that works best for us. Nina, you've been open about the fact that you use medication to support your recovery. Can you talk about that?

0:09:00 Nina
Yeah. So I was—when I—when I came to Center City Hazelden, I—I went through the detox part of it. And there they explained what Suboxone was. And to get—the doctor and I and my counselor decided that that would be a good path for me. So since then, I've been on a taper program for something called Suboxone which just helps support the—the cravings and—

0:09:30 William Moyers

0:09:31 Nina
Just helps support my recovery as a whole 'cause I think it's really hard to go from the treatment kind of bubble to real life bubble—

0:09:39 William Moyers

0:09:39 Nina
'Cause you're entirely, you know, it's intimidating to re-learn your life as a—as someone in recovery and—and it's—it's really helped me kind of bridge that gap and—and really build my support system and really build my life back up. And continue the taper process. Through—through the DEA, through house arrest, through having a baby, like, all—all of those things. It's just helped me immensely.

0:10:07 William Moyers
You're a new mom!

0:10:08 Nina
I am. I am.

0:10:09 William Moyers
And you couldn't be a new mom like you are without your recovery.

0:10:10 Nina
No, no, not at all.

0:10:13 William Moyers
And remarkable. Congratulations.

0:10:14 Nina
It's—it's beautiful. Thank you.

0:10:15 William Moyers
Boy or girl?

0:10:16 Nina

0:10:17 William Moyers

0:10:17 Nina

0:10:19 William Moyers
You're a fine example already to Grayson.

0:10:21 Nina
Thank you.

0:10:22 William Moyers
What recovery is.

0:10:22 Nina
Thank you.

0:10:23 William Moyers
And what about you, Mike? What has recovery meant to you? How do you recover?

0:10:27 Mike
Recovery has meant everything to me. You know, Nina touched base on a little something about her identity. And rebuilding her identity.

0:10:36 William Moyers

0:10:36 Mike
And I've had a very similar experience. I mean, when football ended for me, I realized I had no idea who I was beyond Mike and I'm on the football team. And so over the course of since I've been sober and been in my recovery I've you know I've learned to not only know myself, but I've learned to have love for myself and—

0:10:58 William Moyers

0:10:59 Mike
—And that's allowed me to love others and you know. And at the beginning of this process, I realized, I realized still when I was wrestling with the not knowing of kinda who I was, I did know that I had a—had a big problem in my life. And that was drugs and alcohol. And I realized that with the change I needed, I couldn't do that alone. And and yeah it wasn't like I just needed to be straightened out. It was like I was walking that way [points] and needed to be walking that way. [Moyers chuckles] And in order to do that, as much as I tried, myself, doing it alone without having people to lean on and kinda guide you, is would be—would not have been possible. So.

0:11:46 William Moyers
Mmm-hmm. And you all found recovery very early in your lives. The reality is that as you go through life, you're likely to experience it on life's terms which can be lots of highs and lots of lows. I know that from my own experience. Holly, you shared the fact that you lost your father to this illness. And yet here you are walking your walk. What—what about adversity? How—how have you managed to turn adversity into the opportunities and what do you wanna do with that opportunity?

0:12:12 Holly
Yeah so I—four months after my dad passed is when I came to Hazelden. Still very broken. Obviously. And going through a lot of grief and I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else than here. To be grieving at that time. But I also learned I mean a big thing that I've learned in recovery is changing perspective. You know, seeing half glass full instead of half glass empty. And for me, that shifted my thought process on my dad dying instead of this happened to me,  this happened for me.

0:12:50 William Moyers
Ahh. Hmm.

0:12:51 Holly
He—his passing gave me recovery. He's at peace. And now I have this gift to share with others. And so I, I'm starting an internship at St. Paul Sober Living. Next month. And I really look forward to educating people on addiction, sharing stories, and just helping as many people as I can. Get the resources that they need.

0:13:19 William Moyers
What a gift to be able to give it back and to do so at a young age. All of you are doing that. We only have about a minute or so left and I will just start at the other end there. I know from these—these Let's Talk Podcasts have become a huge resource for people out in the world of—of wherever they're watching them the last year or so that we've been doing them. So a lot of people are gonna be watching this one. Some of them are gonna be struggling. I wanna ask each of you what your message is as we prepare to wrap it up to those who might be listening or watching. And are struggling. Nina, what—what's your message to those people?

0:13:54 Nina
What do you have to lose at this point? I know I—I know how scary that step can be and it's just—it—it's so intimidating but it—it's—you'll find so—it—I have found so much community in—in this community. It's just—it—from professionals to peers to just—just the amount of support that's here. You—there's no—there's no way you won't find someone with a similar or almost same story as you that you can relate to. That's in recovery and that's also at the place that you are. And that was so huge for me. Learning that I wasn't alone. I wasn't crazy. I wasn't a bad person. And—and all of those things are so true for anyone who's struggling is it's—it's not who you are and—and you need to you know the best thing you can do for yourself is—is get help. And—and it's one of the strongest things you can do. So.

0:14:52 William Moyers
Mmm-hmm. Thank you. Holly?

0:14:55 Holly
Yeah I—just asking for help I think. And taking your—your instincts seriously.

0:15:04 William Moyers

0:15:05 Holly
You know, if you really are asking yourself I about, you know, is this—I don't think this is normal. The way I'm drinking. You know, look into it. Ask—ask for help. There's so many resources online now. And it is a gift to feel free from shame, to step outside of shame, to recognize it and then leave it in the past.

0:15:27 William Moyers

0:15:28 Holly
Because we are good people.

0:15:30 William Moyers

0:15:30 Holly
And—and you deserve a—a happy life.

0:15:36 William Moyers

0:15:37 Holly
Joyous and free, so.

0:15:37 William Moyers
Thank you, Holly. Mike you get the last word, man.

0:15:39 Mike
I would say yeah, a lot of what these two just touched on. You know don't be—don't be ashamed. Don't be ashamed of who you are. Or anything that you that is maybe causing you to struggle. I almost wanna say it's okay to have a problem but what's not okay is just to ignore and act like it's not there. 'Cause there are so many options today. Like we heard incredible options today. From the people sitting up here on the panel. And yeah, I mean just—

0:16:10 William Moyers

0:16:11 Mike
Just believing that there's, you know, there's new life for you, there's chance—the recovery is possible. And yeah.

0:16:17 William Moyers
Mmm-hmm. Thank you. All three of you proving that recovery is possible. Not only by living the lives that you're living but by your willingness to be part of this Let's Talk Podcast today. Mike, thank you for being here and Holly, thank you. And Nina, thanks. To all of you. Not just for your recovery but for your strength and your conviction to share it. [turns to camera] I'm your host, William Moyers, and hope you've enjoyed this latest edition of Let's Talk, a series of podcasts on the issues that matter to us at Hazelden Betty Ford. And matter to you, too. Please join us again. Thank you.

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