Before my arrival at Lakeview Health, my life was in utter disarray and completely unmanageable.
I started using drugs since I was 12. It started with marijuana, over the counter cough medicine and alcohol, and quickly progressed to heavier drugs such as hallucinogens and cocaine. I would say by the time I was 17 years old I was a full-blown alcoholic and used party drugs on a regular basis. I somehow managed to do really well and stay disciplined in school. I graduated with honors and had the scholarship to attend FSU in 2006, where my partying continued and progressed. I was accepted into FSU’s prestigious school of nursing and graduated in 2010 a cum laude honor student at the age of 22. Again, I managed to do really well in school despite my lifestyle choices and alcohol/drug consumption. When I became a BSN RN may of 2010 and landed my first hospital job, I thought my life would turn around. I thought it would be easier for me to leave my substance abuse in the past, but I failed to address the basis of my problem. There is no doubt that I was spiritually sick and had been for a long time. I didn’t know how to cope with everyday life situations and had used drugs and alcohol as my crutch since I was a child. The times I tried to seek professional help, I would only end up digging my hole deeper as I would manipulate the doctors into writing me prescriptions for medications such as Xanax, Adderall etc. that I didn’t need. By the time I was in my mid-twenties I was using alcohol, Xanax, Adderall, cocaine, and pain pills on a daily basis.
As time went on my physical and mental health began to diminish rapidly. I had a grand mal seizure that landed me in the hospital, but this didn’t slow me down. I would stay up for days at a time tweaking on Adderall, not eating and picking at my skin for hours on end. I had lost so much weight and was malnourished, pale, extremely weak and sick. I would take sedatives to help me sleep and would use pain pills–that eventually led to heroin–to ease the pain from all of the damage I was causing in my life. It became evident and clear to my managers at work that something was wrong but when confronted I came up with lies and refused the help offered to me. They had worked with me for over six years and had seen the progression of my illness to the point of near debilitation. It was on August 20th, 2016 that it all came to a head. My managers saw I was impaired at work and I was immediately removed from my duties to be drug tested. I refused and because of this I was fired on the spot and I was reported to the Florida Department of Health and Board of Nursing. From that day until I went into rehab, everything is a slight daze. I experienced a complete drug induced psychosis. I stayed high and refused to come down for 6 weeks straight. I ingested anything I could get my hands on. At this point in my life, I honestly didn’t care if I lived or died. It was probably the lowest point of my life thus far, and I hope I never have to feel that way again. It wasn’t until a strange night during Hurricane Matthew in October that I had my first God moment and realized I needed help. I didn’t want to die from this fatal disease. I remember being at a friend’s house during the evacuation, and I had been awake for at least the past 5 days straight. I was on the patio watching the black sky, listening to the screech of the explosive winds through the trees and I began to cry. I looked down at my frail body. I looked at the damage I had done to my skin with all its open wounds and sores from the incessant picking. I knew I didn’t want to or deserve to live like that anymore. I knew I deserved to regain my nursing license back so I could continue with my life passion. That’s when I walked into the room where my boyfriend was sleeping and gently woke him up by telling him I was ready to go to rehab. Despite this realization, a few hours later I was found on the floor nearly unresponsive from a Xanax overdose. Two days later, on October 10th 2016, I was admitted to Lakeview Health–the place that began my journey to recovery and saved my life.
When I first arrived at Lakeview Health I was scared. I was in a strange environment with people who I thought wouldn’t understand my problems and I was worried what the other girls would think of me based on the way I looked. I was also extremely sick for the first couple of days because the doctor wanted to give me Suboxone due to my urine drug screen popping positive for methadone. I was kept in detox for 14 days and was assigned to the room right by the nurse station due to my high seizure risk. Despite the shock to my system and the challenges associated with going to rehab for the first time, I believe I adapted rather quickly. I was taken care of by every member of the staff, and all of my needs were met. My detox ran as smooth as it could have, and the nurses and doctors treated me with dignity and respect. And despite my social shyness, I was friendly with the girls and I did not isolate myself. I slowly started to participate more in groups and became more comfortable to open up about my life, including past relationships that involved physical and sexual abuse. I even told my life story in group therapy which I found to be one of the most therapeutic parts of my time in rehab. As the weeks went on I gained solid friendships with some really great girls that I still talk with to this day. I physically felt like a new person and the fog was lifting mentally. I had learned coping skills and was introduced to twelve step programs and God, which are vital to my recovery today. My stay at Lakeview Health lasted 9 weeks and I am blessed for each day that I was there. Everything I learned I hold with true value. And let’s not forget the food. I was admitted weighing only approximately 108 pounds and left 20 pounds heavier.
When my discharge date came I was nervous to leave such a structured environment and to be back in the real world with more responsibilities and expectations. I was set up to go to a sober house in Palm Beach Gardens Florida the day of my discharge, and I started doing IOP three days a week. I was so excited to start a new life and I felt a new sense of freedom. I knew I would have to work hard to regain the trust of the Department of Health so I could work as a nurse again but I was never going to give up, and I fought and fought until the light at the end of the tunnel became brighter. I believe that being drug-free and clear headed for 9 weeks really opened up my eyes about how beautiful life can be, and how much I should count my blessings. I learned a lot about myself spiritually and I learned to begin the process of truly loving myself again. I believe this is what inspired me to change my life outside the walls of Lakeview Health so I could become the person I was always meant to be.
I started working with a sponsor the first week I moved to South Florida and started working the steps right away. I felt like I was understanding more and more about the program and tried to dive in as much as possible because I was afraid that being away from a completely structured environment would be risky to my recovery if I didn’t have a solid network of support. I went to meetings almost every day for my first few months down here and I started working as a home health aide. And as previously mentioned I was going to IOP therapy three times a week where I met some amazing friends that have been a huge support system for me. Life was definitely a struggle especially financially, and at times it seemed unbearable but I have learned to pray which has helped me so much. Working as a nurse again is something I work for on a daily basis and sometimes I have to remind myself that my recovery always needs to come first no matter what. But overall I think life after treatment was less scary than I anticipated. I am coming up on 9 months sober now which is hard to believe, but such a blessing, and I have no one else but God and the fellowship of AA to thank for my sobriety. There have been a few bumps in the road which I needed to persevere through—I lost a very dear friend to an overdose, and I’ve almost had to Narcan another friend from a close call—but I pushed through those situations without the desire to use. I had a few floating thoughts about going back on maintenance Suboxone, that were at times very invasive, but through prayer, the obsession became lighter and today I do not see that as an option.
When I look back on how I was 9 months ago and compare myself to how I am now, I am flooded with the hope that my future will be filled with happiness and spiritual success. I feel like a new person in every way. I can actually look in the mirror and love the person that looks back. Instead of seeing scars and empty eyes, I see life and joy. I can actually wake up in the morning with enough energy to complete daily tasks and still have the energy to do the things I enjoy. I am more accountable, I am a better friend, and I finally don’t feel like I have to lie and manipulate others to hide my illness. It’s extremely freeing. I know this is a life-long process, but I plan to continue striving every day to make my life as best as it can be, one day at a time. I should be able to start applying to hospitals again within the next couple of weeks, and finally, begin working as a bedside RN again. The blessings I have received already feel like miracles. I won’t turn back; I will work every day so this illness doesn’t take me out again. Lakeview Health gave me the foundation to start my new life, and my life continues to blossom with God on my side, and the fellowship of AA as my best allies. I regained my will to live. To those still sick and suffering–you can pull yourself out of anything so never give up, you got this.
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