Courtney W.,

Plymouth Meeting, PA

My name is Courtney, and this is my story.

I am a person living in long-term recovery. Over the last seven years, recovery has gifted me the opportunity to be a mother, daughter, wife, sister, friend, and recovery advocate. I have been clean and sober since November 22, 2012.

In 2008, I first tried an opioid. However, unknowingly, my story started way before then. I may not have used substances until 2008 but very early on in my childhood I developed behaviors that would carry through my addiction. I spent the majority of my childhood feeling as if I lived in two different worlds. My parents were divorced, and I split time spent with each of my parents. Living with my mother and stepfather was ideal, a white picket fence life filled with love, support, and security. In the home with my father, I experienced fear, anger, and distrust as a child. This is where I started to manipulate, lie, and hide my emotions simply as means of protection. These are the very same behaviors I carried into my addiction.

In 2007, the earthquake happened. By earthquake, I am referring to an emotional devastation. I thought what I experienced in my childhood was traumatic, but it did not compare to what I was going to experience later in my teens. During the summer of 2007, I was sexually assaulted. I was under the impression I was going over a friend’s house to hang out, but little did I know what that night would become. Every second as I was smothered and assaulted, he stole a part of me. I lost myself that night. The young woman who was an honor roll student, exuded self-confidence, excelled in varsity sports, held the position of student council officer, enjoyed time with family and friends, and believed in herself was gone. The shame took over. I changed to a different high school, leaving behind all my accomplishments and childhood friends. I was unable to move forward from my assault even through continuous therapy. I hated myself. I was lost and unable to find myself. I was lost until I found drugs.

What started as seemingly innocent fun for a 17-year old girl smoking marijuana with friends quickly turned into snorting a Percocet for the first time. From the moment I snorted my first Percocet, I believed I found nirvana. I was numb from all feelings. I could forget about the painful events in my childhood. I could forget about the sexual assault – the shame, the guilt, and the pain. I was free. I wanted more from the moment I snorted my first one. I quickly began using every day and was able to hide my use from my family and friends for a short amount of time. I thought my use was normal. I justified my use with the trauma I had faced. I told myself after everything I had experienced, it was okay to use to cope with the pain. I could not fathom life without using. I had become addicted to opiates.

“From the moment I snorted my first Percocet I believed I found nirvana.”

The following four years were spent facing my addiction. I faced many “bottoms” throughout these years. I entered multiple rehab facilities throughout the Tri-State area and even as far as Tennessee.  I attempted 12-step fellowship multiple times. I tried medication-assisted treatment utilizing Suboxone and therapy. I saw a private therapist. I entered mental health programs. Meanwhile, I took part in many illegal activities which led to arrests, legal charges, and probation. I violated probation by continuing to use. I experienced being homeless. I was unsuccessful at recovery for two main reasons – I was attempting to get clean and sober for other people, but I had no desire to be clean and sober. I was so tired of disappointing my family and friends that I was willing to make attempts at recovery, but I never got clean and sober for myself. My attempts at sobriety were to gain back relationships with family and friends, or to obtain the materialistic items I had lost from my addiction such as my home, car, and job. The pain was not great enough, and I still had the desire to use.

It was Thanksgiving Day. I was actively using, homeless, living outside, and desperate. I had the idea that if I walked back to my parents’ home, I would be able to convince one of my family members to give me money to buy more drugs in the spirit of the holiday. I walked back to my family’s home only to be given the ultimatum – go to treatment or go back out on the cold winter streets and they would contact my probation officer about my use. I would potentially face up to eight years if I violated my probation. On November 22, 2012, I entered what would be unknowingly my last time in a treatment program because I was in fear of withdrawing in jail. This was my sole reason for entering treatment. I entered treatment kicking and screaming. I still wanted to use and was resistant to treatment but feared jail more than treatment, so it seemed like my only choice. I went through my entire 30-day stay with the desire to use and planning to use once I left treatment. I was discharged from treatment on Christmas. My family made it very clear they would pick me up and allow me to stay at home for one night to celebrate Christmas. After, I would have to go to a sober living home as I was not welcomed back at my family’s house.

“Somedays I just had to take it day-by-day, often hour-by-hour.”

On December 24, 2012, my mother and step-father picked me up from treatment so I could spend the holiday with my family as promised. As a child, every Christmas was spent visiting my grandparents and great-grandparents’ house. These childhood memories were very special to me. As we were leaving the treatment facility and heading back home, I began to inquire about our holiday plans. I quickly asked my mother and step-father if we would be visiting my great-grand parents’ house, my Pop & Granny Tucker. I heard my step-father catch his breath from emotions. My mother then let me know that my granny had passed away. I quickly asked how this happened and if I could go see my Pop Tucker. When I was at the funeral I was heavily under the influence. I couldn’t remember being there or how I could miss saying goodbye to my Granny. I was heartbroken. It was in this moment that I felt a pain like no other. For the first time, I could see the pain and damage my addiction had caused. I remember sitting in the back seat of the car with tears rolling down my face and praying to God to help me not to cause any more pain to my loved ones or myself. I no longer wanted to use or cause pain or harm to myself or others, and was open to recovery. It was in this moment, I surrendered to my disease.

After Christmas day, I moved into a sober living home for the first time. Enrolling in sober living after treatment provided me with the opportunity to learn and grow in sobriety while in a safe environment. It was where I found a strong group of women that helped me navigate early recovery. These women encouraged me and called me out on my crap so I could grow into the woman I am today. I watched these other women build a life for themselves in recovery and I so badly wanted what they had. I found this immense desire to be clean and sober. Even during the difficult moments, I reached out to others and took their advice. Somedays I just had to take it day-by-day, often hour-by-hour. In the difficult moments, it was suggested to me to treat every 24 hours as a new start. I learned to face the challenges I found in early recovery. I attended 12-step fellowship meetings daily, where I learned the tools to overcome my disease. It was also suggested that I enter an outpatient program after completing a residential program to work on my recovery from drug addiction and the PTSD issues related to my trauma. My recovery process wasn’t only about addressing the harm I had done to others and myself but addressing the harm that was done to me. Through an outpatient program, I was able to deal with the trauma I experienced in a meaningful way, which helped me to maintain my recovery. Entering this treatment program allowed me to face the shame, stigma, and isolation I experienced.

“The freedom I had thought I found in my addiction I quickly found in recovery.”

This is why I’m sharing my story. The freedom I had thought I found in my addiction I quickly found in recovery. Early recovery provided me with so much and set the foundation for my continued recovery process. Recovery afforded me the opportunity to learn who Courtney was. I am a daughter and a sister again. I am a mother to three beautiful children. I was able to marry my best friend. I am able to show up in life for others and myself. I am able to grow into a woman and carry myself with dignity and grace. I am a recovery advocate. I pursued a career in helping others to overcome addiction for several years. Now I am pursing my passion of helping others. I’ve started my own career and life coaching business, “Surviving to Thriving,” to help others affected by substance use disorder achieve their own goals. My life is full of gifts – all because of recovery. I will forever be grateful to be in recovery and for those who have helped me along the way.

If you would like to hear more about Courtney’s efforts to help those with substance use disorder, please check out her website “Surviving to Thriving – Coaching & Consulting“.