National Recovery Month: Sharing Personal Stories of Opiate Addiction

September 30, 2019

Patient and doctor graphic

September is National Recovery Month, and UCS Healthcare wants to remind the public that no journey through substance use disorder, addiction and opioid recovery is the same. Although many circumstances can be similar or you might notice some commonalities in opiate use disorder recovery stories, this type of situation can happen to people from all walks of life. Our team at UCS Healthcare helps Iowans by providing medication, therapy and counseling options that treat the patients’ whole health while they work towards recovery. UCS Healthcare is a judgement-free zone that helps people who are ready to move on and begin the next stage in their lives in recovery.

In honor of National Recovery Month, we encouraged members of our UCS Healthcare community to share their personal stories of opiate addiction - how it started, in what ways it has affected their lives and what inspired them to take the steps toward recovery. We appreciate their vulnerability and willingness to share their opiate addiction and recovery stories in hopes that others will relate to what they have been through and will be able to begin their own personal journey to recovery.

How Substance Use Begins

In Some Cases, It’s Part of The Family Dynamic

For some people, drug use is normalized in the home and can even become part of their family dynamic. Many individuals who have grown up around substance abuse, seeing parents turn to drugs to handle struggles in life, think it's normal and begin to start using as well. Jasmin shared her personal story of opiate addiction with us and said there had been several overdoses within her family, and she started using at a young age. She’s endured a long journey of opioid recovery with relapses, but she uses her opiate addiction and recovery story as an example to teach her kids there’s another way to live. They’ve seen her ups and downs, and she remains strong to encourage them to live a better life that’s substance free.

UCS has helped family members work in recovery from opioid use disorder together, and in some cases beginning treatment to better yourself is a way to stop the cycle of substance use disorder for the next generation. One individual shares in his opiate addiction and recovery story, that he came to UCS because he lost his mom to an overdose. Through this experience, he knew he needed to stop using and take his journey to recovery seriously.

“I did not want to do to my daughter what I had experienced with my mother. Because losing a parent - it really takes a piece of your soul when you lose a parent or a child, so I knew that I didn’t want to do that to my own kid. And I knew I wanted to be the best parent I could be alongside my partner.” - Andrew

For Some, It Starts With Prescribed Pain Medication For an Injury

Many patients started taking opioids after they suffered a serious injury and were prescribed opioids to manage the pain. Opioids like morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone and many other drugs are effective painkillers, but they can become addictive if patients or prescribers aren’t careful with dosages. If a physician prescribes more opioids than necessary or if the body begins to crave the relief from the strong painkillers it can lead to an addiction. This was the case for Crystal, who started taking opioids at age 14 when she was subjected to multiple injuries and illnesses. After going on and off of pain medication, she found herself in the hospital for another injury and became aware of how addicted she was to opioids and the pain relief they provided. Once this realization hit, she started coming to UCS Healthcare for help and began medication assisted treatment to fend off the cravings of opioids.

Others Build Up Their Use Over Many Years

Plenty of people begin using substances because they think it’s fun. They believe they can quit whenever they want and don’t suspect they’re going to get hooked and spiral into a dangerous path. While sharing his personal story of opiate addiction, one individual recalls the moment it registered in his mind that using substances was no longer just a leisurely activity.

”At some point in time it changed from having fun and being a good time, and it switched over to using because I had to. It’s a scary thing when you realize that - you feel very trapped.” - Shannon

Opioid Recovery Starts With You

No matter how the substance use disorder began, we know that recovery cannot be successful unless the individual is willing to make changes in their life and fight their addiction. One commonality in many of opiate addiction and recovery stories is that individuals previously started the recovery process before, but they relapsed and weren’t successful because they weren’t ready to be there. They were in treatment for someone else or were not fully committed the first time, but once they found their inspiration they had the willpower to conquer their addiction.

”It doesn’t matter how many times you have to start over, as long as you take the steps to start over.” - Jasmin

In short, recovery doesn’t work until you’re ready to make it work. For many of the patients we interviewed, the realization didn’t occur until they found themselves spiraling out of control, hitting rock bottom and being ready for something more.

Support from Loved Ones During Opiate Addiction and Recovery

To be successful in recovery, you need to be present and ready to change, but the support of family and loved ones plays a big role in the success of opioid recovery. Multiple individuals we treat know they need to become serious about their opioid recovery path when they feel the need to take more responsibility and be better for their children or family members. Family relationships are a big catalyst for people seeking treatment and successfully moving into opioid recovery. Natasha explained to us that she was addicted to meth until she discovered she was pregnant with her daughter, then she was sober throughout her entire pregnancy. After one relapse, she knew she had to give up her substance use habits in order to give her daughter a better life and restore her relationship with her mother.

UCS Healthcare Recommends Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) For Opioid Recovery

The Medication Component of MAT

UCS Healthcare uses medication assisted treatment for patients looking to get started with opioid recovery. MAT involves administering medications under the care of a medical provider to help reduce withdrawal symptoms while going through therapy to understand substance use disorder. Our medication units offer a variety of medications, but the two most common medication options used at UCS are methadone and suboxone. These drugs assist in opioid recovery by curbing cravings so the individual can truly focus on their responsibilities and what they need to do to get their lives back together.

Not sure what all these terms mean? Learn about MAT, methadone, suboxone and other substance use terms in our Learning The Jargon article!

”I’ve never been in a treatment center that was so open - we’re able to focus on things that keep us responsible as adults, like looking for a job or maybe going back to school. When I came [to UCS] it made a big difference.” - Angela

UCS Healthcare wants opioid recovery to be a viable option for anyone suffering from substance use disorder and addiction and has worked to make treatment more accessible. Since individuals in the Medication Assisted Treatment programs need to visit their clinic frequently to pick up their medication doses and attend therapy, we’ve partnered with local certified opiate treatment providers and opened multiple MAT clinics across the state of Iowa. Although getting regular doses to curb the negative effects and withdrawals is an essential component of medication assisted treatment, it cannot be the only component for a successful recovery.

Opioid Recovery is Most Successful With The Therapy Component of MAT

Therapy is an absolutely essential component to the Medication Assisted Treatment process, and we believe this is a component that sets UCS Healthcare apart from other opioid use disorder recovery centers. Pairing counseling with with prescribed and monitored doses of methadone or suboxone allows patients to work through and understand their substance use disorder while curbing the cravings.

Throughout the MAT process, our counselors are there to listen and to help people realize that addiction is a disease, and with our help and hard work you can live in recovery. We encourage our patients to think about their decisions and really consider what circumstances prompt them to turn to substance use so they can fight this disease in the future. So many of our patients explain the benefits of having someone who’s there for them and ready to listen to their struggles without judgement.

“I don’t feel like if I was just on methadone alone I would have been able to get to where I am now. I had a great counselor because she helped me work through all of [my personal problems]. She helped me realize that I was more than just my addiction. I was a daughter, I was a mother, I was a sister, everything. And the counseling really helped me open my eyes to see that I wasn’t necessarily the problem, it was my addiction and my disease, and that really helped along with the methadone.” - Natasha

Along with the positive impact of counseling, our patients are also given the option to work through recovery struggles with their peers in support groups, and we also offer support groups for family members of our patients. We encourage people to share struggles they’re facing in their opioid recovery journey with others who can relate and are going through the same battle.

”Therapy has been a Godsend. Before this time, I never really took advantage of the groups at UCS. I would come and dose and go home. But now that I’m taking advantage of the groups, it’s given me a different outlook on recovery and getting better. When I have something going on that I don’t know quite how to navigate, I know that there are people that I can talk to. I can call my counselor, I can come to one of my groups and talk to peers, I can talk to any of the other counselors.” - Jasmin

Studies show that combining these components and taking an integrative health approach is the key to success. Integrative health treatments take a holistic view of a patient’s recovery journey and helps them combat it by talking about both substance use and mental health. Oftentimes, these co-occurring disorders can have detrimental effects on an individual’s overall health if they are not involved in counseling. UCS Healthcare’s MAT program gives patients an effective combination that leads to success. By giving patients the opportunity to discuss their problems and realize why they turn to substances while also giving them the ability to dial down their substance usage, we work with them to achieve long-term recovery.

Confused by any of these terms? We have more information about MAT, integrative treatments and co-occurring disorders in our Learning The Jargon article!

”You need to get to the root of the problem, and that takes therapy. I don’t care what you say, therapy can’t do anything but help. Through the work with groups and with my counselor, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned how to live sober. Ultimately, it’s worth it.” - Crystal

Life in Recovery

During National Recovery Month, we want to shine a new light on the struggles these individuals have had to overcome. One common theme throughout multiple opiate use disorder and recovery stories is thankfulness for the feeling of normalcy. People in recovery are often incredibly thankful that the first thing on their mind every morning is not thinking about cravings. Through Medication Assisted Treatment and other opioid recovery efforts, they are thankful to wake up and think about eating breakfast, going to work, walking their dog and enjoying time with their family. These are things many people take for granted, but for a person in recovery, it brings joy and relief because they can feel normal again.

One of the best parts of recovery is regaining what was previously lost: family, jobs, home, license, etc. Natasha and Andrew discussed how it takes time to get back to where you started, but if you put in the effort and make recovery a priority you’ll eventually gain back what matters most.

Learn More About Recovery From Opioid Use Disorder Through Medication Assisted Treatment at UCS Healthcare

Our trained professionals at UCS Healthcare encourage anyone who’s ready to begin the journey to recovery to come in and find out more about Medication Assisted Treatment. Our goal is to enhance your overall health and help you live the life you want to lead in recovery. We hope the opiate addiction and recovery stories our patients have shared will inspire others to take action in their journey through recovery, and remind everyone during National Recovery Month that we can support people in recovery through education and awareness.

UCS Healthcare wants to be your partner in the journey to recovery. If you or a loved one is affected by a substance use disorder, mental health issues or other addictions, our trained staff will put a custom plan in place to help you get past it. We have multiple medication assisted treatment units across the state of Iowa to make treatment as convenient for our patients as possible. Contact UCS to take the next step in bettering yourself and focusing on your total health. Our team will welcome you with open arms!

About This Video Series

These stories of recovery are part of a larger video series called “Close to Home: A personal look at the opioid epidemic in Iowa”. When a crisis begins affecting your loved ones, it's common to say that it's "hitting close to home." Iowans have realized in the last few years that the opioid epidemic isn't just close to home, it's here - it's in our homes, our communities, our workplaces and in our healthcare system.

UCS Healthcare, the largest provider of medication assisted treatment (MAT) in Iowa, partnered with Polk County Health Department to provide an inside look at the opioid epidemic in the state of Iowa. This video series specifically examines the impact on our patients, their families, the community, medical providers and first responders. We equally discuss how MAT works, how it is managed at UCS and with our medication unit partners, and how patients seeking recovery from opioid use disorder can renew their lives with support. Listen as our patients courageously tell their stories of recovery. We engage our team and our community partners to help inform friends and family members about what they can do for a loved one who is suffering from opioid use disorder.

UCS Healthcare appreciates the financial partnership and input of Polk County Health Department to help create this video series as well as the participation of Iowa Department of Public Health Bureau of Substance Abuse, United Way of Central Iowa, City of Des Moines Fire Department, City of Des Moines Police Department, Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition, Full Spectrum Productions, our team and, most importantly, our patients.

UCS Healthcare is part of the IDPH Integrated Provider Network, with services funded by the Iowa Department of Public Health and the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.