The Road to Recovery is a Journey

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Kristi shared her path with us that led her to Pioneer Human Services after years of going in and out of jail, and struggling with a substance use disorder. She went through our residential treatment program, Pioneer Center North, in Sedro-Woolley; and our outpatient clinic, Pioneer Counseling-Phoenix Recovery Services, in Mount Vernon.

“No matter how far down you are with addiction – you can overcome it. But, recovery is a process and you can’t do it alone. You need support.”  Kristi

Looking back, I did not fall into drug use because of a major trauma in my life like physical or sexual abuse; it was more of a gradual process that pulled me in deeper and deeper. I came from a good family, but in the seventh grade I started smoking pot, and then in high school I started partying with other teenagers and dabbled with other drugs. I did not have much self-esteem at the time so I just went along with the crowd.

Introduction to Pills
When I turned 20, I got pregnant and had my son. Initially, I was working as a hair stylist and taking care of my son. However, I had some dental work done and was given pain pills. I instantly loved the feeling they gave me – I thought they were the greatest buzz ever. The pattern of seeking out more pain pills started and I found I could get them randomly from a doctor. Then in my mid-twenties, I got into a car accident and a month later I broke my wrist - so I had major pain. My neighbor introduced me to OxyContin for the pain and I was hooked. I really learned to work the system to get a constant supply of pills. At 30, I finally realized that had a big problem and needed help. My life was falling apart with my work and home life, and I had to face the fact that I could not function without my pills.  

First Experience with Residential Treatment
My family supported me and I went into a residential treatment program that had a lot of structure. After finishing the program, I was clean for about two years. However, I got into a relationship a year later and started focusing on him, rather than continuing the things that were important for my recovery. Old habits can come back to haunt you when you let your guard down. I fell back into my addiction and got arrested. This time, I pulled myself together though, used my support system, got off the pills and tried to put my life back in order. 

Depression crept into my life at this stage and I started struggling with my mental health. My older sister and mom assumed I was taking pills again – but I wasn’t. They took my son to care for him and I sunk into a new low that lasted for 10 years.

I lived all over the North Sound and my addiction turned to heroin. I was arrested several times and spent time in and out of jail. A lot of my time was spent hanging out at casinos and I had a series of bad, drug-dependent relationships. An old DUI was haunting me and I knew I needed to take action to address the charges and go through another treatment program – but I didn’t want to go. During this time I met a new friend, Richard, and he brought me to his home where I met his mom. She later told me, “If you want help I will help you.” She ended up driving me to Pioneer Counseling-Phoenix Recovery Services. 

Introduction to Pioneer Human Services
At first I was kind of skeptical about Pioneer as I thought I would just be another number with them. I was wrong. The staff work closely with me to find the individual programs and services that would support my recovery best. I felt comfortable with my counselors and specialists, and realized they genuinely wanted to help me. 

At Phoenix Recovery Services I was assessed and told that I needed a residential treatment program. Before I started the program at Pioneer Center North (PCN), I began a Suboxone program to get off heroin. After that, I visited Kelsy Ozuna, behavioral health clinician at Phoenix Recovery, and she worked with me on getting a bed date at PCN. I was lucky to be able to stay at Richard’s home with him and his mom while I waited for a bed. 

PCN was a good experience as I got the time to work on me. It was a much different program than the previous residential program I had gone through years before. The previous program was very structured with every minute of the day scheduled out for you. Although that sounds good, it doesn’t help you address downtime, or being alone, like you have to face in the real world. 

At PCN, I had counseling meetings and various programs/activities I got involved in, but like in the real world, I still had to start figuring out how to use my downtime productively as a clean and sober person. Many people in the program are coming out of incarceration or off the streets. At PCN, I had counseling meetings and various programs/activities I got involved in, but like in the real world, I still had to start figuring out how to use my downtime productively as a clean and sober person. Many people in the program are coming out of incarceration or off the streets at PCN. The homework and counseling that my counselor Melissa Forsythe, SUDPT, gave me not only covered treatment, but I studied building self-esteem and healthy boundaries, relationship building, creating a positive attitude and belief system, relapse prevention and how to build a support system.

After 30 days at PCN, I completed the program and we worked on my next steps. Lucky for me, I was able to move back into my friend Richard’s home so my housing was a safe and secure place. Richard had also got clean and sober with a full-time job, so that was a healthy environment to move into after treatment. 

PCN sent me back to Phoenix Recovery Services where I enrolled in the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for 12 weeks. Kelsy Ozuna and Bev Carman, CDP lead, worked with me through all the programs at Phoenix. The IOP was followed by Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) that provided me with some new skills to manage painful emotions and decrease conflict in relationships. After DBT, I engaged in more relapse prevention counseling and a co-occurring program that covered both my substance abuse and mental health struggles. It was helpful to repeat some of the programming I learned to reinforce it into my life.

Building a New Life
It has been a real luxury to have the opportunity to live here with Richard while I continue to work on my recovery. In the past, I knew if I had nowhere safe to go after treatment I would fall right back into old habits. Honestly, that was one of the things that often prevented me from going into treatment. I was lucky to already have housing, but Pioneer really works with you to make sure you have safe housing to continue your clean and sober life.

I am now working on getting my driver’s license and finding a job where I work with people. I am not the “desk job” type of person but I may consider becoming a hair stylist again. Another priority is building a bridge to form a relationship with my mother and son again. I know I burned bridges in the past, but now I’m set on building the bridges. My son is 20 and I would really love to have him and my mom back in my life. This will take time, but I am ready now to be responsible and work this through.

What is nice about my recovery journey is that I know I can reach out to any of my Pioneer counselors and they will always call me back. They are still there for me. That’s really great to know.


Thursday, November 5, 2020