Ed McDonough, GateHouse Treatment CEO, our very own Hope Dealer, has on Ashley in this week’s episode. Ashley is a local woman in recovery and shares her story and how Vivitrol helped her finally get and stay sober. Ashley battled her addiction to heroin for years. Despite many times in treatment, two pregnancies and jail time, Ashely couldn’t stay sober. Until she finally tried Vivitrol, a form of medication-assisted treatment.
Ashley started using opiates at the age of 14 and sought help for the first time at 19. She went to her parents, and she decided to go to the methadone clinic to try to get sober. She went to the methadone clinic and did well for about 9 months, then after that, she told herself “I can dabble, I know the methadone won’t block me from getting high, and I’ll take it so I won’t get sick if I can’t get money to get high.” It became a safety net rather than medication-assisted treatment. Ashley was an IV heroin user and was on and off methadone for 9 years. While mostly being on the methadone, she stopped and would go in and out of detoxes trying to get sober. She also got pregnant at that time with her daughter.
Her daughter was born addicted to methadone and had other opiates in her system and was in the hospital for 52 days after she was born. After this happened, Ashley started doing well for a while and went to Medical Assistant school and was still taking the methadone. Ashley then got pregnant with her son, and she went back to using heroin. She said, “Kids aren’t enough to not get high. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to stop.” Ashley loves her children but couldn’t stop using.
After her son was born, she continued to take methadone and tried to use Suboxone as a different form of medication-assisted treatment. Ashley just “used” the suboxone to sell it to get money to buy heroin. She said that the methadone clinic program and suboxone program weren’t structured properly. Ashley also stated that just Vivitrol on its own isn’t a cure either. It doesn’t treat the disease; it just treats the cravings and blocks you from feeling the effects of opiates.
It gets Worse Before it gets Better
Ashley ended up having to sign the rights to her children over due to her addiction. After that happened she went on a suicide mission; it wasn’t about getting high anymore. “All I wanted to do was die,” she said. Ashley went in and out of detox about 30 times in this 3-year period. Eventually, she went to jail for 30 days, and one of her release terms was that she goes to sober living. She went to sober living where she was making meetings but wasn’t taking it seriously, and her probation officer said she should try Vivitrol. One of her housemates had been on Vivitrol and told Ashley that it was terrible. Ashley took that information and ran with it as a reason to not do the Vivitrol shot.
Two days after moving out from sober living, Ashley overdosed on her mom’s kitchen floor. For the next year, she was in and out of the same sober living home probably 12 times. Ashley went back to jail for another 30 days and was looking at more time from a violation of probation. 2 days before going back to jail, Ashley had overdosed again, and her brother was giving her CPR, she said that she saw the scene happening from above. That was when Ashley realized that she couldn’t keep going on that way.
Divine Intervention and the Gift of Desperation
“Rock bottom for me was 6 feet under, I wasn’t getting any lower,” said Ashley. After this last 30-day stint in jail, Ashley went to treatment for 30 days. Her probation officer and the treatment center both pushed Vivitrol. If you were medically cleared at the treatment center, you were going to receive Vivitrol. At this point, Ashley went in with an open mind to at least try the shot. She started on the Naltrexone, the once-daily oral pill. There were 4 days before Ashley went to receive the shot and when she went to get it, she expressed all her fears about it. The place she went to get the shot was very understanding, Ashely had to meet with a counselor in the building twice weekly, and with the doctor who administered her the shot twice a month.
Combining the Vivitrol and counseling is where things started to change for Ashley. She was receiving the Vivitrol, doing counseling to deal with underlying issues and trauma, and attending 12 step meetings and working with a sponsor. Ashley was going to 7 meetings a week at this point. “My body was ready to get sober, but the Vivitrol gave my mind a chance to start healing.” If you use while on the Vivitrol shot, you can become ill, and it also increases your risk of overdosing increase substantially.
Ed and Ashley both point out that Vivitrol is like training wheels for sobriety, you use it until you can remain abstinent on your own. It isn’t a long-term medication-assisted treatment; it’s predetermined between you and your doctor. Vivitrol helps control the cravings for opiates, but it doesn’t treat the disease of addiction. Ashley said that she didn’t crave opiates, but she did crave cocaine which was strange for her. Vivitrol is meant to be accompanied by work on yourself, or it is just delaying the inevitable of the disease, which is that you will get high again.
Ashley changed everything in her life outside of A.A and therapy, old friends and behavior. She stayed on Vivitrol for 9 months and had dental surgery that required her to be dosed with pain medication after she woke up from the surgery she felt miserable having the opiates in her body. Ashley no longer liked the way the opiates made her feel. After that, she knew that she didn’t need to go back on the Vivitrol shot.
Once she started to buckle down and take a hard look at herself through her step work, she began to change and so did her life. Ed asked her when the Twelve Step Promises started coming true for her. Addicts struggle with wanting instant gratification and wanting relief from the emotional discomfort that comes with getting sober and going through therapy and step work. Ed and Ashley touched on how the mental obsession eventually left them both and any thoughts of using are now fleeting thoughts.
We do recover, and it is possible with the help of medication-assisted treatment like Vivitrol. If you or a loved one is interested in Vivitrol and therapy combined in a safe environment to overcome opiate addiction, contact us today at 855-448-3588. Let sobriety become a way of life.