It’s a pretty tedious job being asked to write your recovery story. Where does a person who once had all hope lost begin? Where does a person who literally wished death upon herself with every use begin? Who once thought everyone was better off without them? Some have called me a poly substance user, others a chronic relapser, most have said, I was a hopeless case.

I started experimenting with alcohol at 13, and by 15 I was a full blown heroin addict. These substances gave me a sense of belonging, and later in my life, I realized they were also filling a huge void I had. I can go into countless treatment attempts, several incarcerations, traumatic experiences, several geographical changes, and all the terrible places where illegal substances took me. I spent a lot of time reliving those things over and over again and coming to terms with them. My life was a vicious cycle of jails and institutions up to the age of 24.

I tried every other route of recovery and it wasn’t for lack of trying that I didn’t succeed. I just could not stop. When I did manage to stop and abstain, my depression always seemed to creep up on me. I had no motivation during this time, the little things that made other people happy, just never made me happy. I never felt “normal.” The drive and ambition I once had, and prided myself in, came to a screeching halt. All I wanted to do is sleep. I didn’t want to get out of bed or go outside. I came to find out that I suffer from a depletion of dopamine from starting opiates at such a young age. My brain just does not produce dopamine correctly. I would string together months of abstinence and then relapse. Then I try a different rehab or go to a different meeting, but I always went back to what made me feel “normal” every time. People would say, “you need to wait for your brain to start producing normally again,” and I always tried, and I would go longer and longer each time, but the end result was always going back to my drug of choice.

I had drilled into my mind the image of what someone who is perfectly recovered looks like. That image gave me unrealistic expectations for myself.  I kept listening to what worked for others, but never looked in to what would work for me. I kept being told I had to trust in others and that’s what I did. It never worked, so I finally decided to try another way. No one wanted me on a MAT medication, I was scolded for “replacing one drug for another” and that “I wasn’t REALLY clean.” I decided to go against the grain and try it out, at that point I had nothing to lose. MAT was my last stop before death and death was knocking at my door.

My recovery journey begins when I was put on MAT medication and was able to take control of my life again. You just don’t start a MAT medication and “poof” everything in your life is normal again. You have to do the work, attend counseling, attend groups, and really work on your mental well-being. The low dose of a MAT medication I was put on, put my brain on an even keel again. I truly view it as my anti-depressant. I know the stigma attached to these medications all too well. I hear the cruel remarks, and the judgement. I’m here to tell you today that it’s completely possible to live a healthy, well adjusted, beautiful recovered life on a MAT medication.

In my active use, I was signed out of 9th grade to attend rehab in another state, and I never got the chance to complete school. MAT allowed me to focus on my schooling again, in which I flourished. I dove into my academics head first and that really helped to fill that void I was missing. I was able to graduate with honors with my associates and am currently pursuing my BSW. I have done my 270 educational hours and interning for my CADC as well. During this time, I also met my husband who has never had a substance use disorder and is very supportive of me being on MAT and being the best person I can be. In 2016, we had a beautiful child together, our pride and joy, and my little mini me. I have a huge network of support and created a beautiful life for myself that I am very proud of today. I used to be ashamed of my recovery. I didn’t want people to know I was using a “crutch.” Today, I’m proud of my “crutch” because I needed it to get where I am. I would never have been able to accomplish any of these things if it wasn’t for MAT. A MAT medication saved my life.  I was so scared to try it because I had that one way of recovery replaying over and over again in my mind. Today I know there are so many forms of recovery NA, AA, smart recovery, support groups, faith-based approaches, MAT, therapy, etc. All these many different forms have one thing in common, wellness. You have to take care of yourself: mind, body, social wellbeing and find purpose.

I went from someone barely existing to a productive member of society. It has now been 10 years since I’ve been on a MAT medication and right now I’m in the process of weaning off. I am very aware of my triggers and what I can handle both physically and mentally. Today I run the support group MoMATs for women who are pregnant and using and mothers who are on MAT medications. I am also a Peer Support Specialist for NJ Peer Recovery, and run a MAT NJ page that offers resources, support and hope. What helps me in my recovery is helping others, and that’s what I am truly passionate about. I went from being a completely selfish person to becoming a selfless person, and in my opinion, this is when my life truly started to change. Whichever way YOU decide to recover, be at peace with that choice. You are responsible for your own recovery and not one size fits all.