But all is not lost. There is hope. There is healing. Today we are sharing with you a story of one of our friends, a graduate from Vertava Health of Mississippi, and now a recovery coach – Kelli.
Kelli’s story is one of pain and devastation but also hope and inspiration. This may mirror your life. This may mirror the life of your loved one. We want you to know that addiction can be treated and a fulfilling life can be had. Kelli is proof. Read on.
How long have you been sober?
I will be 1 year sober next Tuesday.
What is your background? How did you start doing drugs or drinking?
I have Borderline Personality Disorder. I’ve felt pain ever since I can remember. My parents put me in therapy at 5 years old. At age 13, I attempted suicide for the first time. The only reason I didn’t succeed is because my arms weren’t long enough to pull the trigger on the shotgun.
When I was 14, I started drinking and I kept drinking all through high school.
When I was 16, I got a job at a pharmacy and actually did really well there – until I was about 18. I had heard a lot about Lortab and wondered what all the hype was about. I wanted to see why people were taking them. So I stole one Lortab. Just one.
When I took that Lortab… It was the first time I felt like I could smile. It was the first time I didn’t hurt. It was the first time I felt like there wasn’t a gaping hole inside of me anymore. It was the first time I really felt normal.
What happened after that? When did you realize you were addicted?
After that first Lortab, I started stealing bottles by the 1,000 count.
Eventually, I went online to learn more about what I was taking and I realized that I had become physically dependent. I Google searched “How to get off of painkillers?” and I was directed to a bunch of rehab sites. When I looked into it, I realized how expensive rehab was, and I knew I couldn’t tell my parents. I thought rehab would be too expensive for them and that I would disappoint them.
So I tried to stop on my own. I got really, really sick from the withdraws. I loved those pills, but I hated them. I really had no ideas about addiction or what to do. I thought that the only way out of it was to die.
So I took 40 pills.
I woke up in ICU. They found the Lortab in my system, but since I was prescribed to it, I just told them I accidentally took too many in a short amount of time. I don’t know how they believed it or didn’t realize what was really going on, but I spent 12 days in the hospital.
How did you first get into treatment?
Shortly after coming home from the hospital, my mom found my stash of pills. She found thousands of them. I knew I couldn’t lie about it anymore and I told her how I had tried to kill myself.
That’s when my parents took me to the psych hospital and then what I thought was “long-term treatment.” It was a 28 day treatment. At the time, I thought it was long-term, but I know now it just wasn’t enough.
About 5 or 6 days after I got out of treatment for the first time, I starting taking pills again. I spent 9 years in that cycle of in and out of institutions and treatment centers. I went to 22 facilities during that time. I was on probation for prescription fraud. I taught my sister how to “doctor shop” – and she overdosed and died the first time she took Percocet. I also attempted suicide 12 times.
Eventually, I also started doing heroin. It was so much cheaper than pills and the people around me were doing it. Once I put that needle in my arm – there was no going back. The high was so much more powerful.
How did you finally get into Vertava Health of Mississippi?
My parents were still doing their research and they found out that the number one best treatment for co-occurring disorders – my borderline personality disorder and addiction – was Dialectical Behavior Therapy, DBT. They found Bobby Scott and Jimmy Franks online and saw that Vertava Health of Mississippi provided full DBT, not just part of it. So they helped me get there.
What made your experience at Vertava Health of Mississippi different?
First of all, I didn’t feel institutionalized. I wasn’t strapped to a hospital bed. I was in a sober living home. But then, I also really got into the skills DBT they taught me. Those skills were so instrumental in helping with the recovery process and coping skills. The DBT skills completely changed my personality – who I was, how I thought, how I felt, how I behaved – everything about me.
DBT helped my addiction, but it also helped my personality disorder. Dr. King was truly amazing. He really worked hard with me and he was the first person to ever really get my medication right.
This place saved my life.
What did you discover about yourself while in treatment?
I discovered that I’m actually a good person. I’m a good person with a problem. I don’t have a moral deficiency – I have an illness. I learned that I was worth it. I am worthy of life and I’m worthy of love.
How is your family now?
They are so happy for me and they’re really proud of me. I put them through so much during those 10 years, so they’re still a little gun-shy. But they’re proud of me and I know we’re going to keep working on our relationships.
What would you tell someone who is in denial about their addiction?
When it starts to hurt bad enough, you will make a change. And when you’re ready – there is hope.
What was one great lesson that you learned from treatment?
The pain that causes addiction is a part of life, but it’s not the foundation of life.
What would you tell someone about treatment to inspire them to go to Vertava Health of Mississippi?
Vertava Health of Mississippi is not like any other place I’ve been – and I’ve been a lot of places for treatment. It’s not institutionalized, and you’re independent.
The staff here is like my family now. They have open hearts, they’re passionate. At Vertava Health of Mississippi, I felt like for the first time in my life I wasn’t being condemned – I was being helped.
What keeps you sober each day?
I can do this today because I don’t ever want to hurt and feel the agony like I did before. I know at this point, I don’t have to feel the way I did before – it’s my choice.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
I’m now a recovery coach at Vertava Health of Mississippi and I’m able to help others. I wouldn’t wish the horrific pain I went through on anyone. There are so many people here that worked 24/7 for me with genuine compassion, and I want to work that hard and have the same compassion for other people, as well.