Your Health Seth Stratton | one year ago

#ThisIsSober: Emily's Story

At Emily’s darkest point, she realized she was choosing being high over her husband and daughters – and was one injection away from death every time she used.

Emily, a labor and delivery nurse, went to rehab twice for her drug addiction. The first time was because of her husband’s pleads – he found syringes in her work purse used to take prescription pain pills. He took Emily to Carolinas HealthCare System’s First Step, where she underwent detox and outpatient treatment for 60 days. But Emily hadn’t yet hit her rock bottom. The day she got out of treatment, she used again. “It was a very aggressive escalation from there,” remembers Emily. “Before long, I was taking deathly doses nine times a day.” [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTbiI37tMQo&w=560&h=315]   As a nurse working at a hospital, Emily had access to some of the most intense pain killers on the market. What started as a small, once in a while thing, eventually developed into an all-day quest to get high. The shame Emily felt every time she wasn’t able to resist the temptation, and all the lying and stealing, only added to her pain. “What Emily didn’t realize at the time was that there were and are so many other nurses and medical professionals going through the same thing,” says Martha Whitecotton, VP of behavioral health services at Carolinas HealthCare System. “This is a very common situation that happens. Nurses and doctors are still human and can suffer from addiction just like anyone else. Addiction is a disease that takes over your life, and causes someone to lose sight of what is right and wrong.” For over a year and a half, Emily hid her drug use from her coworkers, bosses and family; including her daughters, ages 5 and 3. “I couldn’t do anything without using first. I literally could not move in the morning without using. My marriage was in shambles. My children's lives were in danger.” Then came that fateful day that Emily will never forget. “On July 19, 2012, I walked into work and was escorted off of my unit into a conference room where I was confronted by every higher up in the hospital,” recalls Emily. "Finally, I was caught.” The next morning, Emily was back at First Step – and she was at rock bottom this time – desperate to get the help she needed. “I was defeated. I could not live that life anymore. It was truly life or death for me at this point.” Little by little, Emily built up her strength, found her purpose and gained a new perspective on life. “I am finally the person I think I was always meant to be. Someone people can trust. And I feel like I am truly a messenger to help spread the word about addiction.” Getting back to work as a nurse was Emily’s goal after she completed treatment – and that is no easy feat for someone who was let go because of drug use. After a lot of hard work and taking courses to fulfill state requirements, Emily is once again a labor and delivery nurse, doing what she loves most. “My co-workers are aware of my past, where I came from,” she says. “Being a nurse, I thought people would look down on me. But I was wrong. My co-workers say I am a walking miracle and an inspiration.” Emily’s family life has recovered as well. She is still married and now has three beautiful girls – she had a baby just seven months ago. Emily thinks of her baby daughter as a beautiful gift from her sobriety. Emily prides herself on talking about her sobriety and all the ways that her life has changed for the better. She wants other nurses and medical professionals to know, “you cannot beat this disease alone, trust me, I tried. Get help – ask for help – there is hope. You can make it in sobriety.” All year long, we’re putting sobriety in the spotlight to help shatter the stigma around addiction and inspire people to change their lives. Read and share our stories – and join the conversation – using #ThisIsSober.