“I would say, ‘these doctors treating my husband don’t know what they’re doing, so could you help me out and write a script for him?’” she recalls. “I had worked with these doctors for many years, and they trusted me. They’d write me anything until they eventually started to catch on.”
Next she turned to purchasing opioids on the Internet. “At the time it was an easy thing to do,” she says. She made purchases in her husband’s name and her own, eventually spending upwards of $5,000 for her purchases.
When she could no longer afford to buy opioids, she resorted to stealing them. “I would steal from every house I went into,” Kelly recalls. “I would look through their medicine cabinets, and I wasn’t picky about the type of pain pill it was—morphine or Percocet or Demerol, it didn’t matter. I just needed them in my system.”
By that point Kelly had lost her job and knew she was close to hitting bottom. “I became this person I didn’t even know,” she says. “I was a thief and a liar. My need for drugs had turned into a chronic obsession. I couldn’t focus, couldn’t sit still, and I was sleeping maybe two hours a night. I was in really bad shape.”
Finally, in 2005, Kelly had had enough. She checked herself into an outpatient treatment program consisting of 30 days of intensive classes and therapy sessions. She also began receiving Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone) treatments—an unusual step at the time, but one that helped taper her from the drugs she’d been taking and focus her energies on getting healthier. She also began attending meetings of a 12-step program several evenings a week—a practice she continues today, accompanied by her husband—and one that helps fight any urges to relapse.
“I look at treating addiction like someone with diabetes has to treat their disease,” she explains. “A diabetic has to check their blood sugar, take their meds, eat right and exercise. For me, it’s going to meetings, talking to my sponsor, working with the 12 steps of the program, gaining a spiritual life and taking Suboxone every day.”
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The latter, she says, has been particularly important. She dismisses the argument put forward by some in the recovery field that a person taking Suboxone isn’t truly drug-free. “It changed my life literally overnight,” she says. “I first took it on a Friday night and Saturday morning I was sitting in my living room reading a magazine, something I hadn’t been able to do in weeks, and without it I don’t think I ever could have again.
“It’s not about getting high off this drug,” she adds. “It’s about being able to live a normal life, learning how to live again.”