A Remarkable Story of Trauma and Recovery: Shannon’s Story

Disclaimer: there are some aspects of the following story that describe traumatic events.  Please be advised that some of the content described may be disturbing for some readers.

I remember the moment I was hooked on pills.  I was waiting for a train back to college and I had a terrible headache.  I took some medication for it, just an over the counter pain medication with codeine and caffeine in it. I remember the feeling that came over me, it was like nothing I had felt before.  After years of being bullied at school and home I no longer felt weak.  That was the beginning of my addiction but not where my story begins.

Growing up was torture.  Every day I was bullied.  I was overweight as a child but not the biggest girl in school by any means, but I was weak, I would cry and that just fed their mean ways.  It didn’t stop at school either, at home my mom would put me down for the way I looked; looks were something she valued.  My parents separated when I was 15.  I divided my time between my parents which was very hard on me.  After high school I went to college for animal care.  It was hard for me, not the learning part but the being away from what I was familiar with part.  I was home sick, anxious and lonely.  It was during this time that I started the pills.  I took the over the counter medication for years.  From 1995 until 2007 I was taking them consistently.  One day in 2007 I was at lunch with a friend, a friend that knew of my addiction.  She handed me a pill from a prescription she had received from the doctor.  I took it and it was everything I needed in a pill.  I started taking Percocet occasionally and eventually doing it every day, anywhere from 30 all the way up to 50 pills in a day.  I would find a buyer and the price would start low and gradually increase in cost.  I had a job as a receptionist, I had a condo, and a dog and cat that were my life.  One of my coworker’s husband would come in to see her frequently, he was a nice man and would always talk to me when he came in.  Somehow it was discovered that he had Percocet that he would sell me, again the price started low and got more and more expensive.  Eventually I could no longer afford the pills, my debt was growing out of control, I had taken out a line of credit for $40, 000 and it was all spent on pills.  One day this man made me an offer, he would give me 50 pills in exchange for sex.  I refused, he was a friend’s husband, how could he propose such a thing?  I kept thinking about it, with my growing debt and my need for the pills I accepted his offer.  After it was done he gave me 25 pills, he was ripping me off!  Said he didn’t have the 50 and all he could do was 25.  I was so angry; I couldn’t believe he had done this.  I would not back off him until I got those pills.  In the end he admitted to having them in his car, and he gave me the remaining 25 pills.  It went on for a while, trading sex for pills with this man.  I eventually found out about the back pages on Craigslist.  I put up an ad and started selling my body to people to make money to support my drug use.  After doing this for over a year, my neighbours grew more suspicious of what was happening at my home with men coming and going and word got out to my family.  They found out about my addiction and my sexual conduct.  My father saw my webpage that I used to sell sex, something no girl wants her father to see and no father wants to see of his daughter.  My family tried to help me.  I went to 3 different rehabilitation homes and returned to the drug use after every time, I just couldn’t do it once I was finished with the residential part of recovery.  The thought of not taking the pills was hard, mostly because of the withdrawals: it was like the flu x 100.  Every inch hurt all the way through my bones.  I had to stop though, I had lost everything – my home, my family and my beloved pets.  Every day was focused on my addiction, from the time I woke up until I went to bed.  It was no way to live.

I came to CMHA Oxford for support, and it has helped me tremendously.  I started on a methadone program to help with the withdrawals.  This saved my life.  For the past few years I have been working with Heather; with her guidance, I have been able to stay off the pills for the most part, I have shown great responsibility in my methadone treatment, and she helped me to find out I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder which gave me a direction to go with treatment.  Heather has worked with me to put things together in my head and increase my self-esteem.  The drug use and treatment took a major toll on my body leaving me with multiple challenges, including the loss of all my teeth, cardiomyopathy, chronic anemia and most recently emergency ileostomy surgery.  These things all make up who I am.  The compassionate and kind workers at CMHA Oxford have helped me to understand more of who I am and where I want to go from here.