1.) How long have you been opioid free?
I have been opioid free for 3-years and 10-months.
2.) What helps you stay clean and sober? (i.e. coping strategies, positive people, places and activities, counseling, MAT, psychiatric medications, etc.)
I would have to say Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) saved my life. I know that a lot of people don’t believe you are sober when you are on MAT, but I wish a lot of my friends who passed away from overdoses would have listened to me and used MAT as a way to help them in their recovery. Maybe, they would still be here today. I also believe having a good, sober support person to speak with and share things with has helped me in my recovery.
3.) What have you learned about yourself since getting clean and sober?
I have learned a lot in my 3-years 10-months of sobriety. In the beginning of my recovery, it was a lot harder as I was just putting days together. But, over the past two years, I have worked harder to build a sober foundation by surrounding myself with good, sober people who have taught me that you don’t always have to drink or drug in order to feel happy or loved by others. There is more to life than getting high. I’ve had some great times, being sober, that I wish I could have experienced more often, in my youth, when I was frequently using drugs.
4.) What advice or message do you have for people who are currently struggling with alcohol or substance abuse issues?
The best advice I can give for people who are struggling and who are really thinking about getting clean and sober is to take the leap – do it! Yes, it is scary getting sober and changing your life. Yes, you will be faced with addressing the hurt and pain you have caused yourself and your loved ones, but it is worth it! Take baby steps – one minute, one hour, one day at a time! Set small goals for yourself and celebrate every small goal you accomplish with positive praise. Learning how to live a clean and sober life does not happen overnight, just like becoming addicted did not happen overnight. Be patient with yourself and surround yourself with people, places and things that will lift you up in your recovery journey, not bring you down. For people in active addiction reading this, remember, there is only one way to go and that is up, because your addiction has brought you down. Love and value yourself enough to get clean and sober. You are worth it!
5.) How do you feel about the person you are today compared to the person you were in active addiction?
Today, I feel loved and wanted. My children, family and close friends want to be around me. Since being sober, my son who is 20-years old recently shared with me how happy he is to have his dad back in his life. Words could not accurately capture how good that made me feel. Doors have opened for me that would not have been possible if I were still in active addiction. Through helping and supporting other people who are trying to get clean and sober, I have been able to volunteer and work for organizations by sharing my story. I am hopeful that sharing my story and struggle with drugs, helps make others feel comfortable and worthy enough to reach out for help. Sobriety has brought God into my life and I am grateful for my faith as it has given me strength to continue on my recovery journey.
Geri Lynn Utter, PsyD Perspective Piece: Relapse, Mental Health, and the State of the World As I sat down to write this article, I