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Her Addiction Story Made Me A Better Therapist

There was a lady that was injected with heroin repeatedly at the age of 12 so that she could be high and prostituted by her mother.  Her mother would force her to have sex with older men to earn money for her heroin addiction.  Twenty years later, I was this woman’s therapist and she was on methadone maintenance trying to maintain sobriety.  I remember my insides feeling like they were on fire as I internally raged against this mother for sending her daughter down this path.  She was repeatedly raped from age 12 to age 16 and when she finally ran away, she had a full blown heroin addiction.  

When she was first admitted to a detox unit, I watched her on her knees at the toilet throwing up for 20 to 30 minutes at a time.  Her nose was running, her body had chills and cold sweats.  She began picking and scratching her neck and her eyes were watery.  As I tried to complete initial paperwork with her, she kept excusing herself to the bathroom because of her upset stomach.  She was put on methadone to help with her symptoms, but it was not working during the initial week.  

Up until this point in my career, I struggled with understanding heroin addiction.  Even though, I was deeply invested in helping people heal, I did not know the full impact of heroin addiction until I walked with this young lady through her withdrawal process.  We talked everyday except Sundays.  She would tell me every symptom that she experienced.  She would talk to me about her "drug dreams".  She would dream that she was high and wake up with her mom's ex-boyfriend on top of her and then, she would wake up again and realize that was a dream also.  The role of trauma significantly impacted her addiction.  How can you face reality when the reality is that you have been a prostitute since 12?  

Her story moved me in such a way that I began teaching her to see herself as more than an addict, and more than a prostitute.  I was fully present in every session with her.  We laughed together, and there were times that I cried with her, even when she tried to minimize certain stories, like having all of her teeth knocked out while tricking on her own.  She cursed like a sailor, and had a great sense of humor.  She'd been through so much and was still able to love, laugh and trust.  What she taught me that clinicians and therapists must get to know the person, because we are treating the person, not just the addiction.  We are working with the whole person. 

I worked with her for over 6 months in inpatient and she was able to maintain sobriety at least a year after that, but now I do not know where she is.  I pray that she is well.   

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