I’ve been exposed to drugs and alcohol my whole life. At age 12 I tried drinking for the first time while I was camping with some of my family. One of my relatives gave me and my cousin our first six-pack, which at that age, we thought we were being cool. Then in middle school and high school, we started drinking hard liquor and smoking marijuana.
When I was 18 years old, after I was out of high school, I had my daughter. And from there, I started drinking more and more. I would go into these patterns where I would start drinking and get trouble, then I would stop for a few months before I would drink again and get in trouble again.
At age 23, I got my first ever DWI, which led to my first attempt at recovery. I went into my first outpatient program to try to quit, and it worked for about a year before I started drinking and smoking marijuana again. Then when I was 26 years old, I got into a car accident and was prescribed some opiates – Hydrocodone and Valium – and I started using those all of the time. The addition of using pills on top of drinking and smoking really took me down fast. I tried some alternative treatments to get off the pills, such as acupuncture, but it didn’t work for me.
I considered myself a functioning alcoholic when I was only drinking because I was still able to hold a job, go to school, and take care of my daughter while I drank. And although I had gotten a DWI, as long as I was checking in with my probation officer, taking breathalyzers, and going to outpatient treatment, I was still allowed to keep my job. But I kept taking more and more pills until I was arrested again three months later.
This time I had hit a light pole with my car while I was driving intoxicated. After I hit the pole, I tried to keep driving my car down the road, and the whole car exploded. Somehow, by God’s grace, I was able to get out of the vehicle without being harmed – but it was a violation of my probation. I was taken to jail, and was given a choice: I could either go to prison for three years for destruction of property and the accumulation of multiple DWIs, or I could go to treatment for a year at Healing Transitions in North Carolina.
Initially, I felt like it would be a better decision to go to prison. I didn’t truly want to get help at the time, so I was justifying reasons that prison would be a better decision. But an intervention by my family, with the help of the courts, had me go to HT instead. So my family bought a one-way flight from New Mexico to North Carolina, and I went straight from the county jail to the airport and flew to Raleigh.
When I arrived at Raleigh-Durham airport, I saw the lady who was supposed to pick me up waiting there, and my first instinct was to try to find a way to escape. But I knew that if I decided to run, I would have to live a completely different lifestyle and may not be able to see my daughter ever again. So I walked up and had her drive me to HT.
In New Mexico, we don’t have as many options for recovery services as North Carolina does. So when I got to Healing Transitions, it was a completely different atmosphere than my first few experiences with recovery. When I first got to HT, there were a lot of folks who would listen to my story and tell me about how similar their experiences were. But in my first few months there, I didn’t want to listen to anything anyone had to say. After about three months, though, I started to give in and became more involved in the recovery program. I started listening more during classes and meetings, and did my commitment at Recovered Treasures Thrift Store, helping sort the donations and keep the store stocked up.
One part of the recovery program that made a big impact on me was “trudging” with the other ladies in the program. You see, one of the Native American perspectives is that we take these journeys in life, so I felt like walking and making that journey for my recovery made a lot of sense. While I walked, I would remember all of the journeys I made to go get drugs and alcohol, and I knew that I needed to have that same kind of journey for my recovery.
Another amazing memory I have was when I worked in the kitchen and Chef Kathy let us make food that reminded us of home. I made Mexican enchiladas, and it meant so much to me. It was really hard being so far away from home, and having the feeling of eating something that was so familiar to me was incredible.
After a year at Healing Transitions, I completed the recovery program and moved into a sober-living house. For the next two years, I stayed in North Carolina. During this time, I worked two different jobs until I eventually saved up enough money and bought my own flight back home to New Mexico.
I didn’t really want to go back at first. I was afraid to go back to the people, places, and things that led me down the path of addiction to begin with. Plus, I didn’t have the support system there as I did in North Carolina, so I wasn’t sure how I would handle going back. My family was one of my biggest triggers, so when I came back, we had to have a conversation about what I needed from them to keep my recovery strong. And for the last nine years, I’ve been back living in New Mexico.
During that time, I went back to school and completed my Master of Social Work degree. Initially, I went to get my substance abuse counseling license because I knew New Mexico didn’t have a lot of recovery services to offer, and I really wanted to use my experience to give back in that way. But I was accepted into a Social Work program, and now I’m working more in prevention for early childhood education, helping pregnant mothers and their babies reach milestones.
When I left North Carolina, I remember Amanda Blue had asked me what HT could do to help me stay sober. I told her that just trying staying connected would be great. So when I got back home, I started receiving about four letters per month from the program participants at HT. And to this day, I still receive those letters. Getting to hear how the ladies who are currently in the program are working on their own recovery reminds me of where I was nine years ago. It keeps me inspired and motivated in my own recovery.
Today, I am still very active in maintaining my recovery. My daily amends to my daughter and my family is to stay clean and sober every single day. Because I know how difficult it was for me to be away from them. I mean, my daughter was five years old when I went to North Carolina, so I missed some important stages in her life. And now, it’s my daily mission to be there for her. No matter what.
I’m truly, truly grateful for Healing Transitions. To this day, I am still connected to those who I went through the program with. Whether it’s through text, a phone call, or Messenger, I still get asked how I’m doing in my recovery. So although I am nine years removed, and thousands of miles away from Raleigh, I still feel very connected to HT.
I view recovery as a sunrise – because we can always start a new day. In high school, I used to run all of the time, and my dad would always tell us to run in the morning and towards the sun to give us strength and help keep us grounded. And that’s what recovery does for me today. It gives me strength and keeps me grounded. Just like the sunrise.
Join Healing Transitions for National Recovery Month as we try to raise $150,000 to give 200 people their first month in recovery! On September 25th, we will cap off the month with a Day of Giving, where an anonymous donor has generously offered a $20,000 day-of-giving match! This means the impact of your gift on the 25th will be doubled dollar-for-dollar up to $20,000! Find out how you can help out HERE!
I remember you as someone who was deadly serious about getting sober! You are truly a miracle and I am happy that you have found your way.
I knew you as Elena, but I love your Native name….Red Coral is beautiful and suits your spirit and character.