Heartbreak And Hope: Listen To What It Takes One Vermonter To Overcome Opioid Addiction
So often when discussing addiction, people wonder why addicts can't just stop using. Recover.
And so to better understand what it really takes to kick addiction, we followed one woman's multi-year journey.
How this story happened
In late 2015, our newsroom was keeping an eye on the long waitlists for recovery treatment programs. The state was scrambling to respond to the crisis and provide more treatment slots.
VPR put out a callout — a poster at the Howard Center's Chittenden Clinic — for people to reach out if they were interested in talking with us. And a number of people struggling with opioid addiction did.
Among them was Lauretta Sheridan.
At the time, Sheridan was on the waitlist to receive medically assisted treatment — MAT — at the time. She'd tried detoxing from heroin a number of times, only to relapse later. It wasn't until October 2014 that she was successfully able to detox and avoid relapse.
We had our first interview in February 2016. In that first conversation, she shared all the things she was trying to do to keep her mind off relapsing:
It’s really weird – like it could be a smell, it could be a thought … could be anything that could trigger a thought in your brain … of thinking about when you used to do drugs. And it’s amazing, like – what your mind does.
To many, long-term MAT seems like the finish-line: Drugs like Suboxone help soothe cravings but aren't enough for addicts to get high.
But Sheridan wanted off the drugs altogether; she didn't want treating her opioid addiction to become a chronic condition — with her for the rest of her life.
So when we spoke in December 2016, she was focused on tapering off Suboxone:
I want to be able not to have this drug so I can just be normal and funct– not function but – I don’t know how to put it into words. I don’t want to have to take it the rest of my life.
But it's by no means "easy."
To stay clean, Sheridan says, requires tremendous honesty. To her doctors and to herself. And for someone who is still learning "to feel all over again" after years of addiction, it's a work in progress she says.
And so there's no "done."
For Sheridan, each day is an exercise. One that she takes on with tremendous resolve.