It is estimated more than two-thirds of people that struggle with addiction have experienced some type of childhood trauma. For Michaela S., it was a family tragedy. She was just 9-years-old when she lost her brother in an ATV accident. He was only a few weeks from turning 12. Little did she know she would turn to addiction and be staring down the road to recovery.
Witnessing her brother’s death rocked the very foundation of her childhood. The close-knit, picturesque family she had known was forever changed. And her best friend was gone.
“That’s the point I changed,” she said. “I just shut down.”
At first, it was her behavior. Unable to process the depth of her feelings, she started acting out and rebelled. By high school, Michaela turned to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. It started with marijuana, binge drinking at parties and taking pills.
Michaela spent her senior year doing meth – all day, every day. Her once healthy frame shrank rapidly. She didn’t care how she looked and her attitude worsened. She was selfish, lost a lot of friends and lied constantly to her parents to cover up the excessive drug use.
“When you’re in active addiction you use the people around you for whatever you need,” she said. “I would always use losing my brother as an excuse.”
Those who experience trauma are more susceptible to substance abuse. According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, numerous epidemiological studies have found that, for many adolescents (45%–66%), substance use disorders precede the onset of trauma exposure.
After more than a year on meth, Michaela turned to something else; the drug that would eventually lead her to rehab. Opiates would become the drug she couldn’t shake, that would eat entire paychecks, the drug that produced withdrawal symptoms so incredibly painful she thought she’d never find a way out.
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Months of opioid abuse became too much for her. She was out of money. She was tired, scared and ready to surrender.
“I was so tired of fighting this fight. I just hated myself.”
Road to Recovery
Michaela’s biggest fear was disappointing her parents. But they were incredibly supportive and helped her find JourneyPure Bowling Green’s residential treatment program. It was here Michaela found hope and fellowship. The staff not only treated her addiction but addressed the underlying effects of trauma through individual, group and experiential therapies like adventure and equine. Michaela welcomed it all with open arms.
“I was so beaten down and broken that I did everything I was told,” she said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for JourneyPure. I can honestly say that everyone there truly cares about your well-being and wants to see you succeed.”
In a surprising twist, Michaela joined the staff at JourneyPure Bowling Green, inspiring others with her story. She’s proud to have confronted her addiction at a young age and is excited about her future.
“I don’t ever want to forget what I went through to get where I am today,” she said. “I don’t want to dwell on the past but I keep it in the back of my mind because if I’m ever feeling ungrateful or if I’m ever being selfish, I’ve got to take a step back and tell myself I’m making progress and I don’t ever have to go back to where I was.”