Debra’s Journey to Recovery

Debra’s eyes sparkle with excitement. She has just heard that she will be able to move into her own room at a shelter in Washington, DC. She is also looking forward to starting her new job as a peer counselor at the DC Department of Behavioral Health. In addition, she is glad to be on the path to recovery, after years of heroin addiction. “I am so happy today, because I am on the other side. I feel like a human being. As an addict I was among the dead. It was darkness. Now I see the light!” she says.

Debra started using drugs as a teenager, trying to medicate the pain she felt after experiencing a traumatic event that was followed by her grandmother’s death. “She was murdered by her boyfriend,” Debra explains.

Debra says she was a functional addict. She worked at a large conference center in DC, and rented her own apartment. She had no idea that homelessness was just around the corner. Debra became very sick in June 2015 due to previously undiagnosed diabetes and hypertension and had to be hospitalized. When she came out of hospital, she went back to work, but was fired when she forgot to clock in after her lunch break. That hit her hard and affected her mental health. “I wanted to work, but I wasn’t stable mentally,” she recalls. Despite being out of work, she tried to hang on to her apartment, but the landlord increased the rent by $300, at a time when her savings were running out. She found herself homeless and had to get rid of her belongings since she had nowhere to put them. She was offered a place at a shelter, but initially didn’t take it up. “I just couldn’t believe that I was homeless at 60 years old.” When the reality hit her, she went to the shelter, moving in with just a few clothes.  

She started methadone treatment for her addiction, but saw other people experiencing the adverse effects of abusing the medication and feared that the same would happen to her. Searching for a solution, she heard about Mary’s Center’s Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program, which combines Suboxone (a safe and effective medication that reduces opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms) with behavioral health therapy and care coordination services. Debra says she is blessed to have met Dr. Daniel Smith, Mary’s Center’s certified Suboxone provider. “We just clicked. I sit there and I share with him. I cry with him.”  The doctor introduced her to Addiction Specialist-Care Coordinator Maria Paige and a behavioral health therapist, who are helping her address the trauma underlying her addiction.

“I am a real Mary’s Center cheerleader. This is one of the best resources in DC. They have everything here. The staff is also pleasant, professional and encouraging.  If it wasn’t for Dr. Smith and his team, I don’t think I would have got this far. I don’t know where I would be. I am so glad that I am plugged in to Mary’s Center, and I am going to stay plugged in,” she says with a determined smile.

Debra’s future is bright and she is excited about her peer counseling job, where she will work with people going through mental health issues, addiction and homelessness. She is determined to use her own painful past and her journey to recovery to show others that there is hope and light at the end of the tunnel.

Learn more about our Medication Assisted Treatment program.

You can also call Maria Paige at 202-545-8047 (office) or 202-823-0322 (cell phone).

If you would like to support Mary's Center's efforts to provide hope and help to participants like Debra, please click on the button below. Thank you for your generosity.

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