(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 10th in a series of stories concerning the opioid crisis that our communities are facing, presented as a cooperative effort of The Ledger Independent, WFTM Radio and Comprehend, Inc. Today’s story deals with how one recovering addict’s journey to sobriety led to a career helping others find the way out of addiction.)
In the case of addiction, everyone’s experience is different in both falling into, and rising above it. In Rachel Booker’s case, the road in and out of addiction went uphill, both ways.
Rachael Booker sat down with Robert Roe of WFTM recently to share her story of dealing with drug addiction as a former addict. Booker works as a peer support specialist for Comprehend Inc. in Maysville. April 24 marked Booker’s seven-year anniversary of remaining clean.
Booker described her descent into addiction as a process, and it all began with prescription medication.
“I was in a car accident at 17,” she said. “I had herniated disks, ruptured disks, and I kind of lived with that pain for a while — went to chiropractor, things like that. Eventually I went to a neurosurgeon, and they prescribed pain medication for me.”
Over time, Booker developed a tolerance to the medication, so to relieve her pain, she resorted to selling and trading her medicine for those with more potency. From there on, she began purchasing illegal narcotics.
“I became addicted to heroin, because it was just cheaper, to buy” Booker said.
Booker’s addiction not only affected her own life, but the life of one of her children, who was born in 2011 with neonatal abstinence syndrome.
“I was using and became pregnant, and had a baby,” Booker said. “I had received no prenatal care — I was too scared. Everybody kept telling me they would take my children.”
Booker said she was fearful and felt she had nowhere to go. She said there were no programs available like the ones that are available now. She also thought she’d be treated like a criminal if she asked for help. Eventually, however, her children were taken from her and she was sent to jail.
“I lost my kids for about six months,” she said. “I received treatment at Comprehend, substance abuse treatment and mental health treatment, and it was probably one of the best things that I ever did in my entire life.”
While receiving treatment, Booker went back to school, got her education and then applied for her job at Comprehend.
“I love my job, I absolutely love it,” Booker said. “I love to help people, it’s probably one of the best things I ever did.”
The descent into addiction was a horrible experience, Booker said. She reflected on the misery of her addiction, and the cycle she wished to break.
“I was waking up in the morning and probably spending between $80 to $100 just on one pill not to be sick,” Booker said. “The withdrawals are absolutely horrific, especially when you’re pregnant. It’s horrible, it’s the worst feeling in the world, and then I’d feel good for a couple of hours, and the withdrawals would start again.”
During the beginning of her addiction, Booker was confident she could balance her life alongside her need for medication. In hindsight, Booker realized that the confidence was the addiction doing the talking, and only when she began to lose all she held dear did she finally become aware of the situation she was truly in.
“Once I lost everything, I lost my place to live, lost my kids — everything, I think that was kind of like the wake up call that says ‘I’m just sitting here with nothing, I really need to get some help,’” she said.
Just as becoming addicted is, recovery from addiction is also a process, and everyone’s road to that goal will look different, Booker said, with several programs available aid addicts towards that recovery.
“There are so many choices that you have now in recovery,” Booker said, “some people can do it with meetings, some people can do it through long-term rehab. Everybody is different in their recovery.