All of our Peers have a story to share. Although most include a level of despair and struggle, each is unique in pathway of recovery and message of hope. Each story is important and hold lessons we all can learn from as individuals and systems that support change. Aaron is one of our Peer Recovery Specialist leaders. He uses his experience, strength and hope combined with training to provide recovery outreach and support to people in Cecil County, MD. Here is his personal story of change and the moments that led him to seek long term recovery.
Aaron’s active addiction led him to being homeless in Kensington, PA. While homeless, he was receiving methadone treatment for over 2 1/2 years. He had been on methadone before, it was helpful to keep his life as stable as it was. One day at the clinic, he was told that his girlfriend just overdosed and died that morning. His girlfriend was receiving methadone at the clinic, too, but had stopped about 2 weeks earlier. Soon after, she had returned to using heroin. Aaron recalls the morning that she died, “I just couldn’t feel. What I did feel was anger – anger that she died and I was still alive.” He made a decision that he must change. He went to his methadone provider and told them he wanted to come off of the medication. His counselor told him that he could be weaned off the methadone at 2 mg. increments a week. His current dose was 90 mg. – that would be 180 weeks! That was discouraging for Aaron. The counselor told him, “If you were to not show up for your dosing for 3 days, we would only be allowed to start you back at half dose – 45 mg. But I didn’t tell you that.” Aaron felt blessed to have someone who cared about what he wanted and was willing to look the other way to help him come off the medication.
In desperation, he reached out to his mother and begged her to take him in and help him detox off of the methadone. His mom lives in Rising Sun. She came to get him. He bought Xanax off of the street to help him with the withdrawal symptoms. Together, they made a plan for him to return to Pennsylvania to use his insurance to get into treatment. His mother dropped him off at a hospital in Kensington with their agreement that he would get treatment or stay in PA. “All I had was $40 and layers of all the clothes I owned on my body.” The intake nurse at the hospital told him that they could not admit him into detox for prescription drugs. The nurse told him, “If you left and came back with something else in your system, we could take you in. But I didn’t tell you that.” Here was another person going outside the lines to help him on his path to recovery. He took the last of his money and bought PCP and 2 bags of heroin. He went down an alleyway and prepared the drugs. “It was so cold, a day in January, every time I cooked the heroin up in the cooker, it froze before I got a chance to use it. I was so frustrated and desperate. I remember sitting there, taking off all my layers of clothing to get to a vein. Then I noticed a woman walking down the alley past me. She was holding hands with 2 young children. As they walked by, a girl, about 5 years old, looked at me, right into my eyes. In that moment, reflected in her eyes, I saw the piece of shit I really was. The junkie in an alleyway, an absent father to my children, half naked in the cold, the animal I truly was. It rocked my soul.”
After using once more, Aaron returned to the hospital and spent 3 days in a chair, detoxing in a large room with other people seeking treatment. Afterwards, his mother picked him back up. “I just wanted to sleep and take it easy but my mom refused. She placed a 12-step fellowship meeting list in front of me. She told me that I could stay there every day that I went to a meeting. I was willing when she put it that way.” Aaron said he was nervous to attend the meeting by himself, his anxiety was so intense. His mother agreed to go to the first meeting with him. He went to one in Elkton on Saturday night. “When I got there, a lady named Stephanie introduced herself and gave me a hug.” Remembering this, Aaron spoke with tears in his eyes, “She just hugged me. It was a real hug, one that said she understood and it was going to be all right. I have been going ever since.” Aaron recently celebrated 4 years in recovery, which means to him, not taking a drink or drug to get high or to treat the disease of addiction.
Aaron shares his feelings about working with Voices of Hope: “What I give back is so little compared to what I received. For 26 years, I lived in darkness. I prayed that Narcan would not work anymore. I don’t want anyone to feel that. People feel so alone with the fear and guilt, they feel like no one can understand.” For Aaron, his mom and Stephanie were a source of unconditional love, a beacon of hope. Now, he has become a source of hope for others. His personal experience allows him to connect with others when they are at their lowest.
Aaron has been a lead Peer Recovery Specialist on our Hope Street weekly outreach team, committed to Hollingsworth Manor, primarily. He talks with people about staying alive, accessing treatment and recovery supports. He is an advocate for many pathways of recovery, including MAT. He also performs Overdose Survivor Outreach for Voices of Hope in cooperation with the Alcohol & Drug Recovery Center at the Cecil County Health Department. He is actively involved in the recovery community in Cecil County. We are blessed to have him here.
Listen to Aaron’s interview on our YouTube Channel!
Do you need someone to talk to about you or your loved one’s addiction? Want to know the options? Call Voices of Hope at (443) 993-7055 today.