What follows is a Q&A with the first patient of Gateway Rehab’s Opioid Use Disorder Center of Excellence (COE). One of 50 recognized Centers of Excellence in Pennsylvania, Gateway Rehab treats those suffering from opioid use disorder and provides specialized and coordinated care for individuals with Medicaid.
What brought you to Gateway Rehab and the COE?
Today, I’m happy to say that I’m totally clean and sober for 15 months. I am a miracle. But my life before entering recovery for the first time progressively fell apart because of my drinking and using drugs.
I am an alcoholic and drug addict, but I always had excuses for not seeking or asking for help: I didn’t have health insurance, or I didn’t want my employer to know. But, I finally had the courage and humility to ask my family for help and they were right there for me. My sister contacted a friend, who contacted Gateway Rehab.
My memory is a bit hazy about this particular part, but I was admitted into Mercy Hospital in November of 2016. I am quite certain that it was the Gateway Rehab Center of Excellence (COE) that helped me and my family through this part. They got me into detox with no health insurance and I was there for I believe seven days.
Mercy detoxed me from the alcohol but not the methadone I was also dependent on. After detoxing from alcohol at Mercy, a driver from Gateway Rehab picked me up and I was taken directly to Gateway’s detox. I did not have to arrange any of this myself; Gateway’s COE arranged it all.
What was your experience like at Gateway?
So, when I arrived at Gateway I was a total mess, so terribly sick and broken. I realized I was way worse than I initially thought. But everyone was so very warm and welcoming, and I remember being told that I was the first patient to go through the Center of Excellence program.
I believe I was in detox for seven days and then inpatient for almost a month. My counselor, Mark, made me feel comfortable and not so alone. Immediately, he suggested a halfway house and I believe, at this time, I was a little resistant.
As the days went by, I was really struggling. I sometimes shook so much I could hardly feed myself. I saw Dr. West a couple of times, but I mainly saw Dr. Capretto, who never quit on getting me better.
About halfway through my stay at inpatient, Shannon from the COE came to meet me. She was pleasant and encouraged me to go to CeCe’s Place, Gateway’s halfway house for women. I took her suggestion.
It was another smooth transfer to CeCe’s Place, thanks to the COE. This is where my real healing began. All of the women there were amazing. I learned so much about myself in a short amount of time. Yes, trust me, looking back now, it’s like a blink of an eye and was necessary. With the help and support of many at Gateway and the women at CeCe’s Place, I learned how to live sober; I surely didn’t know how to before.
I left CeCe’s and went back to Pittsburgh to stay in an awesome three-quarter house. I also enrolled in Gateway’s intensive outpatient program. I went back to work, stayed accountable, and shared my thoughts and feelings. I believe I was at the three-quarter house for six months.
During this time is when Janice was designated as my personal recovery specialist by the Gateway COE. She has been undeniably an essential part of my recovery. She called weekly, sometimes daily, and visited me countless times. She also helped me with my insurance, to make and get to appointments, and accomplish other things that I haven’t wanted to but had to do for my recovery. Janice was always there for me and helped keep me accountable.
What did you learn about yourself throughout this process?
I learned that I have had anxiety my whole life, even as a child. I learned that I can’t expect people to know what I’m feeling if I don’t tell them. I learned that I lied all the time, simply because I didn’t know how to put my feelings into words. I learned that I was in an abusive relationship. I learned that I have a messed-up sense of obligation that has kept me stuck. But most of all, I learned how to cope with all of this. Before entering a life of recovery, I didn’t have one coping skill my entire life besides drinking and using drugs.
How has your life changed since leaving Gateway Rehab and living a life of recovery?
So, finally, I am out in life all on my own. Since being back to work, I have received two promotions, an all-expense paid transfer out of state, and a rent-free furnished apartment. I am a productive member of society. I know … miracle!
And, through all of this, Janice has always been there for me. She has visited me three times since I moved out of state. I have a suspended driver’s license, so, this has been so helpful. With her in recovery as well, her help is unparalleled. She has always been and, I believe, will be readily available to me.
I am eternally grateful to Gateway Rehab and its COE for helping guide me through this journey. The promises are real, and I realize them every day.