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Closing the Chapter on Addiction:

Amber’s Story

Everyone has a story: a story about who they are, where they come from and the experiences that have helped shape them into who they are today. Amber, a young woman in the northern Wisconsin community of Peshtigo, hopes that by sharing her story about drug addiction, she may be able to save a life.

“I want my story heard. If I can save one person, or ten, I can’t tell you how rewarding that would feel.”

In 2009, Amber became part of what the National Institute on Drug Abuse continues to call a “serious national crisis”: opioid addiction. At the time, Amber was 22-years-old with significant responsibilities. In addition to working fulltime at a local factory and raising a family with her then-fiancé and his two children, she was caring for her mother who was battling stage-4 cancer.

“I had so much to get done in a day between work, helping my mom and caring for my family,” recalled Amber, who said she felt overwhelmed mentally and physically. 

Amber had also developed a painful condition in her shoulder due to years of repetitive line of work at the factory. When her doctor prescribed an opioid pain reliever, she found the pills helped her overcome more than just a physical ache.

“The medication made me feel euphoric,” said Amber. “It was a way for me to not deal with what was happening.”

As Amber continued to find ways to get pain relievers after her own prescription had run out, her addiction and actions resulted in devastating, life-changing consequences. She eventually lost her job, fiancé, home, two beloved dogs, and the trust of her family and friends.

“I was out of control,” said Amber, who recalled stealing money from her grandmother’s wallet one Christmas Eve to help pay for more pills. She also continued to use despite a brief stay at a local rehabilitation center and time in jail for cashing a stolen check.

As Amber’s life spiraled out of control, so did her health. She was suffering seizures on a weekly basis as a result of the drug use, and in 2013, she was admitted to the hospital with heart failure. Her heart condition became so serious, that she did not abuse drugs for nearly two years.

“I was just too sick to think about using,” said Amber.

Focused solely on healing her heart condition, Amber never sought treatment for drug addiction. So, when she was prescribed an opioid pain medication to help her recover from a heart procedure, she fell back into the throes of substance abuse. It became worse as Amber also struggled with the passing of her grandmother. She began to steal again, mostly from her mother, who was prescribed opioid pain relievers as part of her cancer treatments.

“My mom would get 240 pills in a prescription and I would have them gone in about five days,” said Amber. “I couldn’t get a few hours into the day without wanting to use.”

In April 2018, Amber made the decision to call her probation officer and admit that she was using again in a desperate attempt to get help. Together, they made a call to Libertas Treatment Center in Marinette, Wis.

“My probation officer was blown away that I had called and admitted everything,” said Amber. “But really, that was me screaming for help.”

Just days after making the call to Libertas for help, Amber learned she had stage-2 cervical cancer. She says that diagnosis, and the hysterectomy she needed in order to survive, led her to relapse.  

“I knew I wanted to get clean, but it was just so hard,” said Amber, who was devastated the hysterectomy would prevent her from ever having children of her own one day.

Three months after her initial call for help, Amber made the decision to once and for all get sober. She found her way back to Libertas in Marinette, which helped to facilitate a 30-day inpatient treatment program for Amber at the L.E. Phillips – Libertas Treatment Center in Chippewa Falls, Wis.

“The first couple of days were hard as I went through withdrawals, but I did the work,” said Amber. “I loved everyone there and they were so supportive. The best way that I can explain it is that it healed my soul. I feel like a changed person now.”

Following inpatient treatment in Chippewa Falls, Amber moved back to Peshtigo to live with her mom and continue outpatient treatment in Marinette. She was worried she may be tempted by her mother’s prescription medication again, but medication assisted treatment, combined with intensive outpatient treatment at Libertas in Marinette, helped her stay solid in her sobriety.

“You can just feel how much they care for people,” said Amber. “They have all the right people working there. I honestly don’t know if my sobriety would be where it’s at if I didn’t have this treatment option so close to home in Marinette.” 

Today, Amber continues to receive medication assisted treatment and counseling at Libertas in Marinette. She spends most of her free time working at a local factory, hoping to earn enough to someday purchase her own lot of land so she can rescue and care for senior dogs. She is currently living with her mom whose health, as well as Amber’s, continues to improve each day.

“My heart has repaired itself and now that I’m sober, it’s much better,” said Amber. “And to see my mom have hope and trust in me again is amazing,” she said. “I feel so proud of myself.”

Amber’s story is far from over, but thanks in part to Libertas Treatment Center, she is hopeful that the long, painful chapter about drug addiction is. She’ll continue to share it, however, with anyone struggling to figure out how they will ever come out on the other side of addiction.

“Getting help at Libertas is the best thing that ever happened to me,” said Amber. “It saved my life. You just have to make that first step forward. Then, you’ll get stronger every day.”