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When Erin MC went to the police station to file her car accident claim, the police officer looked up her name and said, “Hmm, looks like you’ve been going to a lot of pawn shops lately…” Not a good sign. Erin would soon realize that the police were gathering evidence to charge her with grand larceny for all the money and jewelry she had been stealing from an in-home patient when she worked as an licensed practical nurse. At 22, Erin had developed an addiction to Roxicodone and the only way she knew to support her habit was to pawn anything she could get her hands on.
This is not the life Erin had imagined. While there is addiction in her family, Erin enjoyed an idyllic childhood in Long Island, NY. When she was graduating from high school, however, she was diagnosed with a Chiari Malformation which resulted in a cyst on her spinal cord; she had brain surgery and was put on Oxycontin for pain management. Her life abruptly changed, Erin enrolled in community college, intending to become a nurse. “There were a lot of people of questionable character at that school and I hung out with a lot of dirtbags. I ended up using coke, Xanax and Roxies every day while I was there, but during that time, my drug use wasn’t overriding my morals. I was high functioning and convinced I wasn’t an addict,” she explains.
Cut to her realization that she’s about to be arrested. To avoid jail, Erin entered into a plea deal providing that if she stayed sober for one year, the charges would be dropped. “It was either go to Phoenix House or spend five years in jail. So I did whatever I had to do to stay out of jail. I was 23 years old, and this was when I learned to manipulate really well. I learned how to say ‘of course I’m doing well, and being sober is great!’ But on the inside, I had no idea how to cope with my struggles and cravings. I became a really shady person,” she says. Erin stayed clean and stayed at Phoenix House for 17 months. But as too often happens, the day she left the treatment center, she relapsed.
Thus began a brutal pattern of getting clean and relapsing. By now, she had graduated to IV heroin use. She moved to Florida and stayed clean for two years. “I did really well, managing sober livings and working the steps, but while I was sober, I still wasn’t living in integrity. I was still acting sketchy and eventually, I relapsed,” she remembers. This time, she started shooting up cocaine and crack and traveled up and down the east coast, alternately staying at sober livings and relapsing.
In August 2017, she moved to California. “I was ready to get sober. I had been homeless for almost a year, but I ended up relapsing yet again – this time shooting meth,” she says. Erin went on a six month run and then a miracle-wrapped-in-disaster occurred; the drugs stopped working. “I would always go to rehab if I ran out of money or my hustle got messed up. This time, I had money, a place to live and all the drugs I could ever want… but I couldn’t get high. I couldn’t feel it. It was devastating,” she explains. Erin reached out to a friend who had been through Beit T’Shuvah’s program (now an employee) as a final grasp for help. Erin explains, “she had been as bad as me and if this place could work for her, maybe, just maybe, I had a chance.” Erin walked through the doors of Beit T’Shuvah on October 15, 2018.
Erin now has four months clean. “Beit T’Shuvah has been amazing. Unlike the other 40+ treatment centers I’ve been to, Beit T’Shuvah accepts me for who I am, as I am. I’m not lying anymore, especially to myself. To be accepted for who I am… I always thought I had to hide the real me because I’d be rejected,” she says with a reflective smile. Erin has joined Beit T’Shuvah’s 2019 Running4Recovery marathon team. “I’m not an athlete. I hate working out. But I’m here on scholarship, so if I can do the smallest bit of raising some money and awareness for this place, I’m going to do it,” she says.
Erin is currently interning with Beit T’Shuvah’s Alternative Sentencing department and plans to go back to school to become a probation officer. She enthusiastically explains, “I never thought I could go back to school, but Beit T’Shuvah has helped me find a path I’m really passionate about, and I’m excited to build my life back up.”
We’re excited too.