For this week’s Spotlight, resident and Creative Matters intern Darrah S. interviewed her roommate, Molly M., about what life is like in rehab during quarantine. Molly spoke about the delicate balance of being a resident and a program facilitator tasked with managing other residents, and about what her hopes are for life after the lockdown.

What led to your addiction?

What really triggered the start of my hard drug use was my Lupus diagnosis and the medication I took for it, which blew me up. It magnified my already-low self-esteem. Ecstasy was a huge thing in my high school, and I didn’t really know what the drug was, other than people calling it the “love drug” at the time. For some reason, I don’t know why, but something inside me said, “I wanna try that.” I did, and I never looked back. It became pretty much almost a daily habit until I had to leave school because my Lupus got bad and work from home through independent study. When that happened, all my friends would ditch school to come to my house and all we would do was “roll balls” in the backyard, and my house quickly became the party house.

I just basically was a bad influence on all my friends during that time. My boyfriend at the time, it took him a minute to want to try it. He was smart and knew that drugs were bad. It took a little convincing on my end. He felt like he had to do it because that’s what we were all doing.

I just remember feeling like I needed to chase that first high because my tolerance had skyrocketed. I was having to call my dealer five times a day, and I would take up to 12 pills sometimes. I don’t know how I’m not dead.

I started experimenting with psychedelics and had a really bad trip on 2-CI where I saw a burning face, even when I came down off of it. It triggered a bit of a psychosis for me and I started having really bad panic attacks. I became a prisoner in my home for two years. My friends still stuck around and my boyfriend was very supportive, my mom too.

So that’s what triggered it—I also have a lot of identity issues, self-hatred issues. I was adopted when I was two years old, and I think I unknowingly was struggling with a lot of issues that came from that.

How’d you get to BTS?

This is my second go-around. I am a “retread.” I was here first around 2013 when I was 19. At the time, I was the youngest resident here. I was faced with an ultimatum by my mother. During that time I was stealing not only money, but jewelry from her to support my habit. She found out one night when my boyfriend and I were in Florida visiting my family. When I came back she told me that she was kicking me out, and I convinced her not to so I was able to stay the night.

From that point on, I was locked out of the house during the day. The ultimatum, in the end, was to get help or to live on the streets, and I chose to come here and didn’t do anything; I didn’t go to groups and basically laid in bed and slept all day. I didn’t think I was an addict, didn’t think I was an alcoholic and was a complete mess.

I ended up leaving at four months and got into sober living, which I screwed up pretty quickly.

When I realized I needed help, the first place I thought of was Beit T’Shuvah. But this time I’m here of my own volition.

When did you realize you wanted to take the Program Facilitator track and eventually become a counselor?

Between 60 and 90 days, that’s when I realized I wanted to PF here. I got really close with some of the PFs here and they helped me through the roller coaster of emotions I was experiencing in the beginning. I’ve always known I was a helper; I was always that friend people came to for advice. I knew that with some of the work that I had already done at BTS, I wanted to do something where I was giving back and helping people. My mom always thought I should be a therapist, but I don’t have the patience for school.

There was something about PFing that made sense to me, and the funny thing is, I would always bug Baer about it in the beginning, and he would kind of brush me off. I would talk to the PFs, and they told me to keep bugging him. They all wanted me on the team. I kept being persistent because I knew this was what I wanted to do. I prayed on it all the time, and eventually, six-and-a-half months later, I got the internship. He told me a lot of people vouched for me and to not mess it up. I couldn’t be more grateful that he gave me this chance to do something that I really wanted to do. I’m proud of myself because it’s the first time I’ve followed through on something. I didn’t give up when Baer shut me down at first. I saw it through and got it.

I’m extremely grateful to everyone who vouched for me.

Is it difficult to balance being a PF and a resident, especially with what’s going on right now?

So far, up until now, it hasn’t been hard. I’ve experienced a couple of situations where it has been hard. I would say that being locked down in isolation has been the hardest because it’s hard telling residents to go back to their rooms. We’re all on this really fixed schedule, and I’m also a resident, so I know how it feels to be in a room for 21, 22 hours a day. So when I’m working, I have this empathy and compassion, but at the same time, I still have to do my job.

I’ve had to process a few things with some of the staff here, and I think it will get easier as I continue. I really love what I do, and for the most part, I’m respected by the residents. I enjoy it, but being on lockdown makes things difficult.

How did you react at first to being quarantined?

I told my boyfriend, who’s also a resident here, that we’re going on lockdown again and that I didn’t think I could do this. I called my mom, and she was going to allow him to stay with us.

I remember leaving my room; I had packed all my stuff into trash bags and was ready to go. My boyfriend and I had some time to gather our shit, and I remember going to his room, and sitting down and telling him, “Look, I want you to make this decision as selfishly as possible because, at the end of the day, I know our sobriety is number one.” And he was really honest with me and voiced why it was important for him to stay, and it was really hard for me to hear. I left the room and talked to Baer. He told me to sleep on it—I was so ready to voluntarily discharge. But I was also so scared of losing my internship, and I knew that deep down that living with my mom wouldn’t be healthy. Deep down I knew it would be a bad idea, but I wasn’t ready to admit it because I was in such a state of panic.

So I went back to my boyfriend, and we talked again. I was like, “You’re right. I’m gonna stay.” I worked so hard to get to where I am, with the internship and my sobriety, and I realized I was not ready to risk losing that.

There was also the unknown of when this would end… when they would start letting the voluntary discharges to come back. That also influenced my decision to stay, and I’m SO happy I did. Regardless of how hard this is, I’m so happy I stayed.

What have you learned about yourself through this situation?

I can’t fully answer that yet, because for me it’s still early to say, especially since right now there’s no end in sight. I’ve struggled tremendously in the last four days, and my roommate, Darrah, can attest to that, but I’m so grateful for her because she’s really helped calm me down in those moments.

We’re in the middle of Breaking Bad because she’s never seen it and sometimes we need a change, so we watch comedy when it gets too heavy. I think I’ve realized how even if I can’t fully believe it yet, I feel like I’m stronger than I think I am.

I keep reminding myself that everybody’s coping with this in their own way, and I think my problem these last few days, I’ve been comparing myself to other people, and how other people are spending their time during quarantine. With the help of my treatment team, they’ve helped me realize that what I’m feeling and experiencing during this is okay.

Whatever I have to do to get through the day, even if it’s watching Netflix all day, or sleeping, whatever I have to do to feel okay and keep my head above water, is okay. I think I’m having a hard time accepting that because a whole big part of my sobriety was taken away from me.

I’m very exercise-oriented and active. The gym has saved my life during recovery. It took me a while to get started, but once I did, what it has done to my mental health is profound. It has drastically helped me in so many ways, and that has been stripped away from me.

I know there are workouts I can do in my roommate and adjustments that I need to make during this time, but it has been very hard for me to motivate myself enough to do it. I have to be gentle with myself and realize that it’s okay that I’m struggling right now. This is all so emotionally and mentally big and heavy, and the way I’m dealing with it is the way I’m able to.

To answer the question, in short, I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I think I am.

When this situation is over, how do you see your future?

I’m already grateful, but I think my level of gratitude when this is all over is going to magnify even more.

My hope is that with the whole world sort of pausing for a moment, it will change people and open people’s eyes to how precious life is. Nature has been able to restore itself during this time, and I think that’s a beautiful thing. It has given me a chance to appreciate the little things that I didn’t appreciate, or that I took for granted because none of us expected this to happen and it happened so fast. I really hope that people are using this time to not only reflect on themselves but also to reflect on the world as a whole and realize that things can be stripped away, at any time. I’ve learned to be really present in every moment. I wasn’t an expert in doing that before this happened, but I know that when this is all over, I’m going to make sure that I’m present. I don’t want to be on my phone all the time. This is the most TV I’ve watched in the seven months since I’ve been at BTS. I really want to work on being present and straying away from social media, my phone, and TV, and just live. I want to tell everybody I love that I love them.