Bassett’s Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Program Gave One Woman New Hope

“There are a lot of misconceptions about recovery and various definitions of what it means to be clean and sober. That is why I want to share my story,” said one woman who wants to remain anonymous.

To protect her identity, we’ll call her Alice.

Some people in recovery consider abstinence from all substances as the definition of sober. For others, not using their drug of choice is being sober. “For me, recovery is about progress, not perfection,” Alice said.

“I think COVID-19 has put a magnifying glass on the relationship between mental health and substance use to cope,” she said.

Using alcohol as a coping mechanism started interfering with everyday life for Alice, in her thirties.

To cope with her anxiety in a socially acceptable way, she became a connoisseur of French red wine, scotch, bourbon, and whiskey.

Alice’s recovery began in September 2018 when she lost a job and her husband threatened divorce.

In April 2020, Alice began Bassett’s medication-assisted treatment program. Now in addition to attending counseling, the 12-Step Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Program, and working with an AA sponsor, she is taking naltrexone under supervised care of a physician assistant.

Relapses are often part of the journey. Naltrexone can help prevent relapses into alcohol or drug abuse.

Dr. Roy Korn Jr, medical director for Cobleskill Regional Hospital, explains why naltrexone, the generic equivalent of Vivitrol, works. “Naltrexone blocks opioid receptors and thus blocks the endogenous opioids produced by alcohol that contribute to the pleasurable effects of alcohol.”

Alice discovered that finding the right mix of treatments takes time.

Initially, she sought help from an outpatient agency to save her marriage. Her intensive outpatient treatment lasted 5 months and she received individual and group therapy daily. She made progress, but was still drinking.

While in counseling, she received a misdemeanor for driving under the influence. A couple of months later, the court mandated treatment. “It was then that I met the counselor who saved my life,” said Alice. This counselor has been in recovery herself for more than 25 years and knows first-hand what it takes to recover.

In May 2019, Alice entered a long-term treatment program. “My counselor helped me build up my self-esteem,” she said. “By the time I entered this second treatment program, I wanted to be sober for me.”

“I never focused on myself my entire life…. I grew up in a family where appearances are everything. Hiding and isolating and not telling the truth were a huge part of my life,” she said.

By age 30, Alice found her “anxiety was building.” She began having panic attacks.

“The physical manifestations of a panic attack are so real, you think ‘I’m going to die.’” Alice said.

“Drinking helped me not feel those feelings that made me so uncomfortable,” Alice said.

“Be patient. Find the right meetings for you. You’ve got to keep trying and try different formats. Having a sponsor is important and you need to take care of your mental health,” she said.

Alice’s family is supportive of her recovery. Her parents attend Al-Anon Family Groups. These groups are available worldwide and offer a program of recovery for the families and friends of alcoholics.

“Be patient with your loved ones or friends,” Alice said. “Don’t be judgmental of them even if they relapse.” The stigma and shame associated with suffering from substance-use disorder keeps many people from seeking help.

Alice’s advice: “Don’t give up.” 

Editor’s note: The name in this story has been changed, but her journey is real and we hope inspirational for so many others struggling with substance-use disorder.