My name is Morgan Thompson and I’m a person in long term recovery. For me that means I haven’t used alcohol or other drugs since July 20, 2009. I entered recovery when I was eighteen years old. At that time, I didn’t even think I was old enough to have a drug problem, much less seek treatment for it. I figured my parents were right, I had just made some poor choices and had gotten mixed up with a bad crowd. If I could just kick the “hard drugs” I could be a regular person again…I could go back to school, hold a job, spend holidays with my family…all things I had already given up for drugs. I was completely uneducated about addiction and recovery, as was just about everyone else I knew. I thought I was a bad person; I later found out I was a sick person in need of help.
I had no idea what to expect upon entering my first treatment facility. Honestly, I figured they would tell me there wasn’t anything they could do for me because I wasn’t a “real addict.” Apparently I was a “real” enough addict for them and, luckily for me, my mother had very good insurance which allowed for nine days in detox, thirty days of inpatient treatment in Florida, and another six weeks of outpatient treatment. During the almost three months of intensive education I received about addiction, I was able to come to terms with the fact that I was an addict, and that recovery was the solution to my problem.
After I completed my inpatient treatment, I was able to return home to my parent’s home where I had an abundance of love and support, as well as a secure place to live and some financial support. This made focusing on recovery tremendously easier. After a few months, I decided to re-enroll at Rutgers University where I had dropped out a year prior. I was excited, but nervous that the stress of going to school and commuting would be too much and would take a toll on my recovery. I then found out that Rutgers had a special program for people in recovery, which included on-campus recovery housing.
Living in the Rutgers Recovery House proved to be far more beneficial than I ever could have imagined. Not only was I able to live at school and have a semi-normal college experience, I met other young people who were in recovery and we taught each other how to have fun without drugs, how to not take ourselves to seriously, but to still keep our recovery first. The counselors from the Alcohol and Drug Assistance Program at Rutgers provided not only group and individual substance abuse counseling, but a variety of drug free events and activities including group hikes, volunteer opportunities, karaoke, day trips to the city, museums, and more.
In my third year of college I did what was, for me, the unthinkable. You see, in my addiction I really wouldn’t leave the tri-state area. I wouldn’t go on vacations for fear of running out of drugs. My world had become very small. That’s why it was so unbelievable for me that I was able to commit to spending a semester of school in Rome Italy.
Studying abroad was one of the most amazing experiences I could have hoped for. I traveled all over Europe, made friends from all around the world, and learned a tremendous amount about so many things, including myself. It was a struggle at first to live with “normal” college students who went out to clubs on the weekends and kept bottles of liquor in the refrigerator. However, the solid base of recovery I had built back home was strong enough to hold me until I built a new base in my temporary home.
I later went on to graduate from Rutgers University with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology. I am living at home with my family and working full time in a treatment facility and hope to return to school for my Master’s within the year. I spend most of my free time hanging out with my friends, my family, and my cats, as well as devoting as much time as possible to helping others to find recovery.
Looking back, I see how unbelievably blessed I was to have been able to get the care I needed at precisely the moment I was most open to receiving it. There are thousands of people who are in desperate need of treatment and don’t have insurance, or the insurance they have has limited the amount of treatment they are able to receive. As a result, overdose deaths are reaching epidemic proportions all over the country.
Another reason they aren’t receiving help is because they are incarcerated. Around the time I went into treatment, two of my close friends who I was getting high with were arrested. Ever since then, they have been in and out of jail. They try to stay clean by going to church, going to twelve step meetings, and generally staying out of trouble. Inevitably, they fall back into using and go back to jail. Every time it seems like one of them is starting to “get it,” I get so excited and allow myself to get my hopes up every time that I will be able to have my friends back. Unfortunately, they have never had the opportunity to receive appropriate treatment for their condition.
I do have hope. With awareness of addiction and its devastating effects at an all-time high, people are finally becoming aware of recovery. Communities and policy makers are willing to have discussions about increasing access to treatment and encouraging the proliferation of recovery support services like recovery high schools, collegiate recovery programs, and recovery community centers. I believe my story is an example of how successful an individual’s recovery can be when the full continuum of care is accessible. My hope is that more addicted people will receive the help they need.