Profiles in Recovery

Elizabeth Sanchez

Living on the streets of Boston – scared and seeking refuge, food and her next drug fix – Sanchez lost everything to the disease of addiction.

Taken into custody by the Boston Police Department, her life took a profound turn when she was sent to prison and then, to an intensive drug treatment program in Quincy, Mass.

“I stayed there for 18 months, and this is where I found myself again,” Sanchez recalls. “I started working in the (recovery) field and surrounded myself with positive people. My children, family and friends came back into my life and I have been clean ever since.”

Day Job:
Peer Advocate for Casa Iris in Boston, which provides support for Latinos and Latinas who are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS.

What I lost to addiction:
Everything: my home, my children, my self-worth, my self-respect, my job.

My children also became homeless and they had to survive on the streets of Boston. My family and friends didn’t want anything to do with me.

My rock bottom moment:
Walking the streets of Boston with nowhere to go. I was dirty, hungry, afraid and lonely, had not taken a shower for days. I remember that I looked up into the sky and I asked God — crying my eyes out — to please help me, to do for me what I couldn’t do for myself.

That night, I was stopped by Boston Police Department and they asked me my name. I gave them my real name knowing I had warrants; sure enough, they ran my name and I was taken into custody. That saved my life!!!!

What worked for me:
I found myself incarcerated once again, and I knew that this was not the life that I wanted. I also have HIV and Hepatitis C, and using drugs was making my health worse . . . I was released and went to a (drug treatment) program at Long Island in Quincy and stayed there for 18 months.

What I learned about myself:
That I am a strong woman and I can do whatever I put my mind to. That I’m caring, honest and most importantly, that I love who I am today.

When cravings come:
I ask my higher power to help me. And I always remember that it’s only a feeling and as long as I don’t act on it, it will pass.

I also call my friends in recovery and talk about it. I tell them that I feel like getting high and they will tell me ‘OK, before you get high, play the tape all over again. What do you think the outcome would be?’”

I replay the whole tape in my head from start to finish and the kind of addict that I am — I can’t just use one time. I don’t want that, so the feeling goes away and I feel all better again.”

What I value most in recovery:
I appreciate that I am available for my children and grandchildren. I am grateful that I am no longer putting a needle in my arm. That I wake up and I don’t have to worry that I have to go hustle to get high.

I’m grateful for my life: I have a place to live, a job that I love and people who can count on me. Also, people trust me today. My mother and children don’t need to be embarrassed by me; they tell me that they love me unconditionally and are proud of me.

How I get through the holidays:
I have a wonderful, loving family and friends who know my situation and they would never put me in a position that would jeopardize my recovery.

I don’t go to places where I know there is drinking and drugging going on. I spend time with my grandkids and my fiancé and I’m OK with that.

Proudest moment:
When my first grandson Jayden was born and I was there to see him come into this world. I never knew what true love meant, until I met him.

SHED THE STIGMA:
If you’re a person in long-term recovery who wants to share your insights, please contact us at [email protected].