Profiles in Recovery
Tracy Helton Mitchell


Since 1999, the number of deaths caused by opioid overdoses has grown by 600% according to the Center for Disease Control. Mitchell’s story is one of the early examples of how opioid painkillers prescribed for minor surgery, such as wisdom teeth removal, can lead to a life-changing addiction. Mitchell was 17 when this happened to her. So, what started as a physician prescribed medication led to cravings that eventually became a heroin habit.

Mitchell was lucky – several of the friends she knew died from the disease. She was one of five young people with an addiction to heroin depicted in the top-rated HBO documentary, Black Tar Heroin: The Dark End of the Street. Peer support and rehab treatment helped her begin her recovery.

For more than two decades, Mitchell has been drug-free. During that time, she has earned a master’s degree in public administration and now works as a city government manager. She’s also a certified addiction specialist and is married with three children.

I knew I had a problem when…
The homelessness was a big clue. Also, the need to get high every 6 hours. I, personally, didn’t BELIEVE I had a problem until I was very deep into active addiction. I saw signs, but I ignored them.

Early sobriety and what worked for me:
The 12 steps were very helpful in the early stages. I’m not fully invested in it like I once was. I go to meetings – more for the social aspect. I like being around people who are working on themselves. I personally don’t believe I have a disease. I do believe I have a chronic relapsing condition that requires positive health and behavior changes for maintenance.

My advice for others trying to obtain sobriety:
Do what works for you. Ignore negativity. Focus on the next thing. Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. There is going to be lots of ups and downs. Find things you like to do. Change is incremental. You’re not always going to see the little improvements.

Words of wisdom from early sobriety:
I am more than my past. I’m a valuable person with a lot to contribute to the world. It took me years to learn how to love myself. I try to pass that love on.

Life changes:
I thought I was going to die with a needle hanging out of my arm. I had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into dying before I was thirty. Now, I’m a happy mother of three kids. My life is simple in that I strive to just be happy and be of service to the world around me. I never knew I was capable of happiness. Depression is still a struggle at times. Overall my life is good.

Good Reads:
I’d suggest my book “The Big Fix: Hope After Heroin.” It’s a book about how to get off drugs and maintain it. That’s unusual for a drug genre book. So many are just about using or drinking with no practical tools for living. The Big Fix is also available on Audible

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


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