Recovery is one day at a time

By: 
Monika Spaulding, Digital Editor
Coming out of darkness and finding the light is not for the weak at heart.
Saying no and walking away from something that has dictated your life for more years than you care to admit isn’t easy.
Melissa Thompson is proof that there are happy endings.
Her interest and experimentation in drugs started when she was just 16 years old. As she grew, so did her addiction and before long, she was waking up, craving the high and the need for a fix.
Nothing else mattered.
At the age of 24, she was sent home with a prescription for pain medication and it progressed from there.
She hid her addiction so well that her parents didn’t realize her problem until she was in her 30s.
“I got to a point where I was praying for a way out; jail or death,” she said. “And I am for sure that I was prayed into jail.”
And that’s exactly what happened.
One night, Melissa was hanging out with a group of friends when the house they were at got raided.
She remembers being terrified, tired and just ready to be done. That’s what she told the officer who found her huddled in the bathtub.
He told her it was up to her. It could all be over any time she was ready.
Judge Frank Newkirk charged her with a felony and sentenced her to jail. Melissa said it was the best thing that ever happened to her.
“He has been so, so good to me,” she said, adding that she has had several conversations with him since then and she thanks him for his support and encouragement throughout her rehabilitation.
She said having to call in during supervised probation kept her on the straight and narrow.“It kept me from using,” she said.
Although she had been in and out of rehab programs, nothing worked and changed her until she spent time behind bars.
She said the detox period was terrible.
“It was the best thing my mom has ever done for me,” she said. “She let me sit in there for 65 days. Having no contact with people helped me. She showed me tough love, but she didn’t give up on me.”
After she was released, Melissa headed to Evansville for treatment. She had to get away from the people who were bad for her and fed her addictions.
“I was so scared to come back to Washington County,” she said, adding that all of her recovery friends live south of Salem.
She has been clean since June 8, 2014. She is now 35 years old.
“I had to leave Salem and learn a new way of life,” she said. “Recovery is not for weak people. When I got clean, I had to retrain my brain. I attended meetings daily.”
Melissa said she still has bad days, just like everyone else.
“I have days I just want to lay in bed, but not days when I want to get high,” she said. “I should have died on my last use, but I know I’m here for a reason. People need to see recovery is possible.”
Now, instead of a drug fix, her days start very differently -- with prayer and meditation.
“My mornings are much better now,” she said. 
She still attends recovery groups and her children are also involved in recovery programs. She said the people they have met are like a second family.
“I surround myself with fellow recovery addicts, that is who saves me when I’m having a bad time,” she said. “I don’t have bad days since I’ve been clean, I just have bad moments.”
In those moments is when she picks up a phone and talks to a fellow addict in recovery because only they can truly understand how she is feeling at t.
In the last few months, Melissa got the felony charge removed from her record and it has allowed her to get a job where she is helping people just like herself.
“That was a good feeling,” she said. “It’s a big deal for a recovering drug addict to get a charge like that erased.”
It has given her a new outlook on life and a vision of why God has continued to let her be here and make a difference on this earth.
“Being in recovery has shown me who I really am,” she said. “I’ve went through what I’ve went through to show someone it can be done.”
Her two children help give her the motivation she needs to keep going daily.
She remembers when she was released from jail, seeing her children crying because they had missed her so much.
“I never want to put my children through that again,” she said. “And I never want to put my mom through that again, either.”
Melissa said it makes her feel good that her children know she is here for them now and will be into the future. 
“I’m not out chasing anything,” she said. “They know their mom will show up. And my mom knows she isn’t going to get a call that I overdosed somewhere.”
Since coming back to Salem, she said many of her old friends don’t talk to her anymore and Melissa is OK with that. Her goal is to help other recovering addicts, to show them that it can be done and there are people who care and want to help them.
“I tell people I am in long-term recovery,” she said. “And recovery is awesome. It’s all the fun without the substance.”
One of her main concerns about helping people in recovery is that there isn’t a lot for them to come back to in Washington County.
“There are no re-entry programs in Washington County,” she said. “There are no programs to learn to live without substance.”
She has attended Washington County Substance Abuse Council meetings and other groups where people are brainstorming ideas on how to fight the drug issue in the county. Everyone is working toward the same cause, with the same goals and she is hoping to be a part of the change.
“I love carrying messages of hope,” she said. “This town needs more recovery.”

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