As a joyous straight A student growing up, seeing my friend Sheila sinking into the world of substance abuse and mental health illness was a heart breaker for me.

When I was growing up, drug addiction wasn’t even a blip in our world. Good kids coming from nice neighborhoods, living a comfortable lifestyle. There was no talk of drugs or drinking alcohol or anything of the sort. In fact there weren’t even any real advocacy groups out there aiming to educate people about matters of drug or alcohol abuse – these were simpler times…

My best friend lived next door and we were called Mutt and Jeff because she was at least a head taller than me. Sheila was the smart one and I was the athletic one. We were in each other’s houses all the time throughout elementary and high school. She was a year older than me and when she went off to college, we drifted apart some. When she came home after her first year, I hardly recognized her. It’s like she just let herself go. Turns out Sheila could not take the pressures of college and substance abuse became her new best friend.

I was pretty upset that Sheila didn’t keep in touch and tell me what was going on. She told me how someone at school offered her some pills to stay awake so she could keep up with her studying. Sheila admitted that she became depressed when she went away to college and was using drugs to help her cope. She said she got into such a rut that she starting skipping classes and didn’t even want to get out of bed. She was crying at this point and I felt so bad I didn’t know how to help her but to just hold her until she stopped sobbing and trembling.

There was nothing I wouldn’t do for Sheila, so I got on my computer and started researching topics I never thought I would have to: substance abuse treatment, drug addiction, mental health illness and drug rehab for women. Now I started crying thinking about the struggles my friend was facing. I couldn’t even imagine sending her off to a drug rehab, let alone her having a mental illness or substance abuse problem! I educated myself on addiction treatment and learned about dual diagnosis (co-occurring disorder of drug addiction and mental illness). How the hell did this happen to my best friend!

I found a drug rehab for women that specializes in substance abuse treatment as well as mental illness. My research helped me realize that in order to get to the root cause of the drug addiction, Sheila’s mental illness must be treated. This women’s addiction treatment center had qualified professionals to treat dual diagnosis and they assured me they had many years of success with drug addiction and mental illness disorders.

Leaving Sheila at a drug rehab was almost unbearable but knowing that my best friend was going to get the help she needed was helping me deal. Life changes on a dime and even though I can’t fully understand what happened to Sheila, I know she is the same smart and sweet girl I grew up with, who just happens to have a drug addiction and mental illness. These are diseases like many others, just not what I ever thought possible in our little world.

Sheila came home after 90 days in that women’s drug rehab (they say the longer the stay, the better chance for recovery), although she was going to continue on an outpatient basis to ensure her continued success. I started to see glimpses of my old friend again and I was so proud of her for admitting she had a problem and was willing to get help.

If you have a friend who is suffering from drug addiction or mental illness, please contact Arizona Addiction Treatment 24/7 at 602.346.9130.

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