Recovery coach describes her own journey from addiction to health

Peer support is a valuable asset in a substance use treatment model.

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Elizabeth Atwood, of Rochester, just turned 30 this year, but the date she celebrates is the one more than three years ago, when she put down the needle.

Atwood is now a recovery coach, after transforming from being homeless and addicted to being healthy and in control.

“I never thought I would live past 25 years old,” she said. “I never thought it was an option.”

Atwood works at SOS Recovery in Rochester. She said that, at one point, she hit rock bottom, but she refused to stay there.

“The year I was indicted on four felonies, I lost my apartment, I lost two cars, I had to give up my dog and I lost custody of my son — all within one year,” she said.

Atwood slept in basements, in cars and on couches.

“It was just shame on top of shame on top of shame,” she said.

Losing it all was the moment of truth for the young mother, but her resolve came with a relapse. After spending 28 days in the Valley Street Jail, she vowed never to touch heroin again. He broke her promise the day she was released.

“I knew I was capable of better, but I wasn’t able to stop,” Atwood said.

Her message now is that everyone can beat addiction. She said she believes it because she is living it.

But she also confessed that, at times, she still thinks about getting high. After a bad day or a stressful situation, the thought of using again pops into her head.

“I’m learning to play it through until the end and realizing where that tape is going to bring me,” she said.

“Playing it through” is a mental exercise, a way of visualizing what happens after a drink or an injection.

“One of the most freeing things about my recovery is realizing that, no matter what — drinking, getting high, putting substances in my body — my life doesn’t get better,” Atwood said.

She said she sees herself sometimes when a person walks into SOS, and, sometimes, she knows they are not yet ready to give up their addiction. She said she wishes someone would have told her then what she knows now.

“There are so many different pathways to recovery,” she said. “There are so many different methods to recovery. We will find one that works. All I need is for you to show up ready.”

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