Winning Battles: Babs's Story

"With adequate treatment and continued recovery, I feel like I have been able to finally ‘grow up.’"

Babs has faced challenges her entire life, even before she was born. Her mother was addicted to alcohol, heroin and barbiturates, and attempted to take her own life when she was pregnant with Babs. “I had various injuries during my birth,” Babs says. “The umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck and my hand was pressed into my skull causing a compressed skull fracture. I am convinced that I was trying to get the cord from around my neck, thus causing my brain injury.”

Babs had seizures starting from birth. This combination of traumatic brain injury, seizures and being born addicted to heroin and barbiturates set her up for a lifetime of frustration, fits of anger, anxiety, depression, cognitive difficulties, and severe attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Eventually she developed addictions to substances.

“I had severe ADHD from a very young age which caused me difficulty in school,” Babs says. “Finally, I was treated for my ADHD, which improved my hyperactivity, attention and ability to focus. Despite learning disabilities, finally I was able to progress through several grades. Unfortunately, my doctors at the time thought that ADHD would resolve with puberty, so my medication was discontinued at age 12.”

Babs soon began to self-medicate primarily with methamphetamine, but also heroin. With the exception of a few brief periods of sobriety, she used illegal drugs daily for many years. The key to breaking free from this cycle of substance use disorder and trauma was getting adequate treatment for her ADHD. A doctor at Central City Concern’s (CCC) Old Town Recovery Center (OTRC) understood how brain injuries, trauma, and addiction all affect each other, and helped get Babs into sustainable recovery so she could treat her mental health challenges.

 

Unlike many of her previous attempts to find help with medical professionals, something special happened: her doctor at OTRC told Babs she believed in her and her ability to get—and stay—in recovery. She saw that Babs wanted to regain control of her life and saw the strength inside her. That made all the difference.

Babs leaned heavily on the Old Town Recovery Center’s Living Room program, where a group of peers—each managing their own addiction and mental illness each day—helped her stay on the path of recovery. Finally, her doctor was able to prescribe medication.

…her doctor at OTRC told Babs she believed in her and her ability to get—and stay—in recovery. She saw that Babs wanted to regain control of her life and saw the strength inside her.

“It has allowed for me to remain in recovery. For so many years I was utilizing amphetamines and other drugs to try to help regulate my emotions, soothe my anxiety, and even allow me to sleep. With adequate treatment and continued recovery, I feel like I have been able to finally ‘grow up.’”

Now, Babs is an active community member who serves as a fantastic model of recovery. She’s been on the board of a community health center and was able to help initiate a needle depository program for the City of Portland. Hoping to put her extensive lived experience with mental health and addiction to good use, Babs completed classes to become a certified peer support specialist to help others struggling with similar issues.