Friday, July 29, 2022

Recovering resident shares story of hope for those experiencing substance use disorder

After many years of substance misuse,
Brittany Reichmann realized that sobriety is
a lifetime choice for her. She works to raise
awareness that a life in recovery is possible
and that by telling her story, she hopes to
decrease the stigma about substance use
disorder among people of all ages..
By Lorraine Glowczak

Brittany [Fearon] Reichmann of Windham grew up in a loving home and was raised by two adoring parents and had a fun-loving brother. She was an avid soccer player who was very involved in extracurricular activities as a youth. She graduated from Windham High School in 2007 with honors and an above 4.0-grade point average. She had a perfect life – until a prescribed medication led to illegal substance misuse that robbed her passion for living the life of her dreams.

“I really had a wonderful life before I was introduced to a variety of mind-altering substances,” Reichmann said. “I started drinking around the age of 14 – when I was a freshman. It was a casual thing to do with friends on the weekends. It was here that it all began.”

During her sophomore year, however, Reichmann had her wisdom teeth removed. To relieve the pain, she was prescribed a small dose of the prescription opioid, Vicodin. This substance changed the trajectory of her life.

“The second I began taking that prescription, I really loved the way it made me feel,” Reichmann admitted.

Soon, her prescription ran out, and she longed for the ‘fix’ that Vicodin provided. A close friend mentioned that there were opioids easily accessible in medicine cabinets of various family and friends. They found and began helping themselves to this “medicine cabinet” substance.

“As soon as he told me how accessible opioids were, we found some and took them that day,” Reichmann said. “For him, it was just for fun, and the use didn’t have detrimental effects. But for me, that fun became a habit.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), this habit was not a choice for Reichmann. NIDA maintains that substance use disorder is a genetic makeup that the individual cannot control. “As a result of scientific research, we know that addiction is a medical disorder that affects the brain and changes behavior.”

While Reichmann’s friend could easily experiment with opioids without harmfully changing his behavior, Reichmann’s brain reacted differently.

“We still do not fully understand why some people develop an addiction to drugs or how drugs change the brain to foster compulsive drug use,” NIDA website confirmed.

Reichmann continued providing a successful persona to her family and friends during the rest of her high school years. Every college she applied to, accepted her. Finally, she decided on the University of New Hampshire.

“When I was attending college, everyone was partying, drinking and taking drugs – while at the same time also doing what they were supposed to be doing - going to class and studying,” Reichmann said. “During my freshman year, I was already incapable of doing those things without the use of substances. If I did not have access to opioids, I didn’t go to class. If I couldn’t find that substance, I would rely on alcohol. It was not uncommon for me to show up on a Tuesday morning class, already drunk at 11 a.m. in order to take an exam.”

It wasn’t until her second semester of college that things worsened. Three weeks into the spring semester, she experienced a mental breakdown.

“I called my family and told them that I couldn’t do this anymore - that college was not the right place for me,” she said. “Everyone understood that I was undergoing a sort of depression and were there to support me, but the thing is, no one knew I had a substance use disorder.”

She returned home to live with her family and enrolled in a local college. Unfortunately, being around a supportive family did not change her substance misuse, and she began buying opioids from dealers and thus surrounding herself with new ‘friends’.

“Things continued to get worse and worse – eventually, my parents noticed my substance misuse,” Reichmann said. “They would give me stipulations. ‘Get a job’, ‘Go to school’, they pleaded.”

After ten years of trying, and failing, to become sober, she experienced an epiphany.

I remember sitting on the porch at my parents’ house and asking myself, ‘How did I get here?’, she said. “This reflection brought me to my knees – it was the turning point after years of failed sobriety. I realized that this is a lifetime thing for me. I can never drink or take any form of substance, ever. My body and mind are different than others and will not be able to respond to substances in a healthy way.”

But by this time, family and friends asked her to hold herself accountable. They had had enough of helping her after multiple ‘failures.”. So, Reichmann took a chance and requested help from her employer.

“I asked them to loan me money so I could finally become sober,” Reichmann said. “I promised to pay them back, and they agreed. I got help, went to a sober living facility, and rebuilt my life. I’ve repaid the loan my employer gave me, and now I’m living a healthy and happy life of sobriety.”

Reichmann is now five years sober. She is a homeowner, a wife, and a mother of a 1-year-old son. She works as the Program Manager for Maine Association of Recovery Residences, assisting others in the life of recovery.

“I’m currently living my greatest passion, helping others to live a life of active recovery while also decreasing the stigma surrounding substance misuse,” she said. “But perhaps more importantly, by sharing my personal story, I am raising awareness that a life of recovery is possible. I am living proof that change is doable despite it all – believe me. I’ve been through a lot. I promise – there is not a challenge that a person cannot come back from. There is hope. Never give up.”

Resources are available for those who are experiencing substance use disorder and desperately want to make a change.

They include the following:

* Lakes Region Recovery Center in Bridgton, 25 Hospital Drive, Suite E, 207-803-8707.

* Portland Recovery Center in Portland, 102 Bishop St., Portland, 207-553-2575.

* National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI-Maine) in Hallowell, 52 Water St., 800-464-5767.

* Brittany Reichmann,

In an extreme mental health crisis, turn to the new crisis hotline to receive immediate expert care by dialing 988. <

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