Nichole is an energetic, beautiful, bright-eyed 28-year-old mother with another on the way who has lived far beyond her years. Her journey through addiction has been long and difficult, but through hard work, the gift of prayer and a lot of gratitude she has come out on top. Fully embracing her second chance, she is humbled and proud to share her story of triumph to help others and to keep herself grounded and sober.
Nichole was born and raised in Naples. Her parents divorced when she two, and she lived what she calls “a normal life” with two loving families. Unfortunately, her mother, an alcoholic, died of liver failure when she was 19, but her father was a constant source of structure, stability and support.
She began experimenting with marijuana when she was 14 and tried cocaine in college, but didn’t have a problem until she experienced the high she felt from opioids. After breaking up with her high school sweetheart, she dropped out of FGCU and began to rebel with her newfound freedom. She started dating a drug dealer with a past and together they abused prescription pain killers at a time when pill mills were all over the state of Florida and opioids were easy to come by. To make money, they sold prescriptions they obtained using fake MRIs and they were “living the high life” addicted to the money and the drugs.
Nichole got pregnant and remained sober throughout, but it didn’t last. She and her boyfriend got married, but he became very abusive. After their son Payton was born, she suffered severe postpartum depression and just weeks after his birth tried to hang herself. In hopes for a fresh start, they moved to Atlanta to be closer to his family, but nothing changed and eventually they separated. Despite their drug use, they both loved Payton and did their best to co-parent him.
Knowing she needed to change her life for Payton’s sake, Nicole moved back to Naples and got sober with the help of a 12 step program, but that too was short lived when she started dating another “partier”. After a drug-fueled argument, she was arrested for assault. While she was in jail for the night, Payton’s grandmother came and got him and took him back to Atlanta where he would stay for the next several years.
Nichole was devastated. She shared through tears in her eyes, “I realize now that my son has been a huge driving force in all of the good decisions I have made in my life. Without him around me, I relapsed hard.” Patterns repeated when he started dating another dealer. Her addiction advanced, when she started shooting her pain pills intravenously and smoking crack. She racked up arrest after arrest and her life spiraled out of control.
Nichole hit rock bottom. Barely recognizable, she was skin and bones. A shell of her former self. As she sat in jail, her mug shots a constant reminder of the havoc she reeked on her body, she was faced with a choice. Commit to treatment through the Collier County Drug Court program or do serious time. In the end, she made the best choice of her life.
Nicole adds, “It is crazy what addiction makes us put ourselves through. I realized that this was not the kind of person I wanted to be. I had experienced enough pain.”
Nichole tells of her journey through the next 15-months of treatment with a light in her eye and a beaming smile on her face. It wasn’t an easy road. After spending two months in jail, she was homeless and had nothing except the clothes on her back. When she was sanctioned by the Drug Court judge into the Crossroads Residential treatment program she was “thrilled to have the opportunity and jumped right in.” She said, “I completely surrendered and gained a lot clarity on my core issues. I did the work and learned the tools and I still use them every day.”
Nichole especially benefited from the holistic and complementary services that Crossroads offered. There she was introduced to the yoga for sobriety program – a practice she uses to this day to maintain balance and wellness. She also participated in and loved the pet therapy and equine facilitated horse therapy. She adds, “I used to ride competitively when I was young. The therapeutic benefits of being around an animal are amazing. It made being at Crossroads easier.” Through the art therapy program, she was able to tap into her creative side something she had not nurtured in years. She still has some of the art she created and many of the staff and fellow residents received handmade gifts that Nichole made them, each with deep, personal meaning.
As time went on Nichole began to flourish. Throughout the next year, she worked closely with the Drug Court treatment team, followed their recommendations and listened to the judge. Through their guidance, support and constant coaching, she regained custody of her son and filed for divorce closing that chapter of her life.
When she looks back on her experience with David Lawrence Centers she realizes what a gift it was. She shares, “The opportunities for healing available at David Lawrence Centers are truly a gift. The services are very well blended including treatment, maintenance and a close relationship with the judicial system. When I got my son back, I took him to see a counselor to help him adjust. At any stage of the game, David Lawrence Centers is there to help.”
Today Nicole is financially stable with a great job, works her program, stays active and healthy and has “a great life.” Now with her second child on the way and more than two years of sobriety under her belt, she is counting her lucky stars. She has lovingly named him Nova which means new beginning or second chance. She is prepared and equipped to handle whatever comes her way and she is doing it one day at a time.