Authored by Elliott Redwine, | Medically Reviewed by Dr. Elizabeth Drew, MD
Last Updated: August 16, 2021

Substance addiction, medically termed as substance use disorder (SUD), and defined as a “chronic, relapsing brain disorder,” continues to prematurely take the lives of U.S. citizens, and it doesn’t care if the lives it takes were people initially lost in a bottle of liquor, or in a joint laced unscrupulously with meth, or even in a painkilling prescription from their family physician.

The only thing that appears to matter to the ogre of addiction is that the lives were there to be taken in the first place. If there is nothing to prevent the ogre’s will – no moment of clarity for the sufferer, no intervention by family, no health insurance or personal savings to cover the cost of rehab, and no other unavoidable circumstances – the end result is, sadly, stacked in its favor.

The ogre wins again.

However, although substance addiction can never be cured per se, it can certainly be defeated, as the inspiring personal stories of triumph over its adversity described here later will testify. The ogre doesn’t always win. Remember, there is always hope.

Terin Before and After Alcohol Rehab

Source: Used with the kind permission of Terin DeVoto

I used and abused just about everything possible, from huffing paint to prescription pills to liquor – everything except a needle. In the end, my main addictions were alcohol, and cocaine, and ecstasy to give me the ability to drink longer.” – Terin DeVoto, now the Executive Director of Purpose House Sober Living, in Fort Collins, CO.

Yes, addiction can be fatal, but hope never dies when someone is provided with the care, support, and access to the professional addiction treatment they will need to fight such an ogre, and to come out victorious. Not cured, no, but victorious nonetheless.

Pennsylvania in a Time of Corona

Here in Pennsylvania, just as in every other state in the U.S., the national opioid epidemic was still actually being fought when coronavirus (or “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2,” aka SARS-CoV-2, to be medically exact) arrived on American shores.

The social and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in more isolation for all, including the addicted, and those desperate for recovery, rising rates of anxiety and depression, job losses, furloughs and foreclosures, and, as many addiction industry experts foresaw and forewarned, a deeply troubling spike in fatal drug overdoses across the nation – Pennsylvania included.

Coronavirus: Feeding the Ogre of Addiction

The effect of focusing the nation’s efforts on controlling the virus has been to the detriment of evidence-based opioid addiction treatment. Make no mistake – coronavirus has been feeding the ogre, and, until something is done to redress the balance, it has made it stronger.

Only a few months ago, the American Medical Association released an urgent national brief, using data compiled from the U.S. Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program (ODMAP), which collects real-time overdose numbers. The brief was blunt. In at least 40 states, including Pennsylvania, suspected drug overdoses across the nation had risen by almost a fifth (18%) from March, 2020 onwards, when compared with data from before the coronavirus arrived.

In western Pennsylvania, the high rate of overdoses, including those that prove fatal, are now mirroring what was happening at the height of the opioid epidemic in 2017. For example, in Beaver County, the corona effect has been devastating – fatal overdoses have spiked by 30% from the first 3 months of the year.

The county’s District Attorney David Lozier recently spoke about how people’s mental wellbeing, including rates of opioid use and addiction, was now a huge, ongoing concern: “COVID has sucked the wind out of every other issue. Now this year, the [overdose] numbers are going up like 2016 and the first half of 2017. We’re seeing an increase in domestic violence, Childline and child abuse calls, a worsening mental health picture, and worsening drug and alcohol pictures.”

In Pennsylvania, much like the rest of the nation, it’s not a vista that is going to be changing dramatically anytime soon, with or without an approved vaccine for SARS-CoV-2.

rehab and coronavirus

Lasting Recovery & New Hope

However, in order to balance up the current tone of this, thus far, slightly gloomy article, there are certain signs that the field of addiction recovery is finally recovering itself (as all organizations in the business of healthcare are having to do, eg. keeping in line with new protocols, telehealth, etc.), both here in Pennsylvania, and across the nation.

Without a doubt, it is now adapting far better than it originally did to the so-called “new normal” that coronavirus has imposed upon us. For example:

  • Pennsylvania’s addiction rehabs, facilities, and clinics are becoming far more accustomed to the necessary COVID-19 protocols and regulations required in operating and running their treatment options, from residential rehab care to their own counseling sessions, and group support meetings.
  • Importantly, the use of Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT), such as the provision of methadone and other MAT drugs for opioid replacement, has had its own regulations relaxed, thus increasing its range of access to those who need it most.
  • Telemedicine technology is growing, expanding its services, and even researching its own effectiveness as a method of healthcare provision for those with SUDs and mental health issues.
  • As for the telemedicine “patient,” they are becoming more accustomed to accessing their treatment, care and support online, just like the vast numbers of those in AA and NA when virtually “attending” their own 12-Step meetings. If you’re looking for online 12-Step meetings in Pennsylvania, the links for these are provided here:

#1. Terin DeVoto: From Childhood Substance Abuse to Sober Housing Executive

Terin DeVoto, now aged 30, was only 11 years old when he started experimenting with alcohol and drugs, and he would experiment with pretty much anything he could get his young hands on. As he explains, “I used and abused just about everything possible, from huffing paint to prescription pills to liquor – everything except a needle. In the end, my main addictions were alcohol, and cocaine, and ecstasy to give me the ability to drink longer.”

Terin alcoholism before and after pictures

Source: Used with the kind permission of Terin DeVoto

As childhood turned slowly to adulthood, the effect of his long-term addiction to both alcohol and illegal drugs inevitably took its toll, and he started to lose all that mattered to him on a material level – his job, his car, his money, and, ultimately, his home. However, as any addict knows, when you’re actively using, material things tend to lose their importance.

Thankfully, it was something far, far deeper that got Terin into the state of mind to finally accept the help he desperately needed. As he says, “It came down to being completely broken spiritually and emotionally. I was willing to do whatever it took to never go back to that lifestyle.”

In late June of 2010, Terin was arrested for a probation violation, a common occurrence for the dependent addict. He was bailed out of a jail cell by a close friend who had only one condition for him – that he attended an AA meeting straight away.

Terin alcohol rehab sober

Source: Used with the kind permission of Terin DeVoto

Terin, literally bled dry by his chronic alcoholism both emotionally and spiritually, did as his friend asked, and went to the meeting. Thankfully, he’s been sober ever since.

Terin, like many substance addicts who are so utterly grateful for the opportunity of long-term recovery, is intent on giving back to the recovery community. He is now the Executive Director of the Purpose House Sober Living facility in Fort Collins, CO., which aims to provide a safe, sober living home for men who are in early recovery by offering a communal living environment with high accountability. ​

He’s understandably proud of this achievement to put back into the recovery community that helped him: “Watching a success story unfold before your very eyes… there’s just not many feelings that compare to that. I feel so extremely blessed to be in the position I’m in. Like a good friend of mine says… this is the hill I’ll die on.”

Source: Used with the kind permission of Terin DeVoto

Like a good friend of mine says… this is the hill I’ll die on.” Terin DeVoto

If you want to see more dramatic before-and-after photos of Terin, head over to his Instagram page, and take a look at the visual proof of how recovery from addiction has changed him. Clearly, the mantra that “a healthy body equals a healthy mind” is one of the main goals of his new sober life. Seriously, the guy’s ripped.

However, the Instagram page is there for an important reason – it’s all part of Terin’s hope that his personal story of addiction recovery will inspire others to take the same path: “My hope is to show those people that addiction is not a death sentence.”

#2. Melissa Lee Matos: A Three-Day Blackout & The Cry for Help

The last blackout that Melissa Lee Matos, a wife, a mother, and a chronic poly use drug addict, experienced was back on March 1, 2016 – it had lasted 3 whole days. The blackout was brought on by Melissa abusing a potentially lethal cocktail of heroin, Xanax, a powerful benzodiazepine, and antipsychotic medication, Seroquel – all at the same time.

Mel Befor and after addiction picture

Source: Used with the kind permission of Melissa Lee Matos.

This was what I looked like, daily, for years. This is what my husband dealt with. This is what my little girls walked in on. This is what my family and friends saw, on the rare occasions I left the house. I was sick. I was dying. I was so far gone I thought I could never recover.” – Melissa’s own words (on the left-hand photo)

Melissa was actually in addiction treatment at the time, an outpatient program that she herself admits she was “lying and scheming my way through.” As she finally came back to reality on what would ultimately become her first day of sobriety, she realized that she was both incredibly lost as a person, and incredibly terrified. She was so desperate at this point that Melissa believed only death could end her torment.

Fortunately, she found the last-ditch courage to call her mother, and finally admit that she was far from sober, even further from any kind of recovery, and, in the months that her Mom thought she was getting better, she had actually been getting much, much worse.

As Melissa says, “That choice, that honesty, that cry for help… It saved my life.”

With the immensely important support of her family (her Mom, her husband, and her young daughters), Melissa found the real addiction recovery she honestly believed would never be possible. Today, Melissa has a personal Facebook blog page dedicated to helping others find their own recovery, entitled RecoverMe, and she regularly contributes to a recovery resource website, Operation Clean Recovery.

addiction recovery after picture

Source: Used with the kind permission of Melissa Lee Matos

If you need help, please do not be afraid to ask for it. I promise you there are people who love you, that will show you the way out. You are worthy. I am forever grateful beyond words to those who stuck around and loved me until I could love myself, and who continue to support me.” – Melissa Lee Matos

How Peace Valley Recovery Can Help You Find Recovery

At Peace Valley Recovery, we offer a wide range of treatment programs to help you break out of the cycle of addiction, and develop the right skills and mindset to remain on the road to recovery. From traditional individual therapy and life skills development to holistic therapies such as music and art, our addiction treatment program in Pennsylvania is specifically designed to support individual growth and healing.

Peace Valley Recovery is located in Doylestown, PA., just 15 miles northwest of Trenton, New Jersey, 25 miles north of Philadelphia, and 65 miles southwest of New York City. Wherever you’re from, our team will work with you to create a treatment plan that meets your unique needs, and then help you work toward the goals you have set during your time in treatment – we strive to provide excellent, truly individualized care.

For more information about Peace Valley Recovery’s extensive substance abuse programs for treating drug or alcohol addiction, please call 215-709-8956 or, alternatively, you can contact us online.

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