“I did not do well with remote learning. My addiction really started kicking in because I was just through a screen, I could go off screen and take a few xanax smoke whenever I wanted, drink whenever I wanted. They wouldn’t see, they wouldn’t know. So in a sense it made it easier to do it. I mean it seemed fun at the time, given it was my “Senior Spring” I could party all I wanted, although I was quarantined so I did it all by myself.”
As Emily’s altered Senior year progressed in quarantine, she went through a hard break up with her boyfriend. This caused her depression to worsen and she began heavily self medicating with alcohol. She used alone in her room as the rest of the school year continued remotely, but as Summer came more opportunities to see her peers arose outdoors.
One evening she was at a beach party with her ex who she was hoping to reconcile with, and he made the decision to get in his car under the influence of alcohol and drugs. He crashed his car into a pole going 100MPH and suffered severe injuries and burns. Emily helped take care of him in the hospital as her xanax use increased under the stress. Per hospital Covid protocol limited guests were admitted to see Brian* and this put pressure on Emily to caretake. When Brian* recovered he was scared straight into sobriety and wanted Emily to get sober. Emily desperately wanted the relationship but she couldn’t stop using on her own. Her age and vulnerability made it difficult for her to reach out for help, and even if she considered a 12 step meeting, they were primarily virtual since March so it was difficult to gain traction in a program.
Although Emily was engaging in increased substance use alongside unmanageable depression, she was set to enter her freshman year of college at the end of the Summer. Covid caused her school to place heavy restrictions on campus including one person per dorm room to enforce social distancing. Emily made sure to bring a supply of xanax with her to school and used in higher quantities. Her new group of friends were unaware of her substance use although after some time and increased usage her friends had an intervention.
“I think being alone so often regardless of being at home or school played a huge role in my depression and my addiction, completely. If the year wasn’t under these circumstances I’m not sure if things would have escalated so quickly.”
When visiting home from school Emily’s parents shared the concerns of her friends and connected with us at Herren Wellness to see if our program was right for their daughter. They scheduled a visit for Emily which caught her off guard and initially she was resistant to treatment.
“My parents brought me here and I was very very mad, I told them there is no way I am coming here. I told Chris and Lori that I am not willing to do this. I blamed my parents and lied about my xanax use. But Chris and Lori gave me the courage to reconsider and come here. They told me everything would be so much better and I could be back to myself and that everything was going to be ok. That gave me hope. I made the decision to come here and my parents were overwhelmed with happiness. And since being here I’ve never felt more connected with other people in my life than I have right now. The friendships I have made here are friendships that will last forever, and the relationships with people at home have improved immensely. I really think that Chris Herren saved my life. When I was visiting he took me on a walk and told me that if I were his child he would have me here right now. And that really hit home, he thinks I should be here… maybe I should be here. He was just so comforting, and I will forever thank him for saving my life, he did he saved my life.”
In Emily’s case the impact of social isolation in 2020 had a profound impact on her underlying issues and brought them to the surface which propelled her into a downward spiral.