My name is Tess.
I’ll start with my family. I have an extraordinary, strong, wonderful family. We were big in our church; we were strong with education. I was a great athlete; I was a really good student. I played collegiate soccer. I just never saw this coming.
I got married when I was 22 and I had my daughter when I was 25. During that time, I had surgery and I started taking painkillers. This, coupled with a little postpartum depression and an unhappy marriage at that time, started a snowball effect of where my life was heading. I stayed married, I was married to a cowboy here in Nevada, we traveled a lot all through different rural communities. It was a very isolated life – I had a little baby and was trying to keep it together, but it wasn’t going very well so I kept leaning on painkillers.
My son was born when I was 28 and again, I had a lot of complications and surgeries and it was just another reason to seek out narcotics, so I did. It became very unmanageable to the point where I brought my kids to Reno to my parents and I said, “I have to figure this out”. My marriage quickly fell apart, I ended up working in a restaurant and living with a friend. Within 3 months of that transition I was smoking meth thinking I can transition off painkillers and I’ll just use meth.
It was a very sad time.
For the next year and a half, I was in and out of jail, I was not allowed to see my children, I went through a terrible divorce, my family was turned upside down and I was in a horribly abusive relationship. I found myself in jail and my parents came and got me and said, “If you go to rehab in Reno, they’ll release you”. So I did. I went into a 30-day rehab program and it wasn’t successful; I did my 30 days and moved in with a roommate that I had met through the program. I came home within 4 weeks of living with her and she was on the couch with a needle in her arm – she was a heroin addict. I was not coping with life sober. I was stuck in my past, upset about not having my children and what I had done to my parents. I started using with her. I was arrested not long after, facing multiple felony charges and the possibility of losing the custody of my kids permanently.
I had hit bottom.
I was in jail and I had heard the name STEP2 for a long time and I decided I was going to do this. At that point, I didn’t have a choice so I decided I’m going to turn my life around and I’m going to fight. Soon after I made this decision, I was unexpectedly released from jail due to the lack of beds. All I left with was a bus ticket to get to 4th Street. I called my dad and said, “will you please let me come stay on your couch and will you take me to STEP2 the next day?” and he did.
The next day, I walked into STEP2 and they took me right away.
From that point forward, the world made sense.
I would remind myself this is where I need to be, everything else can wait. I need to focus on my health, my mental health, my physical health, and what that means to become a really strong mom and woman again and to really find my identity in that.
After a period of time in intensive residential treatment, I moved into the cottages continuing to work my sobriety, I was able to have visitation with my kids and finish my probation and drug court. I finally felt confident enough to move out and I continued out-patient services.
This year (2019) I’ll have five years since I was in STEP2.
I can tell you that the approach to learning to slow your world down to being able to focus on being safe, your health, being mindful, being aware of your thoughts and behaviors, your choice of words – how powerful those are and how that can really lead to success or lead to failure. I learned that at STEP2.
Every day I know my foundation started with this program.