GIVING BACK - A SUD Counselor now helps people who are struggling with addiction
"So what do you want to gain from treatment? What is a goal of yours?" Tricia Taylor asks her client during a therapy session. Tricia is a Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Counselor on the Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services (GCBHS) TASC team. TASC stands for Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities and has been a part of our Clermont County services since 2012. Funded by a yearly grant from Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services, TASC serves an average of 225 clients at any given time. A majority of the clients are on felony probation or parole – most for drug offenses.
What makes Tricia special is that she can relate to her clients. Prior to 2016 Tricia was a GCBHS client. She completed her SUD treatment in the spring of 2016 and that led her to what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.
But before she got to that point, things were not so great. Tricia says the problems started in college. At first it was typically teenage stuff – drinking on the weekends with friends. She enrolled at Northern Kentucky University but had to drop out her first semester because "partying became more important that showing up for class."
Soon after, she moved in with her boyfriend and his father because she didn’t want to live under her parent's rules. "I wanted to run my own life." Before long the drinking and smoking marijuana became her whole life. "Life had become too hard. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I was full of insecurities so the drugs and alcohol relieved the pain. On the weekends we drank excessively and did cocaine. I used anything I could get my hands on to escape reality but underneath I was filled with guilt and shame. My family was so disappointed in me that I just couldn't handle it."
She then began using Xanax and pain pills, but "the pills became too expensive but because I was now physically and mentally dependent on them to function. So that led me to heroin because it was cheaper. It took over my life."
Tricia began to steal in order to pay for her drugs. She was caught several times and sent to treatment but she says, "I just ran away." But things changed after her 30 day stint in jail in April 2016. Why? "So there were a lot of things that happened. I was attempting suicide and suffering blackouts. I began cutting…I was homeless – I had lost the relationship with my mom, dad and bother. We hadn't spoken in over a year." She continues, "I didn’t want to live like that anymore. I was willing to do anything I needed to not be homeless. I wanted my family."
"I didn’t want to live like that anymore. I was willing to do anything I needed to not be homeless. I wanted my family.
So when the judge gave Tricia the option of starting treatment she knew it was now or never. She began going to the GCBHS office in Batavia. She says about her time in treatment, "My relationship with my counselor was amazing. She made it easier for me. We built a relationship mainly because I was willing to be open and honest. That’s the biggest thing – being honest about the things going on with you."
But entering treatment for someone who is in a position like Tricia can be difficult. "I didn’t have transportation and had to rely on other people to get to treatment two times a week. I didn’t have a job but I needed to get one as part of my parole. So I was pretty overwhelmed."
That's where GCBHS can help people struggling with addiction."(My counselor) helped me mentally and emotionally more than anything. She gave me the confidence I needed. I know it sounds cliché, but she believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself."
Employment staff at GCBHS helped Tricia get her license back. "They even took me to take my test." They helped her get a job and over the course of seeing our SUD Psychiatrist (Dr. Katie Schmidt) Tricia was able to rebuild her relationship with her parents and move back home.
Tricia was working locally as a server at a fast food chain but she knew she wanted to do something else – something that would allow her to use her experience to help others. So after she was officially discharged from GCBHS services she began to work as a peer recovery coach. She also took online classes and obtained her Chemical Dependency Counselors License which allowed her to apply for the SUD Counselor position on the TASC team which she has had for the past two years.
What does Tricia love most about working at Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services? "I love the people that I work with more than anything. Nick Melvin is my immediate supervisor now but he also did my last assessment for treatment that led to me obtaining sobriety. The fellowship and the leadership…I mean, Heather (Cokl – Associate VP of Addiction Services) is constantly empowering me to be the best that I can be. It's just very positive. Being on the other side of it now and working at the treatment facility that helped me get my life back…that's a true gift."