Victoria Doramus: How I Overcame My Addiction
Recovery expert Victoria Doramus shares her true-life experiences struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. Learn how Victoria overcame her struggles after hitting rock bottom and becoming stronger in the process.
In 2011, at age 26 I went to rehab for the first time in Tucson, Arizona knowing absolutely nothing about the disease of addiction but knowing that my life was unmanageable, and I was unable to find my way back after succumbing to Adderall and cocaine. I spent 45 days at the facility, Sierra Tucson, and left to go back to LA where I was living at the time with new tools and knowledge about myself but without the true understanding that I had a disease and that it would be a lifelong struggle that would require a lot of work to overcome. Unfortunately for me it took hitting complete rock bottom to finally “get it.” I tried moving states, changing friends, going across the pond to try grad school in London, but it wasn’t until 2016 after yet another 60 day stay at rehab in Connecticut did I find myself desperate enough to do whatever it took to get better. I went back to NYC determined to make it work, determined to prove to my mom (who was dying of cancer) that I could “get it together” and the more I used self-reliance, the further I began to fall until I reached a point where I was homeless without family or friends, having burned every bridge along the way in my deluded mission to get sober on my own. I was doctor-shopping my way across Manhattan and doing whatever I could to stay high. A Psychiatrist once told me that back in the day, in medical school under doctor supervision, they used to feed people amphetamines to induce psychosis. And, at this point, I was like one of those patients, consuming over a bottle of amphetamine pills a day to the point of psychosis and I didn’t see a way out. Was there a way out? I felt imprisoned by the pills I had been taking for half of my life — 15 years — that had worked for me so well, until they didn’t, and they became a huge problem. On Thanksgiving Day 2016 I was alone in NYC with no family or friends and got desperate and got arrested. I remember feeling as though I had no one to turn to for help and I was willing to do whatever it took to get sober, as I had no options left. It was truly get help — really get help — or die. I had nothing left to lose. In January 2017 I flew to Austin, Texas to begin long tern treatment at a place called Burning Tree. This was a place that billed itself “for the chronic relapser” and took a No-BS approach to recovery. This treatment center was nothing like the other two I had been in that it was a 12-step based program with a tough-love approach similar to boot camp. Every morning, you wake up at 5:45 for prayer and meditation and then have an hour and a half of chores — moving the lawn, scraping the paint off of fences, washing the dogs that lived on the property, cleaning the kitchen, etc. After chores, it was back to back mandatory groups for the entire day where there were peer confrontations — “when you __, I feel ___” and peer evaluations, all trying to hold a mirror up to your behaviors that need modification in order to live a happy and healthy life. We attended AA meetings every night and did it all over again the next day. I was forced to acknowledge my behaviors and bad choices without being a victim and seek understanding through awareness and connection to a higher power. We spent one month on each step (of the Twelve Steps) and worked with an outside sponsor. I left Burning Tree in August and went to live in a halfway house/sober living house in Dallas where you were required to work 30–40 hours a week and attend five meetings a week, working with a sponsor. I had $3 in my pocket, no cell phone, no transportation, and knew only a handful of people from recovery in Dallas. I had to survive though and got a job waiting tables, a first for me, and was able to be entirely self-sufficient, taking the bus to and from work, and staying close to my spirituality knowing that I’d made it this far and that I just needed to put one foot in front of the other and stay sober if I wanted a shot at having a future. I hadn’t spoken to my mom, who was now living in assisted living, since I’d entered treatment as Burning Tree had a very strict outside communication policy. Finally, after four months of working 40+ hours a week I was able to afford a plane ticket to see my mom in Nashville, Tennessee in December. I moved back to New York City in January and got involved with several addiction non-profits and have been working with them ever since. While I am still actively involved in AA, I get most of my solution by helping others with the same problem I have and work super hard every day to stay on track and stay humble. I’m hoping to start a halfway house in New York City that caters to people who struggle with addiction and want to get sober/want to have a new life. It will be based on the principles of the twelve steps, but not necessarily twelve steps based. The business model and funding are in the works now. During my active addiction, I wrote an addiction memoir called Adderall: A Love Story about my journey and experience that has not been published as it lacks the insight I have gained in recovery that I think would make it help people. Instead of writing the book my new focus and passion is on helping others achieve success in recovery the way that I was helped along the way. You truly can’t get sober alone and my goal is to create an environment that is built on peer accountability and personal responsibility.
For me, addiction is no longer about the drugs and alcohol — those were symptoms of a greater problem that is bigger than me. Once I realized that in order to have a new life I’d have to give up trying to control the outcome, was when I able to get sober and be at peace. The biggest challenge for me now in staying sober is maintaining emotional sobriety, something that I have help with from going to groups, being a part of a group, giving back, and of course seeing a wonderful addiction therapist.
I don’t think any drug addict is like, “this lifestyle is cool, hopefully I can continue to ruin my life and everything around me.” But, it truly takes a village and hard work to get out from underneath the mess that all drug addicts inevitably make of their lives. What people may or may not realize is that addicts do have a choice to get sober but sometimes it’s not always the easiest one to make as you are literally in love with your drug of choice and once you are that far in its really hard to imagine life without it. It’s the sickest, most intense relationship possible but its real and above all other things do you have allegiance to it.
The best advice I would give to others along the way is that you are the only one who can change your life and that change is possible, no matter how far you’ve fallen. But you have to be willing to change and take an honest look at your old behaviors that didn’t work for you. Transparency is the key to everything in life and once you start getting honest with yourself and others, amazing things will happen. Once I stopped playing victim and acknowledged head on the mistakes and poor decisions I had made was I able to heal, learn from them and begin to grow. I am not the same person I was a year ago, even a month ago, and that is the beauty of recovery — it is a constant evolution and discovery of yourself.