Faces of Addiction: Making up for lost time

Faces of Addiction: Making up for lost time (WCCU)

The President has declared a national emergency of opioid abuse, but battling an addiction of any kind is not an easy task.

Just ask Elisabeth Guffey --- it took her more than a decade to get and stay sober.

Now Guffey spends as much time as she can with her family. She's making up for lost time.

"I got my whole family back now," said Guffey.

It's a family she all but lost for 13 years, because of her addiction to cocaine and later crack cocaine.

"When I was 23 I snorted my first line of cocaine," Guffey said. "I was scared to death of drugs, but I snorted my first line of cocaine."

Elisabeth used drugs to cope with her father's illness and later his death.

"My father had diabetic neuropathy and woke up one morning paralyzed from a condition called transverse myelytis. And the guy I was with at the time kept going out in the hallway. I went out there with him...and it was a glass tube with some stuff in it and he put something on top and lit it. He put it in my mouth and said suck on it with a straw. And I did and then when I went back in and sat next to my dad it was like, 'okay, this doesn't hurt as bad now.' It took the edge off of my pain and my world went out of control."

And once her dad passed... "I dove head first into it. I started prostituting to supply my addiction, manipulating people, manipulating myself most of all... told myself what I was doing was okay."

Her addiction landed her in the Vermilion County Jail 25 times, in prison five other times. All of those sentences, less than two years.

"I didn't learn any new skills to get out and be sober," Guffey said. "So I would get out and get high. I went back to what I knew. Because I still didn't have my kids, my dad was still dead and I didn't know how to deal."

Elisabeth's husband had a front row seat to her addiction.

"I'd take a hit on my crack pipe and tears would just start rolling down his eyes. And I was like, 'what is wrong with you dude, you're blowing my high.' And he said, 'I have to sit here and watch you kill yourself.' He said 'It hurts me so bad to sit here and watch my best friend die.' And something clicked, and I realized, 'man, I am putting my kids and my husband through the same thing I went through watching my dad die.'"

October 2015, Elisabeth decided enough was enough. She was facing eight years in prison and asked the judge for one last chance.

"Nancy Fahey believed in me. She gave me that one last chance."

Guffey was sentenced to intense drug court probation.

"And then my miracle grow was Prairie Center."

Elisabeth credits the Prairie Center with helping her save her own life. They provided the long-term, outpatient treatment she needed to stay sober.

"I graduated drug court on November 9 with zero relapses and zero sanctions. Anything that was important to me, wasn't minuscule to them. They saw joy in my joy. They nurtured me. They gave me my tools. I just had to listen to her how to use them."

Elisabeth will have two years sober in October, but says it's a journey that will never be over.

"I'm still rebuilding every day. It's not over yet. Addiction affects the whole family. My children are survivors of addiction. My whole family is survivors of addiction. Addiction is not contained to one person. It's the largest epidemic known to mankind and it is killing people and affecting people's lives every, single day."

Elisabeth got off parole last month, for the first time in 15 years. She says the Prairie Center continues to help her in her sobriety. But the effects of the state's budget crisis still impacts the center.

Since 2007, Prairie Center has lost nearly $1.5 million dollars in treatment funding from the state of Illinois.

But there is some good news. The Prairie Center did receive additional funding from the state to provide drug and alcohol prevention services in certain schools in Vermilion County.

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