January 17, 2017

St. Vincent Charity Medical Center’s Rosary Hall encourages patients to give up control to recover

A patient turned volunteer at Rosary Hall at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center discussed her addiction and hopes of providing relatable insights to patients and helping them piece their lives back together in an article that ran in the hospital’s online monthly newsletter. Below is the full text of the article.

She thought she would be addicted forever, until Rosary Hall gave her a clean start

Growing up in a suburban school, Brittany Shartz was no different than other kids her age who had extra time after school that led to experimentation.

The first time she tried drugs she was 13 years old. At 17, she became involved in a relationship where her partner used drugs. She dropped out of school and left home to move in with him.

When several of her family members died that year, she remembers taking prescription pills from their cabinets. Never having tried them before, she knew they were worth a lot of money and planned to sell them. But after trying pills for the first time, she recalls taking 75 percent of what she had stolen and selling the rest. At one point, she was snorting up to 30 painkillers a day, eventually destroying her sinus cavity.

Within six months, she and her boyfriend were arrested and Brittany was charged with two felonies. During her year-long probation, Shartz remained sober but knew she wasn’t ready to walk away from drugs forever.

Defeated by the felonies on her record and discouraged to look for a full-time job, Shartz decided to work at a local strip club. By then, she was 21 years old and in a new relationship with a cocaine addict. Over the next three years they were together, her appetite for opiates increased, she lost the house they lived in, was evicted from the rental property they relocated to and continued working at the strip club.

But by the time she was 24 years old, snorting opiates was taking a devastating toll on her body. Her 110-pound frame was down to a meek 80 pounds. Around this time is when she remembers wanting to get off drugs.

“I’d buy Xanax and think, maybe I can sleep this [withdrawal] off and wean myself this way,” Shartz relates. “It would work for a week or two, but then I would go back to Percocet.”

Then her boyfriend decided to switch from pills to heroin. And she decided to try it.

“I told myself, I’m not doing this,” she said. “But I ended up doing it.”

Within six months of using heroin, Shartz had developed a $300-per-day habit and wanting to become sober became a distant memory.

“I didn’t want to get sober when I was doing heroin,” she said. But then, Shartz hit rock bottom.

After spending all of her money, losing another rental property, becoming homeless and continuing to work at the strip club, Shartz decided to move in with her stepfather for a chance of sobriety.

Determined to quit heroin for good, Shartz got a hold of some Suboxone, a narcotic used to treat opiate addiction. But the drug exacerbated her withdrawal symptoms.

“I remember being in the hot shower and it was turned up to the point where the smoke detectors went off and the water was burning me,” she said. “That feeling was better than the withdrawal.” 

Struggling with the withdrawal symptoms, Shartz scored a gram of heroin. Then she went to the strip club and took nearly 15 shots of liquor. Driving home, she was pulled over for going 55 mph in a 25. During the field sobriety test, she remembers saying to the officer “I need help. I just want to get help.”

She called St. Vincent Charity Medical Center the next day.

“I always tell people, ‘You can hit rock bottom, but there is a place that’s lower, and that’s when you’re broken,” says Shartz. “Rock bottom is when you lose yourself physically and financially, and broken is when you lose yourself emotionally too—and that’s where I was at.”

“You have to give up control,” Dr. Chris Adelman, medical director at Rosary Hall said. “With addiction recovery, you really have to give up your own ideas and listen to people who have been there before and do the things they tell you to do.” 

After five days of intensive inpatient treatment at Rosary Hall, five weeks of intensive outpatient treatment and three months of non-intensive outpatient treatment, Shartz is proof that it works if you have the will and desire.

Now, at 27 years old, Shartz is the mother of a healthy 1-year-old daughter and is studying to be a drug and alcohol counselor. She volunteers weekly at Rosary Hall in hopes of providing relatable insights to patients and helping them piece their lives back together. 

“What makes Brittany different is that she was able to do what counselors advised to get better,” said Dr. Adelman. “When people in detox see someone like Brittany, it gives them a boost that they can do it.”

Shartz stresses the importance of using the medical help offered during detox. She addressed her depression and a range of physical medical issues related to her drug use—and she’s honest about the reality that getting her life back together takes time. 

“Things didn’t fall apart overnight,” she said. “They won’t get fixed overnight either.”

Today, she’s enjoying time with her daughter and preparing for a health care career that she never thought she’d pursue because of her past.

“Today I can deal with things in life, and I don’t feel the need to use,” Shartz said. “I don’t feel overwhelmed. I’m in a really good place.”

About Rosary Hall
Rosary Hall at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center, which is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System, offers a continuum of care, capable of seamlessly transitioning patients through a process of inpatient medical withdrawal/detoxification to intensive outpatient rehabilitation and into community-based support networks. Regardless of where a patient enters the process, access to care is available 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.

About Us

From its Cleveland headquarters, the Sisters of Charity Health System provides oversight, leadership and strategic direction to more than 20 organizations responding to community needs in Canton and Cleveland, Ohio, and South Carolina.

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