PHOENIX — At a time when alcohol sales and drug overdoses are at hitting a new high, a Valley woman was able to turn her life of addiction around, while facing all the challenges that came about during the pandemic.
Natasha Johnston Freed stuck through the Alcoholic Anonymous program, despite all the big changes staff at the Crossroads Drug and Alcohol Treatment facility had to make, in light of the pandemic.
This meant no more in-person meetings, no visitors allowed for those staying in their facility during the pandemic, and for many like Johnston Freed, meeting their 'sponsors' for the first time, online.
Johnston Freed says no matter the challenges, she was ready to embrace change.
"I was a single mom with my 6-year-old son," said Johnston Freed, adding that her child pushed her to look for a new beginning.
The single mom's addiction spiraled out of control after she got her dream job of working as a karaoke host at a Valley bar.
"Along with that kind of job comes the drugs, the alcohol, and that whole scene," said Johnston Freed.
She found herself lonely and accepted the fact that her life would always remain that way. She had given up on finding love, finding a companion in alcohol instead.
"At one point I was carrying my flask with me, putting whiskey in my coffee just so I could stay well enough I guess, you could say, so I could take care of my son the next morning," said Johnston Freed.
Booze, bills, work, sleep, she said her life turned into one big cycle of repeating the same destructive behaviors all over again, every single day.
"Just going in a cycle, you know. I'm taking a shot, I'm doing a bump of Cocaine, and I'm smoking weed. All in one bump, that's my cocktail, I guess. You could say just boom, boom, boom, boom. All in one bump and it just keeps going and going," said Johnston Freed.
Seeing a friend spiral out of control and go missing was what started Johnston Freed down a different path.
"I found myself looking in dumpsters, in really bad places for this person, and I asked myself, what am I doing here? I am a mother. What am I doing with all this in this world of hard-core drugs?" said Johnson Freed.
She reached out to an old high school friend she had kept in touch with through social media. Nicholas Freed was a recovering addict who now worked at Crossroads as a program coordinator. Inspired by his success story, Johnston Freed decided to start down her own journey out of addiction.
It wasn't easy.
"Within the first 48 hours, I was shaking. My whole body was shaking. I couldn't sleep, I was having night sweats. I was so emotional I would cry at the drop of a pin," said Johnston Freed," but she stuck with it. The pandemic made recovery more of a challenge as she could not attend any of the meetings or even meet her sponsor in person.
"I had to get sponsors through a computer screen on my phone," she explained.
"When I had my very first Zoom meeting, it was very weird for me. Having to see all these little faces on the screen, people turning their cameras on and off, people getting ready in the background, it was very distracting and very hard. I didn't feel like I could connect," said Johnston Freed.
Despite those challenges she stuck through the program and is now celebrating more than one year of sobriety.
Somewhere along that journey, she also fell in love, and married her high school friend, Nicholas Freed.
Johnston Freed says while it may sound easier said than done, she encouraged those stuck in the cycle of addiction to simply take that first step by reaching out for help. That is all it took for her. Johnston Freed admitted that if you had met her a year ago and told her, by next time this year you'll be completely sober, you'll be married, and you'll own your own home, she would have just laughed.
If you or a loved one needs help getting out of addiction there are many resources available, some of them are free.
There is a 24-hour confidential help line available to help you find the right program that fits your needs. Go to Drug & Alcohol Rehab - Stop Addiction for more.
To get in touch with a therapist at Crossroads Inc. go to Drug & Alcohol Addiction Treatment, Prevention & Care | Crossroads.