Vinfen ACCS Lead Peer Specialist Elizabeth Rouillard knows that recovery is possible. She knows because she is a person with lived experience. Her position at Vinfen is specifically designed for a person with her unique capabilities. She’s been there. Her story gives others hope and inspires them to keep going even when things get hard.
Elizabeth, who everyone at Vinfen knows as Liz, grew up in Cape Cod as part of a family of five. Although her parents divorced when she was young, Liz felt that values of kindness, love, and compassion were prevalent in her upbringing. Liz excelled in school and in sports and had a great supportive group of friends that helped her cope with her anxiety and depression.
Following an accident that resulted in an injured knee, Liz was prescribed pain killers. Not knowing their addictive potential, Liz helped ease her pain, anxiety, and sadness with her prescription. The boy she was dating in high school encouraged her to abuse her prescription. They did, together. Liz hid her new addiction from her family and friends and moved away to college after graduation.
At college, Liz was sick. Looking back, she knew her feelings were withdrawal. Her life took a turn for the worse when her boyfriend moved to be with her. They found a local dealer and started using again. Liz’s grades declined, and her relationship became toxic. Liz felt alone and struggled being far away from family. She dropped out of school, drove back home, and got in some legal trouble. Her secret addiction was now public.
Liz wanted to make a change in her life. She started going to AA meetings with her father. Unfortunately, just as Liz began making positive strides, her old boyfriend returned. He assaulted Liz, trapped her in his vehicle, and threatened to take her life. “I was unable to escape, with tears rolling down my face, I closed my eyes and prayed that night, while stuck in that car, for God to take me away,” Liz shared.
After this trauma, Liz turned to heroin. Her parents sent her to a safe environment to detox, rehab, and a supported residence house to help her get back on her feet. “I had managed to stay clean while there but still felt empty,” Liz explained. While in rehab, Liz met a man who struggled with addiction himself. Together they had a beautiful daughter. Through she struggled at first, her pregnancy helped her change her life for good. “I got sick and tired of being sick and tired. Somehow through all of the darkness, there was a tiny pinhole of light,” Liz described.
Placed on Subutex, a safe way to detox while pregnant, Liz continued to attend AA meetings, got a job, and delivered her adorable and healthy daughter, Eilah Mae, on January 11, 2013. “Because of her I wanted to live again. She filled my void, my emptiness, and my longing feeling of hopelessness,” Liz shared.
During the next few years in her recovery, Liz was accepted into Bridgewater State University, obtained her Bachelor’s in Psychology, reconciled with Eilah’s father, had a baby boy, and was hired at Vinfen in March of 2016. “I was flabbergasted at the fact that a company was willing to hire me, a former heroin addict with multiple felonies but, I was grateful! I was hired as a peer and I knew that this was where I was supposed to be,” Liz said. Her sobriety and healthy support systems are and continue to be the key to her success and happiness. Her sobriety keeps her moving forward in life through all life’s trials and tribulations.
Today, Liz still loves her job and has begun a Graduate Degree program at Boston University, with aspirations of obtaining her MSW and LICSW. “I love who I am today and would not change this life for anything,” Liz disclosed. Liz hopes that her story will inspire others that recovery is possible and can change your life for the better. “I hope that one day the prejudice and discrimination surrounding mental health and addiction will vanish. All is possible for those who believe.”
If you are a person with lived experience and are interested in learning more about becoming a peer specialist like Liz, visit https://www.vinfen.org/work-at-vinfen/common-jobs/peer-specialist/.