When April Sonier was only 16, she had to have her gallbladder removed. The year was 2006. That’s also when she began using the prescription painkiller Vicodin.
“It was my first surgery ever, and I didn’t realize it was going to be that painful,” she said in a recent interview. “Vicodin helped me feel better, and when the script ran out, I didn’t.”
April called the doctor to request more Vicodin. When that didn’t work, she “figured out how to get it through friends at school.”
Growing up in the city of Kilgore in eastern Texas, April was “hanging out with the wrong crowd in school” when her journey into drug addiction began.
How Depression and Anxiety Were Triggers to Self-Medicate
Untreated depression and anxiety also contributed to April’s drug use. (Mental health conditions commonly co-occur with drug and alcohol addiction, which is why dual diagnosis treatment is often critical to successful recovery.)
Today, at the age of 31, April is “able to look back and identify in a healthy way what the causes [of addiction] could have been,” and she now understands that she was using drugs to self-medicate underlying symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The anxiety and depression didn’t disappear forever once April got sober, roughly six years ago. The difference is she now knows how to manage these symptoms of anxiety and depression “in a healthy way,” by being “very careful about what I put into my body.”
The Journey from Vicodin to Other Drugs
From Vicodin, April moved on to other drugs. She used marijuana and meth.
“I was an IV user of meth, so shouldn’t be here now,” she said. But “alcohol was the constant … I never thought it was a thing until I did the 12 Steps and realized it was in the background.”
What Was the Darkest Time in Addiction?
For April, the darkest time was when she was using meth and the state of Texas took her three kids away: “The state stepped in, and I began to spiral further into meth addiction. I started out on the weekends with meth and toward the end was using every few days.”
At the time, April’s husband was using meth. “I just got it from him,” she said.
April recalled one day when she was allowed to visit her kids without being drug tested first. When she showed up with meth in her system, they “only let me stay because they didn’t want to hurt the kids.”
How the Darkest Time Was Also a Turning Point
One silver lining of that dark period was that it fueled a growing motivation to get clean, so that April could get her kids back.
“If the state steps in to take your kids, you have to sit back and stop to think who you are … The bottom fell out when the state took my kids away … I was barely 18 when I had my kids, so
I really didn’t know who I was as a person—I only knew myself as a mom—and they took that from me.”
When the state began “to push adoption papers,” April knew her kids would be split up: “Nobody wants three kids from the system.”
That was also the point when April began to get serious about recovery. “I started cleaning up and went to rehab and counseling to work on anger management.”
April also “got plugged into the church.” At the time, she was “doing Narcotics Anonymous in outpatient rehab” and “did get sober” for a time before relapsing briefly.
How a “Faith-Based, Christian, 12-Step Group” Made Recovery Possible
Who and what helped April find long-term recovery?
“My husband went to an adult teen challenge in Azle, TX. It was a year-long, faith-based program for men.”
Meanwhile, April began attending the Christian 12-step group Celebrate Recovery. She said it is what ultimately helped her “get into my strong recovery.” On June 21, 2019, she stopped “taking anything that would change my mind [about staying sober]”—even Benadryl.
“I used to go to the hospital saying my back hurt,” April said. She stopped that, too.
What Life in Recovery Is Like and What Makes It “Amazing”
Today, at the age of 31, April says life in recovery is “amazing.” She has her kids back—(they are now ages 13, 12 and 9)—and she and her husband (also in recovery) are happily married and enjoying healthy, sober relationships.
“My husband and I were talking about how, when we were using, we had ‘friends.’ When we were trying to get into recovery to clean up our life, nobody would invite us over. Over the last two years we have found actual friends who care for us. Clean friends who care for us. People who took us on vacation.”
True friendships are just one reason that life in recovery is worth it: “The sunsets, my kids laughing … Back when I was using, I didn’t realize how beautiful the sunsets were. My kids laughing didn’t touch my soul … Being a better person—being happy—is so amazing.”
Words of Encouragement for Anyone Struggling with Addiction
If April could offer a word of encouragement to anyone struggling with addiction, what would it be?
“It’s not how you fall down. It’s how you pick yourself up. A lot of us play with fire and when we do it that last time, the guilt and shame are so overwhelming that we do it again.” April continued:
This is also why I like the “No More Shame” movement because the shame is what gets us when we fall down. But we shouldn’t be ashamed about what we’ve done, because when we’re in recovery we’re new people. I’m not ashamed of what I’ve been and what I’ve come from, because it made me who I am today.
There’s no shame in getting help for an addiction or mental health disorder. That’s the message of our “No More Shame” campaign, which seeks to reduce the stigma of addiction and mental illness. In continuation of that theme, this story is part of a monthly series featuring the true stories of people who asked for help and found hope and healing.
Are you feeling like there’s no way out of an addiction? Learn how you can find healing. Call our 24/7 helpline at 1-844-335-8506.