Heroin, other drugs consumed life of former Evansville woman
EVANSVILLE—A moment of clear thinking might have saved the life of Maria Gorces.
More than three years ago, she spoke by phone to a man at a drug and alcohol treatment center. He said he once was like her, addicted to drugs and wondering if there was a way out.
“He told me I could have a better life,” Maria recalls. “He told me I did not have to live like this anymore.”
The former Evansville woman, now 22, decided to leave Rock County the next day for a treatment center in Florida.
She will celebrate three years of sobriety in November.
Maria contacted the Gazette after reading an article in May about heroin- and other opiate-related deaths in Rock County.
She shared her story, she said, to offer insight into the all-consuming cycle of addiction.
The young woman began drinking and using marijuana at 14 with her girlfriends. Her friend's older cousin introduced her to weed.
“Drug and alcohol use is a symptom of my disease,” Maria explained. “My disease is how I perceive the world. Ever since I was a little girl, I felt like I did not belong.”
At 15, Maria was addicted to the prescription drug Adderall, used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
“I got it from a friend at school who had a prescription for it,” she explained.
At 16, her drug use escalated. In addition to alcohol, she took heroin and other opiates.
“I met the right people who had it,” she said. “Soon, we were doing it regularly. Eventually, I was injecting it by myself.”
Heroin consumed her life.
“I was using every day,” she said. “All I thought about was getting the next high and how good I was going to feel. I had to take more and more drugs because my body built up a tolerance level.”
When she could not get heroin, she bought painkillers, including Percocet and OxyContin, from drug dealers.
“I was miserable,” Maria said. “It was an obsession. Even when I wanted to stop, I was physically addicted. It was not like I chose drugs over my friends or loved ones. I did not know I could get help.”
While attending Evansville High School, the 2010 graduate said she was out of control.
“I was so selfish and self-centered,” Maria recalls. “I would not admit I had a problem. I hid it well and was a good liar and a thief. I was living a reckless life and did as I pleased. No one was going to tell me what to do.”
Maria's mother searched online for a residential treatment center after she found out her daughter was using heroin. Rock County does not have one.
“My parents set it up before I could say yes or no,” Maria said. “I would not have gotten help if I wasn't willing to help myself.”
Her parents enrolled her in the Watershed Drug & Alcohol Treatment Center of Florida. They put her on a plane, and a counselor met her at the airport.
“God or the universe or my higher power gave me a chance,” Maria recalls. “Either you go or you don't. I came to a treatment center, and it saved my life.”
Maria spent 28 days detoxing from drugs with medical help. She then advanced to intensive outpatient care while living in the treatment center's apartments. Later, she moved on to a halfway house and then to a three-quarter house. Today, she lives in a long-term recovery apartment in West Palm Beach.
West Palm Beach is near Delray Beach, which was labeled the recovery capital of the United States several years ago in a New York Times article.
Maria also joined a 12-step program.
“I had to admit and truly know that I was powerless over drugs and alcohol,” she said. “Willpower could not save me.”
She works for the treatment center as its social media specialist in the marketing department. She walks the tightrope of sobriety daily and helps others who suffer from addiction. She feels the stigma of being a drug addict.
“Alcoholics and addicts are not bad people,” Maria said. “We are just sick people. Our solution to life is getting high and drunk.”
Some 23 million people in the United States wrestle with alcohol and drug addiction.
“My testimony is so that the addict and alcoholic know that you can recover,” Maria said.
Her advice to others hooked on drugs and alcohol is to open up and reach out to loved ones.
“Don't let shame and guilt hold you back from asking for help,” Maria said. “Recovery is possible.”
She said the possibilities in her life are endless as long as she stays sober.
“I want people to know there is hope,” Maria said. “There is always hope.”
Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.