Deborah Alvey is a Behavioral Health Technician at Awakenings Recovery Center in Hagerstown, Maryland. Unlike many people with Substance Use Disorders, Alvey did not start using drugs until her 30s.
Originally from Charles County, Maryland, Alvey experienced significant trauma during her childhood, which led to her use as an adult. Before recovery, she was working for a loan company in Alexandria, Virginia, while bartending in the evenings. Restaurant substance use culture proved problematic for her.
“Everything comes through the bar,” Alvey said. “It was easily accessible and I met a lot of people who sold drugs.”
Alvey even resorted to selling drugs herself during a period of homelessness when she said she “couch surfed” and bounced in and out of hotel rooms. She always had a supply of opiates from a prescription for pain management, which she sold.
“I started getting arrested. It wasn’t until I was out of resources and was homeless that I knew I needed to get help or I was going to die,” Alvey said. “It started getting out of control when the pills were not enough and dope was a lot cheaper so I started using dope. I was constantly looking for something more. I was getting to the point where I had to have it just to make it through the day.”
Eventually, Alvey sought treatment at a center in Rockville, where she successfully learned to surrender.
“I didn’t know anything about rehab or recovery,” she said. “I got everything I could possibly get from treatment. I did everything they told me to do.”
After graduation Alvery found a home at Lasting Change, a sober living house in Hagerstown. For her first year in recovery, Alvey stayed at Lasting Change and found a job working retail. But she knew that the substance use treatment field was where she wanted to be.
“I had a retail job first, but I always wanted to work in treatment,” she said. “I needed to get some clean time and learn some things to stay clean. I knew some of the people who worked at Awakenings and they knew how I was making changes in my life.”
When an opportunity to become a Behavioral Health Technician presented itself, she applied and was offered the position. Alvey has worked with Awakenings since August 2019.
As a tech, Alvey spends most of her time working with clients, which she greatly appreciates. Having been through treatment herself, she is in a unique position to relate to clients, a skill she shares with most of her coworkers.
“I think the fact that most of us are in recovery makes a huge difference,” she said. “I don’t have all the medical terminology on addictions, but we’ve been there. We know their behaviors because we’ve done them.The clients appreciate that we can relate to them. I share my story and they can relate to me, see how good my life is today, and see the process I’ve been through to get where I am.