Julie Spriggs is the Admissions Coordinator at Awakenings Recovery Center in Hagerstown, Maryland. She has been there since the center opened in April 2019. Before starting at Awakenings, Spriggs worked for two years as a Peer Support Specialist at a treatment facility in her hometown, Cumberland, Maryland.
Cumberland is known for high rates of substance use and overdoses. Spriggs says that while she and her family were impacted by addiction early on, Cumberland as a whole wasn’t always that way.
“When I first started doing opiates, there wasn’t a lot of it happening,” she said. “I got in trouble and a judge said, ‘You’re not bringing that stuff in my County.’ I went to prison over 18 years ago and when I got out, they were everywhere. Now, I’ve lost a lot of friends to opiates.”
Spriggs is in recovery herself, with more than two and a half years of continuous sobriety. When asked about her journey from addiction into recovery, she said, “There’s nothing special about my story. It’s something I struggled with for a long time and I’ve lost a lot. But my faith kept me going.”
As Admissions Coordinator, Spriggs, “Contact[s] everyone applying for treatment and chase[s] them around until the day they come.” This means she also spends a lot of time being in touch with clients’ families. Based on the stories she’s heard, opiate addiction is Western Maryland is still prominent. Spriggs said she can relate to the struggling families.
“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “I put my own mother through it and I know what she went through. The devastation, the hurt, and the fear.
“I had an alcoholic father and I had two brothers and a sister. We’re all riddled with the disease of addiction. My sister passed away when she was 28 from this disease, and that put a whole new spin on things.”
Spriggs says much of her family are now in recovery including her brother, and her father who passed away four years ago with 18 years of sobriety.
With her own history of addiction, relapse and recovery, Spriggs is in a unique position to help clients. Having been through treatment herself, she sees the unique care that Awakenings provides.
“Compared to any other facility I’ve been in–and I’ve been all over Maryland–there are a lot of employees here who are in recovery,” she said. “That’s it and it works and everyone trusts us. We’ve been there and done it. A lot of other places got it from the book. Addicts don’t relate to that as much.”
In addition to her faith, Spriggs says that this time in sobriety she’s digging deeper, and gaining new respect for recovery and the disease of addiction.
“I figured out, ‘This is not how I’m going out,’” she said. “I have a strong will to live.”
Seeing clients’ transformations from active addiction to recovery, and hearing from thankful family members who have their loved ones back, are the best parts of the job for Spriggs. She believes the work she does not only benefits the Awakenings clients, but also her own recovery.
“It keeps me in my recovery program 100%,” she said. “It’s a learning playground every day because I’m an addict too. I had to learn about how to work with others and about my own recovery program.”