Substance Abuse in Travel Nursing: My Story

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By Misty Lack

May 3, 2022



Substance Abuse in Travel Nursing: My Story

Content Warning: descriptions of drug use is mentioned in this article if you or some you know are struggling with substance abuse get help here.

My substance abuse story:

Hi! My name is Misty, and I am a recovering drug addict.

My clean date is February 29, 2016, and for that, I am truly grateful. A couple of months ago, I reached out to The Gypsy Nurse with the topic idea of nurses struggling with addiction and mental health.

I was duel diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Severe Opioid Dependence.

On Feb 8, 2016, I was escorted to Human Resources and questioned about “tampered vials” of Morphine. I lied, of course, and apologized for the inconvenience. I was escorted out of the hospital via security.

When I pulled out of the hospital, I was numb.

I didn’t have any idea what I was going to do. Would it just go away, or is the gig up? I received a text message from my recruiter telling me to get a drug test, but the closest place was 45mins away, and it was 1630. So, I was told to get there first thing in the morning.

The next morning my phone was going off

With text messages, phone calls, and emails from the travel agency. I was praying this was just a bad dream. I opened the email, and there it was, in bold letters “We will have to report even if negative and BON will investigate because not all suspected diverters actually ingest the meds.”

Oops, they accidentally sent me the email that all company heads had been responding to. Well, it was official- I was busted! I forwarded the email to a nurse I had worked with who is also an attorney. First question: Are you safe? And then said, we must go to the Board.

I got busted on a Monday

I talked to an attorney on Tuesday, drove 2 hours to get back home and in his office on Wed, and sat in front of the Director for the diversion program on Friday. The attorney wanted me to call and talk to another nurse who reported to the board for diversion.

“How honest do I need to be?”

After hanging up, I called her right back and said, “How honest do I need to be?” She said, “As honest as you’re ready to be!” I didn’t know if I would be arrested or, worse, lose my license. I sat down and, for the first time, told my story.

I told my substance abuse story-

I admitted that I was diverting drugs and shooting up for about 2 yrs. When I was done, she smiled and acknowledged how refreshing it was to hear the gut-wrenching truth and not be given excuses or lies. She explained how the diversion program works and asked if I was interested.  There was one reservation I also suffered from chronic pain. I would not be able to be in the program and take narcotics of any kind. I cried and explained that I really do suffer from pain. She looked at me with empathy and said, “I’m sorry!”

I spent the next 17 days tapering myself off any and all mind-altering substances. I officially started the program on March 1, 2016.

My story is not for everyone.

I get that. You will find me repulsive, unethical, a disgrace, and several other adjectives. I am not seeking your approval. My hope is to open your eyes. Do not sign that you witnessed a waste unless you witnessed it. I banked on my colleagues whom I worked with for 15 years to sign regardless.

My story is for you!

The nurse that is scared and can’t find a way out. The nurse that wakes up every day saying, “I’m not using today!” and then finds yourself with a needle in your arm within minutes of clocking into work. There is a way out. If I can do it, you can do it too. You just have to admit that there is a problem and ask for help.

I am a member of a 12-step program that keeps me accountable. You can find me on Instagram or email me. #wedorecover

We hope you found this article insightful and possibly helpful. Have you found yourself in a similar situation? Would you like to tell your story? Comment below.

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