The recovery journey from addiction is hard. It takes time, dedication, and commitment, but the reward is worth it. As someone who has been in recovery since 1985, I know the journey well. It’s a big part of why I decided to go into addiction medicine and help other people who struggle with substance use disorder.

About two years ago I joined the CleanSlate team at the Louisville South location after decades of working as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse. I worked in primary care for a practice in a rural part of southern Indiana where I noticed it was not uncommon for providers to prescribe pain medication, muscle relaxers, and Xanax to patients on a regular basis. The practice leader left suddenly, leaving me to care for a large number of patients who were dependent on narcotics and benzodiazepines. Over time I worked to change the clinical standards of the practice and moved it away from prescribing potent pain medications whenever possible. I was able to help 550 patients through a pain management program and introduced them to more beneficial medicines, taking Xanax off our formulary completely.

During my time in that role, I witnessed a devastating amount of addiction that affected every age group and, at times, multiple members of the same families. I witnessed just how wide-reaching addiction can be and the toll it took on our small community. I knew I wanted to do more to help. I got my X-waiver, a requirement for practitioners to prescribe buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorder, and began prescribing the medication on a limited basis in conjunction with counseling.

After that experience, I knew I wanted an opportunity to help more people struggling with addiction. I found CleanSlate and was drawn to its mission of helping people with no judgment, as it most closely mirrored my own outlook on addiction treatment.

I’ve been in recovery for nearly three decades. Through my own experiences with the disease and those I’ve witnessed of my patients, I’ve learned that recovery is mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. This is why I appreciate my work at CleanSlate. We treat the whole person to impact their lives in ways that aren’t strictly medical. We’ve helped patients find housing and food, offered connections to assistance programs, and in some cases provided pregnant patients with the opportunity to see an OB-GYN. The people who work here truly care about every patient that walks in the door and understand that recovery doesn’t look the same for everyone.

Over the course of my career, I’ve learned, to be successful in this job, you can’t do it just because you need a paycheck. Working in addiction treatment is a calling. For me, it’s a pleasure to help those in need, the same way someone helped me. I’ve been where my patients are and I understand them. I’ve had patients come to the center consistently then quit after a slip-up. They worry about being accepted when they return. I tell them my hand is always out to help them and they can call anytime, but I can’t help them if they don’t come back. Addiction is a tough disease and we don’t expect perfection. We know patients will struggle at times. Recovery is a lifelong journey and the journey is the destination. As a provider, it is my job to do whatever I can to help and let them know they are enough. Recovery is worth it.

Craig Rouben APRN

Craig Rouben is an advanced practice registered nurse at CleanSlate Louisville South.