Partner after partner abused her. But she could take anything as long as she just had that drug.
Growing up, she wanted to be Amy Gray, the family court judge in television series, Judging Amy. “That was my ultimate goal, “says Drema. “I wanted to help families.”
But long before her senior year in high school, she was in her first abusive relationship. She became pregnant, and gave up her daughter for adoption after graduating. Violent relationships became her norm. When she started stealing to support one boyfriend’s drug habit, she decided she might as well get high, too. “I remember never feeling like that before in my life. Every bit of pain, the bruises, the memory of being raped and beaten, just everything, it went away,” Drema recalls. “I could take everything if I just had that drug.”
“I have a choice every day that I wake up.”
At one point, she found recovery: seeing a psychiatrist, taking medication, and going to 12-step meetings. She was okay for a while, but then she stopped. Not long after she returned to using, she ended up in jail – again. But this time was different. “It was serendipity,” Drema says. “[I] found this flyer…for the Phoenix House program in Virginia.” The judge released Drema on bond to enter the program.
Drema got a sponsor. She worked the steps. She found a women’s group. She got back into therapy. Today, with three and half years in recovery, she credits both medication and therapy. “One thing that I know for sure is that without taking my medication and seeing my psychiatrist on a regular basis, I know that I will use.” Drema says that mental wellness is a big part of her recovery. “If I’m using drugs then my mental health isn’t right. Period.”
“If I could see that judge who allowed me to walk back out of his courtroom,” she says, “I would say ‘thank you,’ because he changed my life.” She went back to school with a triple major in substance abuse counseling, social work, and criminology. She made the dean’s list three semesters in a row, had a 4.0 GPA, and began working as a peer recovery specialist in the District. Now lead peer recovery specialist at Psychiatric Institute of Washington, also known as PIW, one of DC’s long-time provider of recovery services.
“[Recovery is] not going to be easy. There’s no magic pill,” Drema says from firsthand experience. “Everybody is different, but everybody needs somebody, and it can be done. Hey, look at me. I did it. I was where you are and I did it.”