September is National Recovery Month, a time for raising awareness, reducing stigma and celebrating the achievements of individuals in recovery from substance use disorders and mental health challenges.
By Michaela N. Broyles
At the age of 15, Hannah Butler began a tumultuous journey with using substances, one that lasted for 10 years and would ultimately lead her to a turning point in her life. Her primary vices were alcohol and opiates, and she found herself at a harrowing low point.
“I was at that rock bottom level where I would have betrayed my friends and my family to get what I needed,” Butler explained. “It was at the point where getting my next pill was more important than getting food.”
Recognizing the severity of her situation, Butler’s parents gave her an ultimatum: either seek treatment or face the consequences of being cut off. In 2018, after a series of unsuccessful attempts at rehabilitation, she took her first steps toward recovery at the UF Health Florida Recovery Center, or FRC.
“I told them that I would agree to come for 30 days and that’s it,” Butler recalled. “But by the time I had completed those 30 days, I didn’t want to leave because my life started to change for the better.”
Butler’s recovery journey continued as she spent approximately five months in treatment at FRC. One of her most significant milestones during this period was overcoming the challenges of detox and withdrawal and collecting milestone chips, symbolic tokens of her progress.
“Having a supportive community around me and the ability to wake up each morning knowing I got through the day and night without using — there’s really nothing quite like that feeling,” she reflected. “By months three and four in treatment, I had formed strong bonds within this community and had a meaningful relationship with my therapist. I didn’t want to leave.”
In 2020, Butler returned to the Florida Recovery Center, but this time, her role had shifted — she was no longer a patient. Instead, she joined the center as an intake facilitator, extending a helping hand to those seeking assistance.
“I knew that I wanted to work here since I was discharged from treatment,” Butler added. “It’s my way of giving back, and I genuinely love what I do. Being able to connect with people in the same place where I once hit rock bottom has been incredibly rewarding. It’s been a true blessing to work here for the past couple of years.”
Butler found her new role to be a seamless fit, a place that “feels like home” thanks to her personal experience in recovery.
“I can relate to these patients because I’ve walked in their shoes before, understanding exactly what they’re facing,” she explained. “It’s like second nature to me, almost like getting on a bike and effortlessly riding it. I feel like I speak a unique language with these individuals, so in a sense, it’s like my calling.”
Tim Christensen, a call center manager at the Florida Recovery Center and Butler’s supervisor, shares this sentiment. He recognizes that Butler’s journey of personal recovery equips her with valuable qualities she can utilize at work.
“Hannah’s personal recovery journey brings valuable qualities to her role, including the ability to bounce back from challenges as setbacks,” Christensen said. “Stories like Hannah’s demonstrate that it’s possible to overcome mental health challenges and lead fulfilling lives, which can offer hope to those who may be struggling and show them that they’re not alone.”
For those who may be grappling with their own battles, Butler offers a piece of advice that embodies her own journey:
“Just because you’ve hit bottom, doesn’t mean you have to stay there,” she said.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a substance use disorder, don’t hesitate to take the first step toward recovery. Reach out to the UF Health Florida Recovery Center today and start your journey toward a healthier, more fulfilling life.