March 17, 2016 | Addiction & Recovery, Stories & Profiles

My Story: Climbing Out of Addiction, One Step at a Time

By Maura McQuade

Maura McQuade is an Account Manager for Burlington Labs. 

My name is Maura McQuade and I am a person in long term recovery, which to me means I have not had a drink or taken any drugs since March of 2011. Today my life is something I never thought possible.  I have serenity, peace, responsibility, genuine relationships, freedom, and love. However, it was a long journey to get to the life I have today.

I was born in New London, NH in 1978, the first child in my family. We moved to Rutland, VT when I was 4 months old, and I lived in that area until I was 25. There were varying forms and degrees of mental illness throughout my immediate and extended family, which manifest themselves through alcoholism, addiction, paranoid schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, depression, and narcissistic personality disorder, to name a few. 

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Maura with her brother, Conor, at Christmas.

While I was loved and provided for, my home was also a source of fear and uncertainty – so I started spending as much time as possible away from it. As I got older I started to hang out with the “tough guys” to create a sense of protection and safety. My first drink was at age 12 and from there my use escalated quickly to include anything I could get my hands on that would allow me to escape.

The first time I tried my drug combination of choice I was 18 years old. I immediately decided I wanted to feel like that for the rest of my life, and I proceeded to devote the next 15 years of my life to just that. 

It was normal for me to be hung over every morning, and I would spend the rest of the day in pursuit of what I needed to get through the night. No one in my family had any idea what was going on with me because I had kept myself looking good on paper and limited my time spent with anyone who wouldn’t condone my way of life. Soon I got to the point where I physically could not do anything without a drug in my system, and my friends were dying or going to jail.

When I turned 25 and after my parents divorced, I moved in with my father in Poughkeepsie, New York to “go back to school,” and I maintained my house of cards long enough to graduate from Marist College. However, soon after graduation I gave up trying to look good on paper. I moved into an apartment in Poughkeepsie and every ounce of time and energy I had was spent trying to get enough money to buy my drugs. Lines I thought I would never cross were quickly leapt over, and the disease of addiction was truly controlling my life.

Eventually I ended up in my first detox, followed by a failed outpatient program, and another detox, and a 6-month residential program, and another failed outpatient program, then a third outpatient program that was actually successful. Then came my involvement in a 12-step program, which saved my life. I found a safe place to live in Connecticut with another woman from my 12-step program, then a part time job, then friends who were sober and staying sober, then a full time job, and then my own apartment. 

After living in Connecticut for two years, I decided I wanted to move to Burlington, VT – a city I had always loved – to be closer to my younger brother. So I put my efforts towards finding a job in the area and took one step at a time towards my goal with the advice, help, and support of others in my 12-step program.

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Maura speaks at the Turning Point Center's Circle of Stars event in Burlington, VT in 2015.

Today I live in downtown Burlington and work at the most amazing and supportive company I could ever imagine. I have immersed myself in the Recovery Community. Last fall, the Turning Point Center of Chittenden County invited me to join their Board of Directors, which is an honor beyond my wildest dreams. The relationships in my life are built on love and trust, whereas my old relationships were built solely on what another person could give to me. I have healthy boundaries with people from my past, which has allowed me to grow and discover who I am. Apparently I really like cycling and still love to ski!

Most importantly, I have found a daily reprieve and a daily freedom from active addiction. As long as I keep doing the next right thing.