Alexandra Horan is a Regional Outreach Coordinator for Atlanta Center for Mental Health and Atlanta Detox Center in Riverdale, Georgia. Originally from New Jersey, Horan began drinking and using drugs at age 15. She got sober just one month after her 21st birthday.
“I couldn’t use successfully, ever,” she said.
Consequences of Drinking and Using
Although her drinking and drugging took part over a relatively short period of time, Horan faced serious consequences.
“I dropped out of high school in my sophomore year because I couldn’t apply myself to anything,” she said. “I didn’t have any real interests besides using.”
Although she dropped out, she earned her GED and enrolled in college at age 17. This, however, did not stop her from using.
“I got my first DUI at age 17,” she said, describing an automobile accident. “I was so into addiction that I thought it was no big deal. I was covered in scars and marks from the seatbelt and thought everything was fine. I used opiates for the first time the next day.”
When Horan came back home after her first semester in college, her family intervened, telling her that she should seek treatment in Florida. Horan went, albeit “kicking and screaming.”
For much of her life, Horan struggled to fit into social cliques. Initially she struggled to find her people in the Florida recovery network. Though this changed over time–thanks to the many young people in recovery in Florida–Horan continued to relapse.
“With each relapse, I hit lower and lower bottoms,” she said. “I was using in another state; I had no family; I was twenty years old. That’s when reality set in. I’d woken up with all these drugs on me; I was in a bad neighborhood; I had no recollection of the night before. I just had the feeling that I was defeated.”
Finding Her Place in Recovery
Through working a twelve-step program and maintaining clean time, Horan graduated Trinity International College with High Honors, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. She spent the next three years as a teacher in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. There, she saw through her students the impact that family addiction can have on a child.
“A lot of my students had parents who were addicts,” she said. “The parents weren’t around and they were being raised by distant relatives. At school is where they got the most attention.”
Eventually, Horan made the move to Georgia to work as a case manager at Atlanta Detox Center.
“Case management is such an important part of treatment,” she said. “My main goal was to alleviate outside stress so they could focus on themselves and their treatment. I’ve seen a lot of miracles work in the lives of the clients who have gone through the program. I see their warrants get lifted and them not get jail time.”
When Horan made the transition from Case Manager to Regional Outreach Coordinator, the skills she learned in her previous position lent themselves to her new role.
“My case management experience gives me the opportunity to be out in the community and address the anxieties of potential clients,” she said. “’ You don’t need to worry about your legal problems, we’re here to help you with that.’”
Horan believes the care provided at ACMH and ADC is unique in that it works to break the stigma surrounding substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders. The staff, many of whom are in recovery, all have their hands on-deck.
“There’s a lot of us in recovery or have struggled with mental health,” Horan said. “Our clinical program really focuses on trauma. We’re so much more than a detox and mental health facility. We want to set them up for success. Every single person, the clinical staff, the techs, our chef–everyone helps the clients.”
The most rewarding part of the job for Horan is witnessing the change in clients who have accumulated long-term sobriety. Many will visit the center or send letters thanking Horan and her colleagues.
“We have a strong alumni group, so a lot of people share their milestones, whether it’s 90 days, 6 months or a year clean,” she said. “That makes it all worth it for me.”