Gretchen Sauer, Case Manager

Gretchen Sauer is a Case Manager at our rehabilitation facility in Battle Creek, Michigan. Over the course of five years, Sauer has held almost every position on our staff, except for working in the kitchen, nursing, and being a licensed counselor – something she’s currently working towards – and the path that led her here is a long one.

As a former patient at AFR, Sauer’s addiction to opiates began at the age of 18 after she tore the ACL in her right knee. “I had reconstructive knee surgery, and they gave me Vicodin ES. No one told me how seriously addictive that was,” she said. “Before the Vicodin, I was just your normal teenager, smoking weed, drinking alcohol, tripping on acid – experimenting a little bit – however, my life hadn’t fallen apart from being an experimental teenager.”

“When I found Vicodin, I was immediately in love with everything about that drug and the euphoria that came with it. Now I understand the role that euphoria played in my life.”

Sauer went on to tear her ACL a couple more times, mostly from playing hockey and had a couple more surgeries, which ultimately led to easy access to more prescription drugs.
The constant state of being on some form of opiate began to snowball and led to illegal drug usage.

“Of course the Vicodin led to Percocet, to Loratab, to Oxycodone, and then went to heroin. By the time that I got to A Forever Recovery I had been shooting heroin, snorting Oxycodones and just opiates, opiates, opiates,” she said.

“But I was a polysubstance abuser also because if I didn’t have any opiates, I’d get myself wasted and smoke weed all the time; I was a mess. My life had completely fallen apart.” Sauer attempted to go into rehabilitation a total of seven times, but she never really wanted to be there, so she’d pick fights to get thrown out.

It was when Sauer attempted suicide by combining a month’s supply of four different medications that she indeed hit rock bottom. As she recalls, the effect it had on her was shocking, because there was no effect at all. She was coherent, and thought to herself, “Really? I can’t even kill myself.” It was at that moment that she knew she had to get help, and entered AFR’s program.

“I never completed a treatment program until I came to A Forever Recovery. To me that’s because it’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy-based, where we’re working on changing behavior,” she said.

“The seven modalities of treatment that they have here, you can work with them each day, and that’s what I needed, something that was different. I couldn’t do monotony. One night I could go faith-based and pray, one night I could go to AA or NA. Then on the days I was really angry I’d go to CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and talk about my anger and how to work through that.”

The bottom line is, working through each patient’s issues and creating a path designed to fit their needs is what makes the program successful. It was what ultimately became the solution for her in overcoming addiction.

“They empty out your baggage with going through the whole process,” she said. “If you completely let go of everything, and if you’re sincere like I was, you empty that bag out.  Then you start going through the life skills classes, and the Moral Recognition Therapy groups, and the tracks, and your counseling and you fill up that bag with new healthy tools.”

“But you can’t do that if you’re still holding on to stuff from your past. Even the tiniest thing will rise to the top of the bag and block anything else from getting in there.”