Patient Stories

Mom Reclaims Sobriety through UC Health Addiction Sciences

Jan. 15, 2020

Doctors in UC Medical Center’s emergency department are now proud to see patient Angela Perez. That’s because physicians at the region’s Level I trauma center have seen firsthand how much progress Angela has made with her addiction.

Four years ago, the Delhi mother was what she called an “ER hopper” seeking to treat the pain from a congenital kidney disease and a car accident—and eventually, her addiction.

“I went back and forth, back and forth, telling each doctor how much pain I was in. I was taking eight or nine pills at a time,” Angela recalled of her practice of jumping from emergency room to emergency room in search of pain medication.

Four years ago, Angela knew her addiction was becoming a serious problem, which eventually led her to treatment at UC Health Addiction Sciences and the first to reach Level V in the program.

Angela Perez, an Avondale native turned Delhi mom, was born with a medullary sponge kidney. This congenital disorder can cause numerous kidney stones and urinary tract infections, with lots of visits to the doctor.

When Angela was 18 years old, she was in a bad car accident that shattered her right leg.

Over time, as Angela’s tolerance for painkillers went up, so did the stress of finding her next prescription. In 2016, with her only child, Veronica, in preschool, Angela knew she had to make a change. It was the painkillers or it was her daughter — it could no longer be both.

“I picked my daughter before I would pick the drugs,” Angela said.

Angela decided to call 241-KIDS, a hotline to the Hamilton County Job and Family Services, to report the risk presented to her daughter. They put Angela and Veronica on a safety plan, which ended after Angela referred herself to UC Health Addiction Sciences.

Angela saw Christine Wilder, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and medical director of UC Health Addiction Sciences. She started treatment at the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) through Addiction Sciences, attending groups three hours a session, three times a week, for 12 weeks.

After completing IOP, Angela was successful in stabilizing and managing her long-term recovery by continuing regular group counseling, individual therapy and medication for her opioid use disorder. Initially she had appointments every week, but she was able to decrease her frequency of attendance gradually over time.

“The one thing that I really love about Dr. Wilder is that she never left me. She takes the time to always talk to me. She’s always there,” Angela said.

New discoveries at UC Health provide addiction treatment clinicians with a variety of effective medications for treating substance use disorders, particularly for opioids, alcohol and tobacco. UC Health’s outpatient treatment services apply a medical approach to treatment, using evidence-based treatment strategies that include use of the effective medications whenever possible.

Angela now comes to UC Health every three months for an appointment with Dr. Wilder, an appointment with her individual counselor. She also attends group therapy once a month—a treatment component that is especially beneficial for substance use recovery, as it can inspire those just starting out and diminish the feeling of isolation.

“Group is awesome. With me, I really enjoy group. If someone is in group and you can tell they are just starting, and if I can help that person, that’s all that matters,” Angela said.

Angela has been sober all four years she has been a patient at Addiction Sciences. In Angela’s treatment program, patients increase their level of treatment based on their length of sobriety and their regular attendance at appointments, starting at IOP and moving towards Level V.

“Angela was our first patient to reach Level V, which means she not only didn’t use any drugs or alcohol but she also never missed an appointment for two years straight, which is pretty impressive,” said Dr. Wilder.

Because of her kidney problems, Angela still visits the emergency department a few times a year, but now she only receives antibiotics. She gets positive feedback from emergency department physicians who compliment her on how much she has changed.

“I’m Level V and I plan to stay there,” Angela said.