Former Nurse Shares Story About Beating Addiction

By McCarton Ackerman 11/19/14

Mandi Sveom managed to overcome her addictions to alcohol and painkillers.

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A former Wisconsin nurse whose drug addiction left her being treated as a patient by her old colleagues is now telling her story in the hopes of helping others.

Mandi Sveom of Manitowoc experienced severe health problems in March 2011 that included constant pain and losing 50 pounds in three months. Doctors removed her gall bladder and eventually put her on oxycodone to deal with the pain. Sveom quickly became addicted. Within just a few weeks, she began stealing narcotics from work and was fired after an investigation that August.

"You'll hear a lot of addicts say that [the drug] changes the way you think. Your instinct is to want more. My brain said, 'I need to take more. I need to take more,'" said Sveom. “When you’re that addicted, you don’t feel normal without it.”

Despite both of her parents being alcoholics, Sveom turned to drinking to numb the shame of being fired and addicted to pain pills. She became addicted to alcohol as well and attempted suicide that November, feeling as though she had failed as a mother to her two children.

"I told myself I'd never be like my mother and put a substance before my children and that's just what was happening," she said. "I don't remember saying it, but I threatened to shoot myself...and I ended up on a 72-hour suicide hold. That night, for the first time in my life, I was handcuffed. To me, being a very spiritual person, I think that was God's way of intervening."

After being cared for by former co-workers, counselors convinced her that she needed to beat her addiction. She spent a month at a counseling services center in Oshkosh before residing for five months at a residential treatment facility in Manitowoc. Sveom has remained sober ever since. Though she no longer works in nursing, Sveom wants to go back to school to become a drug and alcohol counselor.

Sveom has also been spending her free time speaking to local groups about addiction. “We need to treat pain, but if someone does become addicted, I feel we can't have enough resources to get clean. I also feel that the biggest part is education, which is why I speak,” she said. "I might not change the world, but I might reach one person who realizes they might need help. It can happen to anyone.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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