Story of Recovery – Rachel Beehler

Rachel Beehler had always been a straight-A student. She came from a stable middle-class family in a safe suburban town.

But she also struggled with substance abuse.

Part of that stemmed from the depression Beehler started feeling in junior high. At first she self-harmed to cope. Using drugs and alcohol soon became her new outlet.

“The first time I smoked I thought this is it. I found something I didn’t even know I was searching for,” Beehler said. It was the first time she could remember feeling comfortable in her own skin and with her surroundings.

“I drove home that night figuring out how I was going to get high again, what drugs I was going to get for my stash.”

Soon her grades began to suffer. Dropping below straight A’s was supposed to be one of her absolutes for stopping her drug use, but when she reached it Beehler found that she couldn’t. By the time she entered treatment at Fairbanks, Beehler was in the midst of getting expelled from her high school and in legal trouble because of her substance abuse.

“That was the big push (toward getting into treatment),” she said. “That’s when I knew it was serious.”

Beehler learned about Hope Academy – the recovery high school supported by Fairbanks – while in treatment and enrolled after her discharge.

“I wouldn’t have graduated without Hope Academy,” she said. “Not only did I still get my high school education, but I was with people who understood the disease of addiction. Before, I had teachers who either didn’t know what I was going through, didn’t understand or didn’t care.”

It was important to Beehler’s recovery to be around peers who knew what she was experiencing.

“I didn’t have to go back to my old environment, to those I used to get high with or buy my drugs from,” she said.

Her time at Hope Academy also helped her realize who substance abuse can affect.

“While I was getting sober, I had to accept the fact that people with addiction issues are not always raggedy people living under bridges,” Beehler said. “Hope Academy was the basis for me seeing there are many others from all walks of life – including myself – who have issues with this. Before I had all these justifications for why I couldn’t possibly be an addict.”

After graduating from Hope Academy, Beehler enrolled at Ivy Tech before earning an associate of arts degree, with high honors, from College of DuPage. She followed that with a bachelor of arts in psychology and sociology, along with a certificate in criminology, from Northern Illinois University.

This fall she started graduate school at the University of Michigan to pursue a master’s of social work, concentrating in interpersonal practice and mental health. Specifically Beehler wants to work with those who have substance use disorder and at-risk youth.

“I’ve always known I wanted to help people, but it took years for me to build the confidence to think I actually could,” she said.

Meantime, Beehler continues to work her recovery program, attending meetings, having a sponsor and sponsoring others.

“I’ve accepted the fact that I’m not one of those people who can have a glass of wine and wake up and go to work the next morning,” she said. “I’m never going to be one of those people. I’ve accepted that I have a different life path, and that’s OK.”