‘I’ve been exactly right here where you are’— the story of one woman’s path to recovery for addiction

Ferletta Martinez says she was ready to get help for her addiction to heroin and methamphetamine months before she found a recovery program.

“One day I just woke up and looked in the mirror and realized that I didn’t recognize who I was,” Martinez said.

She recalls the night she was arrested. She felt a sense of relief when police knocked down her door to take her to jail, for crimes she committed to get drugs for her addiction. She thought, ‘this is it. This is my chance to get help.’

But that didn’t happen. Instead, she was released from jail, and she relapsed. Five months later, she was having suicidal thoughts and checked into a psychiatric hospital in Radford. After 24 hours they wanted to release her, but Martinez begged them to let her stay.

“I knew the only place for me was probably death if I didn’t get some help.”

She was at the psychiatric hospital for two weeks, and then went to a 30-day rehab facility in Montgomery County, called New Life Recovery.

“But I remember just standing in front of that building and being terrified,” Martinez recalled. “Because I didn’t think that I could recover. And change is hard. I didn’t know what was next.”

At the recovery center, she received counseling and learned coping skills to live her life without drugs.

In many rural regions, like in southwest Virginia, there’s a shortage of resources needed to help people get treatment. New Life Recovery, where Martinez was in rehab, only has 10 beds available. There are 20 slots for intensive outpatient services.

“That’s 30 people getting treatment any one day in the New River Valley, and there are hundreds of individuals out there who need support,” said Glenn Mathews, director of substance use treatment programs with the New River Valley Community Services.

“For most providers in the community, there’s a waiting list, there’s essentially a line at the door for folks to get in to all levels of care.”

Further south, in Wythe and Bland Counties, Mount Rogers Community Services doesn’t have a residential rehab option. In 2001, the agency closed its residential facility, as state funding priorities changed to support a more long term model of treatment.

“Residential is extremely expensive. It’s less expensive to do an intensive outpatient program,” said Pat Helton, a counselor for Mount Rogers Community Services intensive outpatient clinic, which serves about 256 adults per year. This program typically lasts about four months, and support is also available to those after they complete the program.

Earlier this year, lawmakers in Virginia added an amendment to the state budget to study the need for more addiction treatment services in southwest Virginia.

This comes after there’s been a record number of drug overdose deaths for several years in a row. According to the Virginia Department of Health, the increase in overdoses is in part because many drugs are increasingly laced with a highly dangerous opioid, called fentanyl. In 2021 fentanyl contributed to more than three out of every four overdose deaths in Virginia.

Ferletta Martinez says more services are needed, as well as more awareness. “There’s a lot of stigma around addiction and it’s really hard for people in recovery sometimes to find people who will give them a fresh start.”

A few years ago, the state began paying peer recovery specialists who go through a certification program with the Board of Counseling. Martinez now works as a peer recovery specialist for New River Valley Community Services.

“If you think of someone in active addiction, they feel like they’ve dug themselves into a hole,” Martinez said. “And they’re sitting down there really scared and lonely And they want help and they want out but they don’t have any tools to get out of the hole.”

Martinez compares peer recovery specialists to someone who can get down in the hole with the person, and help them find a way out.

“They come in with a little bit of hope saying, hey, I’ve been exactly right here where you are. These are your options. What do you want to try? Let’s do this together.”

Today, Martinez has been sober from drugs and alcohol for almost four years. And recently, she’s gotten a promotion—she’ll be working with people in the drug court program, helping them find a path to recovery.

If you’d like to learn about recovery services in your area, contact your local CSB. You can also call the free and confidential treatment referral hotline (1-800-662-HELP) or visit findtreatment.gov.


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