White Sands Employee Spotlight
By: Mellissa Shiflett
After making the tough decision to come to treatment, the first staff member you will encounter when getting to the facility is one of our Admissions Coordinators. Therefore, it is important for WSTC to staff competent and welcoming Admissions Coordinators. Mellissa Shiflett has those great qualities and many more. Around the time we first started opened our facility, Mellissa began working here as a Behavioral Health Technician. She performed very well in that role helping many patients in the process. So, it comes as no surprise six months later she got promoted to the admissions department. For those admitting to WSTC between the hours of 3PM-11PM, you will be fortunate enough to be greeted by the lovely and talented Mellissa.
Our star Admissions Coordinator was born and raised in the local Ft. Myers, FL area. Mellissa grew up living in a household with her mother, grandparents and brother. Throughout her childhood, she did not know her father. Actually, Mellissa didn’t meet him until she was in her late 20’s. Growing up, she says she always felt anxious. Despite the anxiety, Mellissa always had a great aptitude for academics. She was placed in the gifted program at school as a young girl. It wasn’t until she was in middle school that she started experimenting with drugs and alcohol. As she got deeper into usage throughout high school, her performance at school deteriorated. At that point, Mellissa switched schools, refocused her academic efforts and subsequently graduated with honors. She attended Edison State College after she finished high school.
College didn’t seem to peak her interests at the time. So, Mellissa decided to become a Pharmacy Technician. Of course it can be a struggle working at a pharmacy. In addition to using, Mellissa had a knack for getting into toxic relationships. She survived a series of mentally and physically abusive boyfriends. On one occasion she had her nose broken and on another, and on another her finger was split in two. Codependent relationships are defined as a type of dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility or under-achievement. Many of us that struggle with addiction are aware that we exhibit codependent behavior with varying degrees of severity. Mellissa strongly identifies with being a recovering codependent. Prior to her entering recovery and working through those issues, those old feelings and behaviors kept her in relationships that she knew were unhealthy.
Mellissa’s first attempt at recovery came when she entered a detox at 21 years old. For the first time in her life, she began to feel the physical withdrawal symptoms of running out of opiates. However briefly it might have been, Mellissa’s eyes were temporarily opened to the vision that her life might be unmanageable. In detox, her body was cleared of all mind and mood altering substances. So she thought that her drug problem was a physical one. As such, Mellissa neglected to improve herself on a mental and spiritual basis. She quickly fell back into old patterns after leaving detox. Two months later she relapsed.
From the age of 21 to the age of 27, Mellissa was able to hold down several types of jobs working in pharmacies. However, her consistent pattern of toxic relationships and drug use continued over this time. Therefore, her life was not progressing as well as she would have hoped. By 27 years old, her drug usage became so intense that she could no longer maintain her employment and moved back in with her family. After four years of this existence, being hospitalized for kidney failure a couple of times and finding that drugs no longer produced their desired escape effect; Mellissa finally surrendered. Towards the end of her run while sitting in a park, Mellissa called a detox facility and put her name on a waiting list to be admitted. A week later she was lying on the ground praying for God to take her life or to show her what to do to change. In the midst of her prayers, Mellissa received a phone call from that detox facility notifying her that they had an empty bed waiting for her.
This second chance for Mellissa was going to be different. She attacked her new opportunity to live with an open mind, willingness and the gift of desperation. While in detox this time, she broke up with her boyfriend of six years and deleted all of her old numbers from her phone. So her system got cleaned out again. What was she going to do this time? It was recommended to her that she attend a 28 day residential treatment program. The problem was the treatment center was completely full when she completed detox. Mellissa went back home and waited for two weeks, without getting high, for a bed to open up. Finally a bed opened up and she was admitted.
Mellissa swallowed her pride this time and was willing to ask for help. She got a sponsor and started working the twelve steps while she was still in treatment. After graduating, she continued to see a therapist. As Mellissa survives with a visual impairment, she enlisted the help from the Florida Division of Blind Services in locating a therapist. She was also able to gain other resources there as well. It was tough for her to get a job in the beginning so she decided to volunteer. Mellissa volunteered for the Easter Seals helping others like herself whom had visual impairments. Finally, she was able to get a job at the mall. In an unfortunate circumstance, she got fired. However, she learned from that experience to be grateful for the blessings that she does have. Her next job was at a restaurant where she worked for a year, then quit without having a back-up plan. Continually persevering, Mellissa walked the streets and submitted resume after resume until she found a job doing something that she loves.
In the program of recovery, suggestions are given to newcomers by those members whom have more experience living a life free of drugs and alcohol. Most people do not follow those suggestions. One in particular that is almost never followed is the suggestion not to get in a new relationship within the first year of recovery. Given Mellissa’s predisposition to codependence, following that suggestion was crucial to her personal growth. Fortunately, she followed that suggestion and all the others because she didn’t want to ever go back to the misery from which she came. Mellissa told me that she leaned the spiritual principals behind each of the twelve steps and tries to practice them in her life at all times. The three most important to her are honest, open-mindedness and willingness. In order to stay clean today, Mellissa continues to work on herself. She stays in the center of the twelve step program. It was suggested to Mellissa to do service for others. Now she is the chairperson of the events committee for her fellowship. Whenever there is a chance to attend a convention of other recovering addicts and alcoholics, Mellissa is in attendance. She sponsors other women in the hope that she can be a positive example for them to improve their lives.
In 2015, Mellissa was diagnosed with Lupus. Overcoming the health problems associated with Lupus has been challenging. However, through the strong support of a twelve step fellowship, she has been overcoming the challenges. Mellissa says remaining teachable is vital to her personal growth. She continues to build her relationship with herself. Many times she finds that she needs to set and maintain boundaries with the people in her life. The goal for her is finding balance in work, recovery and for personal time which is an ever evolving process.
When I said earlier that Mellissa searched until she found the job that she loves, I was referring to her working at White Sands. She never thought she would be in the treatment industry. One of the resumes she handed out after leaving her restaurant job was at White Sands. Our Program Director at the time saw something special in Mellissa and decided to give her a chance. She has been making the most of her opportunity since day one here. I asked Mellissa what she likes most about her job. She said it’s being able to apply her personal life experience in the help of others by being able to relate in an area where others cannot. I will leave you with a quote from Mellissa.
“No matter what your situation is, it is possible to build a beautiful, healthy life. Even if you don’t know how just start today with the decision to step away from where you are.”
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the White Sands Treatment Center at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.