Dr. Miriam Adelson at work in the clinic.
“All I can say is, I think the Adelson Clinic saved my life,” Courtney, 35, says. “I’d be on the streets, if it wasn’t for it.”
Today, she is healthy and motivated, working toward a college degree.
Two years ago, she was the quintessential image of the drug addict.
Her hair was brittle and falling out; her body, skinny and bony; her arms, grey and blighted with rashes. Around her tired eyes were black circles, almost as if she’d been punched.
We’re sitting in a coffee shop; she’s telling me about her life before she entered the drug clinic that Miriam and Sheldon Adelson established in February 2000.
“You’d never have thought I’d be a drug addict,” she says. “I was a soccer mom.”
For ten years, Courtney was married to a trusting and responsible man. He was in charge of earning the money; she, in charge of the house and paying the bills. They had two kids. Enjoyed a middle class life. And lived in a beautiful home, the down payment financed with money her grandfather left her.
“I had a good life, didn’t I?”
Then, at age 30, it collapsed. The soccer mom became addicted to painkillers, initially prescribed to her for a hurt back.
“After awhile, I got to feeling I couldn’t function without the pills,” she says. “I’d wake in the morning and my bones would be hurting and I’d be really, really tired and all I could think about was getting more drugs.”
The drugs seemed to be a miracle, like an immediate injection of bliss and energy, which she felt she needed to get through the day.
To deal with her withdrawal symptoms—the worst of which was a burning pain up and down her spinal cord—she started doctor shopping. Manically, she’d go from one pharmacy to another, all over town, filling various prescriptions. To avoid alerting her health insurance company, she paid out of pocket. In no time, she was easily popping 30 to 40 pills a day.
Replenishing her supply soon became a problem. “If I got a bottle of a hundred pills on Monday, I’d be freaking out I wouldn’t have enough by Wednesday.”
In order to satiate her increasing appetite, the soccer mom ventured into the criminal underbelly of Las Vegas—into its illicit drug market, which is sustained partly by corrupt doctors and pharmacists who supply street dealers with ample bottles of Codeine, OxyContin, Lortab, and other opiates.
“Most the dealers I went to, they weren’t all ghetto like in the movies.” One was a jovial family man with a lovely, five-bedroom house. Another was a dancer in one of the shows on the Strip. Still another was a clean-cut kid who used drug money to pay for a degree. “People you don’t suspect.”
She met them through her friend Laura, who also secretly suffered from addiction. “I just had a feeling about her, that she’d know who was dealing, where I could get them [the drugs]. And so I asked her.”
Then everything turned for the worst. “My life became all about getting drugs. I’d drop the kids off at school and spend the rest of the day running myself ragged buying pills.”
Using money intended for bills, hawking household items, stealing thousands from her mother’s bank account, even selling her kids’ toys, she managed to cover the cost of her ravenous addiction. At home, she ran a kind of Ponzi scheme to hide her thievery. “I thought I could stay one step ahead, paying off what I stole from one place by stealing from another.”
And for a while it worked. She weaved lie after lie to fool her husband and children. Some DVDs are missing? The kids must’ve misplaced ‘em. The camera is gone? Oh dear, maybe it was stolen. You think I’m too thin? Thanks, I’m trying to lose weight actually. The water has been cut off? C’mon, there must be some mistake.
“I was struggling to cover up the fact that I was living in two worlds,” she says. Until those worlds collided. It happened when her husband casually answered a phone call. A creditor was on the line. They hadn’t been paying their mortgage. They were losing the house.
“That’s the day all hell broke loose,” she says. “My husband went psycho. He went through all my stuff. Discovered everything. He even called some dealers and said, ‘I’m gonna call the cops on you.’”
Crying, she says, “My lies hurt him the most, I think. It really hurt him.”
Utterly devastated, but still committed to his wife, he checked her into rehab at Montevista Hospital.
“I didn’t resist going,” Courtney says. “I was just so tired by that point. You can’t understand how exhausted I was. I knew I couldn’t keep going.”
At the hospital, she spent twenty days undergoing intensive therapy. “It was really good. When I left there, I truly thought: this is it; I’m free.”
She wasn’t. After three successful months of sobriety, by unfortunate coincidence, she ran into her old pal Laura. They met, of all places, during a group therapy at Montevista.
“I was so excited to see her at the meeting,” Courtney remembers. “I hadn’t seen her for months. I thought, ‘She’s getting help like me. She’s clean now.’”
A week later, though, Laura confessed she was still using.
“It killed me,” Courtney says. “I think she thought I’d tell her, ‘Oh my gosh, don’t do it.’ She was looking to me for support. But it did the opposite. I just couldn’t stop thinking about the drugs. I thought, honestly, I thought I could do it just one time.”
Wishful thinking. Courtney quickly restarted her games—lying, robbing, drugging up. During this time, she was working in retail and started stealing from the cash register to pay the dealers. “It was insane. I’m lucky I didn’t go to jail.”
She also stole again from her family. Except, this time, her wised-up husband had been keeping a daily inventory of household items. He spotted her theft right away. Calmly, he told her one morning, “You get help immediately or I’m leaving with the kids.”
Like a lot of addicts, she vociferously denied her drug use, cursed him out for not trusting her, and then went to work. When she returned home that evening, the place was cleared out. The jig was up. Despite losing the house, depleting years of savings, and now running off the family, she was so far gone that she didn’t care. “At first, I felt relief they left. I thought, ‘Great, I can now do what I want.’ Crazy, huh?”
Some time later, when Courtney learned her husband was about to file for divorce and seek custody of the children, the gravity of the situation finally hit her.
“Oh my god, I really didn’t want to lose them. I knew I was screwed up. But I didn’t know where to go. I’d tried everything. I was so alone.”
Her husband, so it turned out, hadn’t moved far. A valiant man, he’d rented a house in the same neighborhood, so he could secretly keep an eye on her. Now exhausted, humiliated, and ashamed, she sought him out and pleaded for help.
Loyal to the end, he welcomed her back. But they weren’t sure how to proceed.
They happened to find an old flier about the Adelson Clinic and, not knowing what else to do, decided to give it a shot. It was their last hope.
“I doubted they could help me,” she admits. “But what choice did I have? I’d hit bottom.”
Everything now depended on the staff in this clinic. Either they’d put her straight or her life would be sacrificed to addiction. Entering its doors, she remembers feeling frightened, like a trembling child joining a new school.
“I worried I’d be surrounded by crazy-looking people. But the place was clean and the staff really, really caring. I saw that they were treating people just like me. There were people coming in wearing business suits and high heels and scrubs.” She felt, “Maybe I can do this.”
And so it was that Courtney began the treatment that would save her life. After undergoing a thorough medical and psychosocial assessment, the Adelson Clinic developed a plan specifically for her needs, and that’s what made all the difference.
“Dr. Adelson does things no one else does,” she says. “You go in there and they have fresh cookies for you from The Venetian and they throw parties for the patients and truly support you every step of the way, making you feel like you still have worth, ya know?”
Throughout the treatment, which she describes as a miracle, she received ongoing assessments, individual counseling, and a carefully administered program of methadone, which thwarted the withdrawal symptoms that were originally so harmful to her. She was on the road to recovery.
Since the establishment of the clinic, Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson have aided addicts (and their families) from all walks of life, taking whatever they can pay. Through medical expertise and round the clock support, Dr. Adelson’s labor of love has saved countless lives in our community.
“If you sincerely want to change,” Courtney insists, “the Adelson Clinic will work.”
Her own life is proof. “They’ve helped me realize—helped me admit to myself—that addiction is a part of me, and it’s something I can never indulge.”
Completely clean of drugs for two years, Courtney is one of the clinic’s many success stories. “I have all the trust back from my family and friends.”
“I didn’t think it’d happen, but it did,” she says. “My life is so good now.”
The Adelson Clinic Staff