This story contains descriptions of suicidal ideation and drug use.
Army veteran Becca Stephens credits love with helping her to fight her opiate addiction.
That life-saving love comes from Stephens’ girlfriend and her K9s For Warriors service dog, Bobbi.
“[Bobbi} has just been such a lifesaver for me,” Stepehens said.
Stephens joined the Army when she was 22. During her four years of service, she served in Korea, Washington State and a 12-month tour in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
When Stephens returned from her deployment, she opted not to reenlist.
“I had a lot of great experiences, but Iraq really took the wind out of my sails,” she said.
Within six months, Stephens found herself in Iraq, out of Iraq and then out of the military.
“It was kind of like a whirlwind for me,” she said.
Stephens said she began dealing with depression, mood swings, anxiety and anger.
“I felt like so many people are serving, out there actively fighting wars,” she said. ”Coming home, we almost feel forgotten and pushed to the side, especially when we start developing mental health disorders.”
Stephens began experiencing suicidal ideations.
“I started abusing the VA-prescribed medications that lead to something stronger,” she said.
Within a year, Stephens said she was a full-blown heroin addict and “complete junkie.”
“I say my relationship with opiates was on again, off again for seven years,” she said. ”But, even when I wasn’t using, I was always thinking about using. My mission became my addiction.”
Stephens said it wasn’t so much that she wanted to die, she had just didn’t know how to live anymore.
“Eventually I found my partner now, She’s been absolutely amazing to me,” she continued. “She pushed me to really do the hard work to figure out how I can push on with my life.”
That love and support led Stephens to enter rehab for a second time.
“During this time, I say that two things saved my life,” she said. “One was my girlfriend and one was my application to K9s For Warriors.”
Stephens entered rehab at the end of June of 2018 and was paired with Bobbi in August of that same year.
“I was sober for maybe two months when I got her,” she said.
Initially, Bobbi wanted nothing to do with Stephans. The lab was a little over a year old and had gone from her breeder to the family that raised her as a puppy. After graduating from the K9s for Warriors training program, Bobbi was paired with another veteran, but that didn’t work out.
That’s when Stephens and Bobbi were paired.
“She was probably like, you’re going to give up on me like everyone else," Stephens said. “That really motivated me. I refused to not let this dog let me cuddle her. We relearned how to live together.”
Stephens called the bond she and Bobbi now share unbreakable.
“It’s incredible the amount of work I have to put into myself just to have her approval,” she said with a laugh.
Stephens and Bobbi live in Florida, near her parents. They now take daily walks in a park near their homes and Stephens credits Bobbi with healing her relationship with her parents.
“My parents and I also have a couple of really good friends that would have never happened if we hadn’t started walking the park,” she said.
K9s for Warriors recently celebrated its 10th anniversary with the release of a new logo. To apply for a K9s For Warriors service dog, visit here.
Reach Julia LeDoux at Julia@connectingvets.com.
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