Addiction detox is usually the first port of call for those who want to overcome an addiction to drugs or alcohol. This process is necessary for those who have been abusing chemical substances for a long time and have developed a physical dependence.

While an addiction detox is something that most people assume they would never need, Michelle McKay knows that drug addiction can happen to absolutely anyone, and that addiction detox is just the first step on the road to recovery.

Functioning Addict

Michelle struggled with a devastating addiction to heroin for many years, but nobody on the outside would have guessed. She admits that she was a high-functioning addict who would inject heroin into her groin before starting her shift as a nurse.

Michelle said that addiction is an illness that can affect anyone, and despite the fact that she did not look like the stereotypical ‘junkie’, inside she was struggling to cope. She said, “Addiction is
indiscriminate, it can hit anyone, from any background.”

Michelle is now taking part in a short film in a bid to crush the stereotyping of addicts and addiction. The short film features a number of recovering addicts, and it is hoped it will help those struggling with this illness to see that it is possible to recover and come out the other side of addiction.

Most people have an opinion of what an addict should look like, but the reality is often completely different. The fact that nine out of ten addicts manage to hold down a job may come as a surprise to those who believe that all addicts live on the streets and are estranged from their families.

Addictive Personality

At the height of her addiction, Michelle was injecting heroin up to twenty times a day. She was first introduced to drugs at the age of twelve when she took ecstasy and speed. She had been dealing with the trauma of being both mentally and physically abused by an older girl, without her parents’ knowledge.

She became pregnant at sixteen, and although she did try to stay away from drugs, her addiction pulled her back for more. Michelle believes that she had a compulsive personality and was predisposed to addiction. She tried heroin at the age of nineteen but thought she was smoking a cannabis joint. She said, “I really liked it. I thought, ‘Where has this been all my life?’”

The next time she tried heroin, she was twenty-two and had qualified as a nurse the previous year. However, this time, she injected the drug but managed to keep her use under control. She said, “I always looked down my nose at ‘junkies’. I was scared I would become one of them, but I also loved drugs.”

Traumatic Experience

Michelle married and settled down to family life while still occasionally using drugs in secret. She said that she would tell her husband every few months that she was going away for a spa weekend. However, she was actually spending the weekend in a drug den using heroin and cocaine, adding, “To the average Joe Bloggs, I was the nurse and family woman with the nice house and the white picket fence. To others, I was the woman shooting heroin and crack.”

When Michelle was thirty she became pregnant with twin boys, but she sadly lost them four months into her pregnancy. This traumatic event was enough to send her hurtling towards a devastating heroin addiction. She admits that she took heroin as soon as she left the hospital in a bid to deal with the overwhelming grief, and then continued to take it every day for the next four years.

She managed to hide her addiction but said she needed it to help her get through the day. Injecting it into her groin helped to hide the evidence, and she would top up with morphine during her shift. She said, “No one would have believed I was a heroin addict.”

A Secret Exposed

Her bosses eventually discovered that she had been stealing morphine from work, but when they took her aside and offered her help, she denied everything and resigned. She began shoplifting to fund her habit, and it was only when she saw a television programme about addiction that she realised she had a problem, promptly signing up for rehab. Nevertheless, twenty-four hours later she left, leaving her family devastated.

Her parents paid for her to attend an addiction detox and rehabilitation programme in London, but after three months there, she was released and immediately returned to heroin. She left the family home and returned to London, where she stayed in a ‘smack den’. However, she said that she did not feel safe and started sleeping in a bin shed instead.

When Michelle was just thirty-two years old, her organs began to fail, and she was rushed to hospital. Her father stepped in and offered to pay for one more addiction detox and rehabilitation programme. Thankfully, this was a success, and she has been clean from drugs for the past eight years.

Incredible Struggle

Michelle is proof that anyone can beat addiction, but she admits it was a struggle. She said, “At first, my mental health was shattered. Even clean, I was broken. I had to learn who I really was, from what I liked to wear to what I wanted to eat. But this time, I wanted it. I was dying and wouldn’t have survived if I carried on using.”

She has completed a master’s degree and is nursing once more. She is also in a new relationship. She is hoping to open her own rehabilitation centre because she believes there are not enough addiction detox and rehabilitation beds for those who need them.


  1. Nurse who battled drugs addiction tells her story in a new film to raise awareness (The Daily Record)