The recovery landscape is riddled with stories of horror, despair, perseverance and hope; and Nicole Walmsley’s story contains all of these in that order. Our new Outreach Manager and the latest addition to the Recovery Unplugged family, Nicole is, at once, a cautionary tale of the perils, pitfalls and indignities of substance abuse and a walking embodiment of the power of recovery. In her position with Recovery Unplugged, Nicole brings considerable perspective, insight, intuition and passion.
Nicole joined the RU family this past December. Her primary role is to connect Recovery Unplugged with law enforcement agencies to give those suffering from substance use disorder an accessible bridge to recovery. Through her work with the Police Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative, or PAARI, she has helped guide numerous SUD victims toward treatment and away from incarceration, a resource from which she could have certainly benefitted during her days of active heroin use. Nicole was on house arrest pending trial when she overdosed. She turned herself in to her parole officer the next day, knowing that she might be facing two years in prison: “I was so desperate that spending two years in prison sounded better than spending one more day using heroin. Fortunately, I was sentenced to a correctional rehabilitation program.”
Over her seven years of active heroin abuse, and 18 separate trips to county jail, Nicole spent nearly 500 days in lock-up. She has since used her experience in the criminal justice system to create something positive and useful for those still battling addiction. “I wanted to be able to provide them with the options for getting treatment versus committing crimes and getting in the system.” After finally overcoming heroin addiction in 2013, and growing increasingly frustrated with how hard it was for other addicts to get help, she began working with PAARI, trying to convince Ohio police departments to partner with the Massachusetts-based program. During her first year with the organization, she signed up 30 precincts that have since placed hundreds of addicts into treatment as a result of her efforts.
Nicole has parlayed her experience in recovery and her work with PAARI into a successful and meaningful career in the addiction care field, giving numerous talks and interviews on her own experiences and her subsequent work. Since embarking on her mission of helping addicts find treatment, she has been profiled by various Ohio media affiliates and has become a sought-after speaker in the recovery community. Her love of music, and the role it played in her own life, is one of the main factors that brought her to Recovery Unplugged: “Music is such a huge part of my life and my recovery. It’s one of the reasons I haven’t picked [heroin] back up yet. I didn’t even know this program existed a few years ago, but it could be so crucial to so many addicts getting clean.”
Recovery Unplugged is honored and grateful to welcome Nicole to our family. We look forward to benefitting from her experience, knowledge, passion and drive.