Unmasking the Face of Addiction – WWMT3 News Interview

Shelby Wirth as homecoming queen …

Thank you to WWMT3’s Alexis Berdine for this sensitive interview of Sanford Addiction Treatment Centers House Manager Shelby Wirth. At a time when everyone is anxious and worried about the future, it is nice to hear the good news about a heroin recovery success story. And Shelby not only works in the addiction treatment field, but tells her story to help the next person living with or recovering from a substance use disorder. She wants to pass on the message and help other women who are in the same situation that she was in.


It [heroin] crosses all socioeconomic boundaries, racial, cultural divides and when you see a poised young woman who was a heroin addict…that is the face of addiction in our country right now. What we’re doing here, by talking to examples of young people in recovery, is changing the narrative about addiction and people’s perception of addiction.

Rae Green, Sanford Founder & President


Unlikely Heroin User?

The daunting thing about Shelby’s heroin addiction is that she doesn’t fit what might be considered the “typical profile”. Wirth was a straight-A student who grew up in a good, middle-class family. She was the class president, self-described as a shy girl who loved her academic work. But she was sexually assaulted at 15, and it led to unresolved mental health issues that left her vulnerable to addiction.

Drugs and alcohol weren’t present in my childhood. I didn’t really party in high school. I kind of used the vices of co-dependency and perfectionism to deal with it [the assault]. At some point during my teenage years, my life…came crashing down. I had met a guy who introduced me to heroin. So, that’s when I began using. Addiction is cunning, baffling, and powerful. It’s very sneaky. I think at that point, especially with my age, I was naive.

Shelby J. Wirth, House Manager – Sanford House at Cherry Street for Women


Today – Shelby Wirth in the living room Sanford House at Cherry Street for Women


Shelby has been in recovery for more than 3 1/2 years and says, “”I’m so happy. Much happier than I ever was even before I started using.” For the entire interview, and Alexis Berdine’s excellent article on Shelby, please click the link below.




Sanford House at John Street for Men; Sanford House at Cherry Street for Women 616.202.3326

Sanford Behavioral Health is licensed and accredited as an addiction, eating disorder, and co-occurring mental health treatment facility, serving all of Michigan and beyond. Each of Sanford’s facilities in Greater Grand Rapids is carefully and diligently crafted to create a welcoming and comforting environment. Sanford is led by a psychiatrist-led team of medical, clinical, and support personnel providing medication-assisted, evidenced-based treatment to residential, outpatient, and telehealth patients. For more information, visit www.sanfordbehavioralhealth.com.