I am a person in long-term recovery from addiction. For me, that means I have not had a drink or a drug in over seven years. I was a good kid from a good family, but addiction does not discriminate. I used drugs from age fourteen until age twenty-eight, resulting in a downward spiral that nearly cost me everything. At the end of the road, I weighed about eighty-five pounds and I was living out of my car. My condition seemed hopeless.
On June 23rd, 2013, something truly remarkable happened to me. I woke up “dope sick,” in desperate need of drugs to stave off opioid withdrawal. I felt cold, sweaty, nauseous, anxious, and ill. My bones felt like glass. I could feel my pulse pounding away in my eyeballs. On any other day, meeting my dealer would have been set in stone. After all, I feared withdrawal more than I feared death. However, on this particular day, completely on impulse, I picked up my phone and called a treatment center.
By some small miracle, there happened to be a bed immediately available for me. However, once I accepted the treatment bed, I ran into another problem – I needed a ride. Desperate for help getting to the treatment center, I called my sweet, loving dad. At first, he was confused. My dad knew that something was wrong with me, but he had no idea what. Due to the crippling stigma and shame associated with intravenous drug use, I could not form the words to tell him the whole truth. I simply told my dad, “You know how I’ve never quite been able to get my life together? That’s what I’m trying to do today.” I was so relieved when he agreed to pick me up.
Once my dad pulled up, he helped me gather some basic necessities and we got on the expressway. I still could not bring myself to tell him where we were going. When we arrived, of course, my dad began to understand what was really going on. I was so emotionally fragile in that moment that, if he had given me so much as a crooked look, I would have bolted and never come back. I could not bear to disappoint my dad, yet I knew that there are few things more disappointing than having a child end up addicted to heroin.
As we got out of the car, my dad hesitantly asked what kind of drugs I had been using. Even at that point, the crushing weight of stigma and shame was so overwhelming that I could not get the words out. I said “bad ones” and started sobbing. My dad simply hugged me and replied, “This is the bravest thing I have ever seen anyone do. Please just do the best you can and we’ll figure the rest out together, okay?” To this day, over seven years later, I still cannot type out those words without tears streaming down my face. If it had not been for my dad’s nonjudgmental love and support in my most fragile moment, I can tell you with 100% certainty that I would not be alive today. I am grateful to report that I have been in recovery since that day.
Ultimately, my substance use disorder changed my life for the better – once I found recovery. In recovery, I discovered that I have a passion for helping others and for building healthier communities. I have served as an outreach worker alongside law enforcement, helping community members who struggle with addiction. I have also been the program manager for a recovery community organization that advocates for people with addiction on local, state, and federal levels. We held numerous annual community education and stigma reduction events. I have shared my story with law enforcement agencies, medical providers, social workers, students, local media, and many others, to show the importance of supporting our recovery community.
Our entire society benefits when recovery resources are prevalent. A law degree will give me a tremendous array of skills to continue serving our community. One day, I hope to use my degree to bring solutions within the judicial system (such as in specialty courts, policy advocacy, etc.) to those who are affected by addiction and, in turn, help save lives. With your help, I can achieve my goals. Thank you for your consideration.