I am grateful for my life, my experience, and my story.

Growing up, I never expected my life would be consumed by drugs, and I would be the "junkie, drug addict" among my family and friends.

During my addiction, I wasn't sure if I'd live to see another day, let alone not need a substance in my body.

Now, as a person in long-term recovery, I wouldn't want my life to be any other way.  I am grateful for my life, my experience, and my story.

Today I have a voice.

I was born in Brooklyn, NY into a very loving, close-knit family.  My mom and dad worked hard to provide for myself and my brother, and although we may not have had it all materialistically, my parents worked hard to put myself and my brother into good schools.  I was also fortunate enough to compete in dancing competitions all over the East Coast while my brother traveled with his baseball teams.  My childhood is full of good memories and a lot of love.  I grew up in a two-family house in Staten Island, NY with my grandparents, aunts, and uncle living in the other part of the two-family.  My family always surrounded me and we had many laughs and a lot of fun.  I was raised with respect and morals, and if we acted out, all my mom had to do was just show us the wooden spoon or the soap dish, and we straightened out real quick.

There were always high expectations for me when I was growing up.  I was a really good student who didn't have to study much to do well in school.  My mom would say "imagine what you could do if you studied!"  Halfway through high school, I guess I decided that I could get by without studying and I much rather preferred to spend my time hanging out over studying.  The club scene hit, and I spent my weekends partying.  I maintained my grades just enough to get accepted into the only college I wanted to go to- The Fashion Institute of Technology.  But after just two years there I lost interest and only got my Associate's Degree.  I graduated from the local college with my Bachelor's Degree, but by that point, drugs and alcohol were my main focus. 

I had tried many different drugs through the years and had a love affair with most of them, but when I found opiates, I fell in love hard.  Little did I know at the time, that when I would try to stop taking them, it would be almost impossible.  The first time I went through withdrawal I thought I had the flu, but soon realized it was from not taking the opiates.  I should have spoken up and asked for help then, but I prided myself on having my life "together."  I was a college graduate with a well-paying full-time job, and my bills were getting paid so obviously I was fine.  I didn't have a drug problem.  Drug addicts were only people living on the street, drinking out of brown paper bags and begging for money.  That was not me.  So I stayed quiet.  And my habit got bad.  Real bad.

Not too long after, I lost the job, almost lost the car and had to claim bankruptcy because I couldn't pay my bills.  My full-time job became figuring out ways to support my pill habit, and the girl that was raised with values and morals became a lying, stealing, manipulating monster.  Nothing was off limits when I needed money.  Your wallet, credit cards, jewelry, etc. was taken if I was around and sick and needed to get high just to feel "normal."  My parents and brother were the main victims of my stealing, and I ripped through their money and jewelry, even pawning my mom's engagement ring.  My brother ended up moving out because he couldn't live with having to lock his things up anymore.  

Every morning I was mad that I woke up and had to do it all over again another day.

There were tiny periods of sobriety and many broken promises and way too many "I'm sorry's" to even be believed anymore.  My childhood friends had to separate themselves from me because they couldn't watch me kill myself anymore and I was told later on in my sobriety that my parents had picked out my casket.  But I didn't care because I hated myself and what I had become, so I figured others hated me too.  Every night I prayed to die, and every morning I was mad that I woke up and had to do it all over again another day.

It all came crashing down in 2010 when I got arrested for something serious, and I couldn't scheme or manipulate my way out of it.  I knew this love affair I had with those little blue pills was over and for once I was honestly ready for that.  I went to detox and a 28-day rehab and did everything I was told to do to stay sober with the exceptions of dating someone freshly sober like me.  Within six months of the relationship, we were both using and were more running buddies than in a romantic relationship.  Today, unfortunately only one of us is still breathing due to this disease.  

A stipulation of my legal issue was that I had to stay sober and give negative drug screens.  So now I had two full-time jobs; finding ways to get high and then covering up my using for drug tests.  Well, everything you do in the dark, eventually comes out in the light and after some time I got caught again, and I was sent away.  A failed rehab attempt landed me in jail, and I now thank God every day for putting me there for a little time.  It was after a visit from my parents, who would come visit me, their daughter, in jail on every other Wednesday that I finally surrendered for good to my addiction.  I couldn't watch both my parents cry on those visits anymore, so I decided to work my hardest to remain sober for good.  To fight for my life every day so they don't have to shed any more tears. Or else I was going to end up in a casket.

I was sent to a long-term residential treatment center, and after a year I came back home.  I worked hard at rehab to try to get to know myself and dig deep through all the baggage I had.  I finally learned how to cope with things in my life that I would just numb with drugs and alcohol and to stop playing a victim of life.  I survived a disease that wants me dead on a daily basis, and I learned to appreciate life and all the little things that make me smile.. like fabric softener.  After 15 months away from home, I spent the first night in my bed with my comforter smelling like fabric softener, and it made me genuinely smile.  Life is a work in progress.  Within my 4 1/2 years of sobriety, I have experienced the best day of my life, marrying my best friend and soul mate; as well as the worst day of my life, November 23, 2014, when my best friend, my mother passed away.  I've experienced belly laughs that make me cry from laughing so hard as well as crying so hard that I couldn't breathe.  There are days I wake up so grateful for a new day but also days where I didn't think I could live without my mom.

But through every up and down these last 4 1/2 years, one thing has remained constant- I have remained sober.  When my mom died I honestly had days where not numbing the pain and heartbreak was extremely difficult but what would that do?  Numb the pain for a minute but end up spitting on her grave, the woman who inspired me every day to push forward and never give up?
 Who was my biggest supporter and cheerleader?  So, on those days when I truly want to numb the pain, I remain sober for my mom.  She taught me to speak up and inspire others to find recovery.  She said I had a story that could help others. In her memory I  share my story of addiction and recovery with you.

Today I have A VOICE.