At the intersection of recovery and harm reduction, I find the love, care, and compassion that was so freely given to me

My name is Julia Negron, and I am worth saving. It didn’t always seem so, a throwaway kid born into a family riddled with addictive illness. You could say I had a bit of a hardscrabble childhood. I grew up in foster homes, juvenile hall, orphanages, and institutions.

I’ve also had a colorful adulthood, living the rock and roll life, working in the music industry, and marrying a famous entertainer. In the 60’s, the times “they were a-changing,” – the only thing that never changed for me was my need for drugs.

Back in the 70’s, my life was saved by Naloxone. It may have been twice. I can't be sure because I don't remember - after all, I was in an overdose from IV heroin use. The years went by and I didn't think much about that crossroads moment in my life. Then I lost my mom and sister to drug overdoses and my marriage blew apart because of drugs. Yet I still couldn’t connect the dots in my own life.

I entered treatment for the last time in November of 1985, more than 30 years ago, and have been clean and sober ever since. I think what made the difference was the love, care, and compassion I found in recovering people and those that work with them. I believe in the unconditional positive regard so freely given to me. In the recovery world, I found help and acceptance.

For me working in and for progressive addiction treatment, recovery and advocacy have been my passion and my calling. I’ve had the courage to change the things I can now for all of those 30+ years.

In the 80s I found a career in substance abuse counseling, working in residential addiction treatment for more than 2 decades. Now years later my life is devoted to overdose prevention and harm reduction. I advocate for Harm Reduction strategies to address addictive illness as the public health issue it is. I advocate for changing our punitive drug policies. I advocate for ending stigma and discrimination. I advocate for prison and sentencing reform. For me “every life is worth saving.”

At the intersection of recovery and harm reduction, I find the love, care, and compassion that was so freely given to me.  No stigma, no judgment, just caring for each other.

Now I think all the time about when my life was saved and how recovery has made all the difference. With three children, eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren, I am thankful every day that I was given the gift of watching them all grow, - a blessing, a promise - and I could have missed it all.