Today, I turn 37. It’s the third birthday I’ve celebrated in recovery, and I’m so grateful to be able to share it with the amazing community I’ve found.
You guys are the best gift I could possibly ask for. When I reached out for help, you were there. When I shared my worries and concerns, you told me to keep going. When I made mistakes, you reminded me that that’s how we learn. You opened your hearts and shared your stories: about your kids, your recovery, and your communities. Every day, I get hundreds of messages from people all over America who inspire me and give me faith in what we’re doing together.
Together. That’s such a powerful word to me now. When I was at the end of my active heroin use three years ago, I was so isolated. Alone. Anyone who’s been there knows the pain and loneliness of addiction. My whole body hurt. I was sick. I was tired. I was convinced that nobody cared what happened to me anymore, and that my life had no value. I felt like a huge disappointment. When I found my recovery community, I found my purpose.
Thanks to people like you, I made it to 37. I’m not a disappointment. I’m not alone anymore. I’ve made it my mission to share my story and the stories of people like you – the ones who loved and supported me while I found my feet in long term recovery. I’m profoundly grateful that I don’t have to do this alone. I couldn’t do any of it by myself. This is our path, all of us, regardless of our political beliefs, faith, race, creed, color, gender, or zip code. Addiction affects all of us. Thankfully, recovery does too.
If you’d like to do something small and simple to help support recovery efforts nationwide, I have a couple suggestions. Remember that we are not just one or two or even a hundred: there are millions of people across our country who are living in recovery, and millions more who love and care for them.
Share your story on social media. Don’t be ashamed, and don’t hold back. Your experience can inspire another person to talk about substance use disorder. It can also help change people’s assumptions about addiction, or even help someone speak up about their struggle. I share stories about recovery almost daily on my website at Voices Project as well.
Donate to a recovery organization. I’ve seen firsthand how much nonprofits like Facing Addiction, My House, and many others benefit the recovery community. Their budgets go a long way to help people find stability in recovery, including peer to peer support, housing, mentors, employment, counseling, and advocacy.
Make your voice heard. Write to your local newspaper about the drug epidemic. Call your elected officials and ask what they’re doing to end this health crisis. Heck, call the White House while you’re at it! This takes two minutes but makes a huge impact on new policies that affect people with substance use disorder.
Sign a petition. Add your name to this letter from Facing Addiction to President Trump, calling for support for addiction solutions. We need to lift up this cause and make sure that addiction and recovery are priorities for this administration.
These are small acts that lead to big, positive changes. If we all do just one thing, we can shift the course of history. We can see that justice is done, and that people like us are treated fairly and humanely. We can accomplish so much together – more than we ever could alone.
It’s good to get older. Not every person with substance use disorder gets that. I know that I’ve been blessed with another chance at life, and I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.
Thank you, for this year. I know that the next one will be even more incredible.