Ever since I was a child, I have wanted to be a helper. I helped my mother with my little sisters, I cheered
my friends up when they were sad by making them laugh, and I went to great lengths to please people,
or in my young mind, ‘help’ the situation. Often, those efforts went against my beliefs or desires and
began to blur my sense of identity. My adolescence was full of situations where I played along out of
fear or worry of making someone upset, whether it was my parents, friends, or boyfriends. It was almost
like I had no voice or say in what truly mattered for me.
My silence played a role in creating a façade. If I was smiling and happy, everything must be ok. Even
after traumatic experiences in childhood due to family dynamics, I smiled and carried on with no outlet
or safe place to share what I was truly feeling. With little coping tools, I found solace in substances as
they provided a cozy space for me to stop feeling or thinking. My head was quiet in those moments, and
it felt good, until it didn’t.
I grew up in New Haven, CT and went to a local all-girl Catholic high school. What started off as
innocent, after-school sessions smoking marijuana with my friends, quickly spiraled into a daily necessity
by the time I was 18 years old. My freshman year at Quinnipiac University was supposed to be filled with
making new friends, trying new things, exploring my identity! Instead, it was comprised of lying,
manipulation, and isolation. Nobody bothered me much as I managed to maintain a high GPA and kept a
smile on my face. But once again, I found myself alone in my head not knowing who I was or what to do
without drugs or alcohol. I was lost. I was the one who needed help.
And so, this began my long voyage towards recovery. I was in and out of detox, rehabilitation centers,
and institutions. Sometimes I went willingly, other times it was mandated by a judicial branch. I wasn’t
going to Miami Beach on spring break. Rather, my addiction took me to places like prisons and jail cells.
Not quite as lush. By the grace of my Higher Power, I made it through all these situations with a heart
that was still beating. I was still existing but not truly living.
I was 31 years old and tired. Tired of scheming, tired of crying, tired of using drugs and alcohol against
my will. I entered what is now my last treatment center in Danbury, CT. While there, they had people
like me come in and share their stories of experience, strength, and hope. I wanted what they had. And
it finally clicked. I stopped trying to do things my way (it wasn’t working, clearly) and listened to others; I
accepted the help.
The relationships I formed there led me to my first job in a substance use residential facility which I am
forever grateful for as the power of helping another person struggling with substance use is unparallel. I
got involved in the sober community and started taking care of all the parts of me I neglected for so
long. I began to find my voice, my identity, my purpose.
Today, I have a career in the substance use and mental health field. I am in graduate school to become a
Marriage and Family therapist with a primary focus of helping families that struggle with substance use. I
have a beautiful relationship with my daughter who has a safe space to share all her fears, worries, and
anxieties about the world. And my family and friends that can depend on me to show up authentically.
Most importantly, I have a genuine relationship with myself. I can hold boundaries, communicate my
feelings, find solutions, and in turn, help others. Just like I wanted to when I was a little girl.