"I am not ashamed of who I was, I am proud of who I am."

I am sharing this not for me, but for those that fight every day against judgment and ignorance; for those that are making changes, those that need the strength to make the change. For our silence has killed and continues to kill every day. I am a human being, who has made many mistakes, and at different times has made wrong choices. I am a person who has been in a very dark place mentally multiple times. I self-medicated, I numbed up and tuned out.

I chose to binge drink. We drank our parent’s liquor and replaced it with water, we had the flask at the Friday night football games, keg parties hidden, lots of underage drinking, smoking pot and speed pills. My theory was work hard, love hard, so I can play hard. Add Xanax to the mix and I could go all night. I loved my Mother’s little helper called Xanax; it got to the point I would not face a day without one. In high school, I was addicted to diet pills because I was told on a daily basis I was fat, Bertha butt etc. Opinions of others are so important, especially to young people. We give the power to our peers and loved ones by not being our authentic self. I snorted ADHD drugs to see what the big deal was; I understand and understood, it was a quick feel good. I snorted Percocets to see how good they can rid me of the pain; it did. However; it also added to the pain 10-fold once I came off of it.

I left my home at the age of 17. I entered a world I was not accustomed too but liked the freedom. I went from diet pills, to crystal meth. It burned like hell, could not understand why so many liked to snort that, so I would eat it.  I did not like the crawling of bugs in my hair feeling, the twitching of my jaws, and the bags under my eyes. Thank God I was able to just stop and walk away. However, this did go on for a few years off and on. I used the excuse I needed it for working nights.

Myself and my family have all suffered because of me going out on the weekends, going to the bars, and checking out. Dancing all night long was my true drug of choice. Zone out to the music and life; my happy place if you will. All I needed was a bottle of water and a shot once in a while.

Bartending was my demise, this I know for a fact, bartending for more than 20 years. I became my customers; I would stay for a “quick” drink to socialize, or spite my husband, and later down the road it was because I was in so much pain I could hardly walk out that door.  Thank God every day for the power to walk away from that as well. I did not drink every day, sometimes weeks, but when I did, it was usually all or nothing. Girls just want to have fun, as the saying goes.

I am the granddaughter, daughter, sister, niece, cousin, and friend who has watched and drowned in addiction all my life. From gambling to drinking, pills, food, sex and Heroin.   I am the child who did not live with her biological parents.  I am the girl who was sexually abused as a teen; that because of one of these incidents became pregnant and had an abortion. And I died a little inside because of this and kept dying every day.   I am the kid who was bullied in school because I had a different last name than my grandparents.  I am the human who had endured physical and mostly mental abuse on a daily basis.  I am the friend who watched my best friend suffer every day with her addiction to end up dying in a bathroom. I am the aunt who lost a beautiful soul due to the fact they had to joy ride and let someone who did not have a license drive, to go and get high. I am the individual who thought why bother, it is all a mess any ways, everyone leaves anyway. I am a cousin who mourned the loss of her cousin because he could not accept the fact that his cancer was back, so he overdosed in a parking lot.  I am the daughter who never knew her father, he walked away. I am the child that saw alcohol as fun; it was at every family event and holiday, even my church used it and called it Christ’s blood. I am a sister who lost two brothers due to the life of drugs and addiction. I am the wife to a wonderful and caring, hardworking, and funny man who struggles every day with his demons and pain. I am the mother who has lost a baby, in my hands, his name is Christopher. I am the mother who almost lost her other son to this evilness of addiction and opioids/heroin. He will know as all your loved ones will and should know that shame and stigma must and will change.  I am a cancer survivor in remission for 10 months.

This is why I am sharing my story. The grace of my higher power, a phone call and will; I got up and put my big girl panties on and dug my heels in. 8 years later, I am stronger and still going strong with thousands of advocate warriors, over 90,000 in The Addict’s Mom alone, in which I am a Northeast Regional Administer, as well as Community Outreach for “Not One More” in Wyoming County, and I run a helpline 24/7 out of my home for Endless Mountains Addiction Awareness Committee. I have my facilitator’s certification and working on my recovery coach certification. I am a product of my life and lessons.

I am heartbroken and upset at how many lives we are losing.  Where is humanity and empathy? When did the world become so hateful and cruel that we can ignore the ill, the mentally challenged, the abused children? The days of being seen and not heard are over. I am an advocate and a fighter, and, most of all, a survivor; I fight for all. Even those that doubt, I will be there for them and their loved ones, no judging. I advocate for those in active, in recovery, the families that have been touched, for those of mental illness. I am whole now, sharing without shame. My life is an open book, any questions please ask. I am not ashamed of who I was, I am proud of who I am. “It Takes a Village of Voices to be Heard.” This is my story, raw and all.

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