I am a lifelong resident of Charlestown, Massachusetts. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I grew up in Charlestown, became addicted to drugs in Charlestown, and now live a life of recovery there.
A couple of months ago, I celebrated ten years of sobriety.
I took my first drink at the age of twelve, and I didn’t stop drinking and drugging until I was 25. My father was an alcoholic and addict; while my mother was a saint. I lost her six years ago to cancer.
When I drank, I felt like the person I wanted to be instead of empty and worthless. I continued to run from those feelings, thinking drugs would take them away. Very quickly my drug use progressed from marijuana to Klonopin, acid, and cocaine.
I would use anything I could get my hands on.
I started using OxyContin just before I got pregnant at age 19. After my daughter was born, I got into heroin because it was cheaper, and my tolerance was high. I never really thought I was addicted. I thought if I just sniffed it and didn’t shoot it I wouldn’t “catch a habit,” but that’s not how it works. Eventually, my mother called the Department of Social Services and got temporary guardianship of my daughter.
I was getting dope sick all the time, and going to the emergency room constantly. I was in and out of detoxes and programs. I lost my apartment because I didn’t pay the rent, ended up in a shelter, and spent time in jail. Finally, my probation officer had me stipulated to a residential treatment program for nine months. I had just turned 25. My plan was to spend 30 days there, get a pat on the back, and get out.
At first what got me through was spite, but then I turned into determination. So many of my friends had died from drug overdoses, I had almost become immune to it. I had overdosed multiple times, and was lucky to still be alive. During this time, I thought a lot about my daughter Laneigh who was five. Someone asked me if I would die for my daughter and I said, “Of course.”
“Then why don’t you live for her,” they replied, and that struck me. So, I voluntarily spent 14 months at the program even though I could have left after nine. I wanted to stay until the counselors there said I was ready to “graduate”.
It was the hardest thing I ever did.
After treatment, I went to UMass Boston and became a certified substance abuse counselor. Today I have a home and am raising my two daughters on my own. I had my second daughter Oliviah in recovery. All I ever wanted to be was a good mother, and today I can confidently say, “I am a good mother!’ Almost two years ago I passed the exam and received my LSWA (Licensed Social Worker Assistant). My goal is to go back to school, get my Masters in Social Work, and start a program for women.
In 2006, I attended a Charlestown Substance Abuse Coalition meeting and began working for the coalition shortly after. In 2009, I became their first community health worker and a Mass General Hospital employee. This position was created out of the State Department of Public Health’s MassCall 2 Initiative; whose goal is to prevent and reduce opioid overdoses.
This new, and I consider perfect position for me, was created as a strategy to address the high rate of fatal and non-fatal overdoses from opiates among Charlestown residents. The idea is that the Community Health Worker reaches out to opiate addicted individuals, and their families, and helps them successfully navigate the treatment and recovery systems. This includes staying in the treatment care system, and helping folks connect to medical, mental health, and recovery communities to get all of their needs met.
I guess it’s true that as things come around they go around. Sometimes I sit in court, as an advocate and treatment coordinator for the fairly new Drug Court in the Charlestown Division, and wonder how I got here. Across the court room sits the same probation officer who saved my life by mandating me to treatment. He now calls me a colleague. When I stop to reflect, I realize that I am now in the most meaningful position I think I could hold. I am giving back and helping all those in my community.
I know without God I am nothing, but with Him I can be a CHAMPION. He brings out the best in me!!!