“Everyone knows that Ocean County has such a big drug epidemic. Every time you go online or on social media you see that someone else has passed away from an overdose. I think it’s unfair though, to talk about the epidemic without talking about recovery. I know it’s a common story that a kid lost their life to drugs. And I know first hand that the epidemic may be big here at the shore, but I also know first hand that the recovery scene is even bigger.
“For every person you hear about that lost their life to drugs, there are more people that are finding their life away from drugs. For example, I know someone who got out of jail and is celebrating 9 months clean. Then there is my best friend, he just celebrated two years clean. Another one of my friends is about to celebrate eleven years clean, and still another friend will be celebrating eight years soon. Seeing so many people in recovery is where I get my gratitude from. Parents are getting their kids back, and children are getting their parents back. Tomorrow is my daughter’s birthday, and she is turning 5. I’m going to be there to give her presents and eat cake with her. These are the stories I want people to talk about more.
“What has been bothering me about the internet is that there is so much debate whether addiction is a disease or a choice, but it really doesn’t matter. The only choice that matters is to choose recovery and a better way of life.
“I was fortunate enough to find the recovery community in Ocean County when I needed it. When I got clean I didn’t have this big ‘rock bottom’ event where I went to jail or lost my kid in custody. I was simply self-centered. I grew up and had all of these insecurities, anxiety and panic attacks. And the only thing that made me feel whole and function and believe in myself was drugs. But the longer I used drugs, the less fun it was. I found people in recovery who spoke the same language as me, and knew where I was coming from, and they believed in me. I wasn’t alone in my addiction anymore.
“I never thought I would lose the anxiety and those panic attacks, and when I stopped using drugs, those anxieties came back full force. But I did all of those uncomfortable things I needed to do to get clean, and I got to know people in recovery, and kept going to meetings. When I was new, people carried the message of hope to me. Now I give it back, and I go into detoxes and rehabs and share that hope with others who are where I used to be. I believe in something greater than myself, whom I choose to call ‘God,’ and I know he is with me all of the time. And that has helped with my anxieties so much.
“In a few weeks, I am coming up on three years clean, and I have so much gratitude. I just want people to know that there is a choice to get help, to get into recovery. And that is the story, all of the people that choose life over drugs. I want people to start shining the light on that more.”