My name is Aleksa, and I am beyond grateful to have another chance at life. With my family’s help, who refused to let me die, I was able to find my way to long-term recovery on July 19, 2015. The disease of addiction is fatal — 200 people die from it every day, and I was almost one of those statistics. Many people are too ashamed to ask for help and feel so much guilt about having the disease that they hide and suffer in silence. That was me.
I am an amazing girl, but addiction had me in its claws. I lost all hope and thought I would be one of those who would not recover. Today, I do anything and everything to help others and give them a glimmer of hope, because if I did it, anyone can.
I became open about my recovery after attending “Recovery Fest 2018”. Over 10,000 people attended that magical evening. Seeing so many individuals celebrating life, who was in the same dark place as me, changed me. I finally realized I was never a bad person; I was a sick person. The disease of addiction doesn’t discriminate. It became clear to me that many people in our communities are impacted, struggling alone, and afraid to ask for help. That was the day I was no longer a victim. I became a SURVIVOR.
It was also during that time that I read Ryan Hampton’s book, “American Fix: Inside the Opioid Addiction Crisis – and How to End It.” On the first page, Ryan describes the massiveness of the opioid crisis in the United States. He shares, “It’s so big that words fail to describe it. Imagine that, every 3 weeks, 9/11 happens again. That’s how many people are dying due to opioids in this country. Or imagine that a full jetliner crashes every three days: every man, woman, and child on board is erased. Dead. Gone.” Ryan closes with a chapter called “Rise Up – Either America Changes, or We Change America,” encouraging everyone to act. That was my queue. Both “Recovery Fest 2018” and “American Fix” gave me the courage to get involved with local and national organizations. I met hundreds of incredible recovery advocates and decided to become one myself.
I came across this quote from Johann Hari, and realized, this was the keystone of my recovery: “The Opposite of Addiction Is Not Sobriety – It Is Human Connection.” Individuals in early recovery often experience intense substance cravings due to imprinted memories of use and changes to the brain’s reward system. From my experience, I know that social gatherings full of laughter and human connections are very healing — emotionally and physically. I encourage every individual to include family, community, and friends in their recovery journey, allowing them to enjoy a substance-free life with their loved ones.
I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to share my story. I am open about my recovery because I want others to know that it is okay to speak up and not be ashamed of what they might be going through. Please know, you are not alone.