The backstory is simple, though may seem complicated to those unfamiliar with addiction. I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware and went through some trauma around the age of 14. By the time I was 16, I had already developed depression, a substance use disorder, and was entertaining suicidal thoughts. At 18 years old and as a senior in high school, I knew that was the year I would die. That's the first of many miracles that recovery has given to me: a second chance at life.
I can't recall many other groups of people who are given the opportunity to live two lives in one lifetime. When I began my recovery later in my senior year, that premise was one of the only common characteristics I could identify between others in recovery and myself. For some reason that I cannot adequately describe, I've been able to stay clean since those dark times and now have the opportunity to live a life that has far surpassed my dreams.
April 10th, 2011 is a date that will be permanently etched into my own personal history book. Not having to use drugs or alcohol in nearly 4 ½ years has enabled me to experience some incredible opportunities. Those opportunities have brought me around the world, but the best experiences have been the ones that bring me closer to home. As important as April 10th is for my family and I, the date that will soon become etched in the national history books will be October 4th, 2015 as we Unite to Face Addiction.
"Picture tens of thousands of people standing shoulder to shoulder on the National Mall. People in recovery from addiction, with their loved ones, families of loss, members of law enforcement, the faith community, educators, laborers, business people and college students, indeed, people of every color and orientation".
This is the experience, the opportunity, and the moment that every young person in recovery should be anxiously anticipating. Recovery from substance use disorders has been incredibly stigmatized, especially in colleges and universities where an atmosphere of partying, drinking, and substance use is the norm. The way we begin to change this culture is through changing public perception. Young people have been at the forefront of every social movement, why stop now?
I'll be able to share my story and these experiences on a White House recovery panel this Thursday, September 17th from 7:00PM-8:00PM EST, streamed on www.whitehouse.gov/live and here on The Huffington Post. I encourage you all to tune in and spread the word that recovery works, no matter how young or old you are.
As we prepare to rewrite history on October 4th, please help the cause by spreading the word to your friends, family, and community members. Regardless of what your connection is to the recovery movement, I sincerely hope you will be able to join myself and thousands of others as we stand together on the National Mall in just a couple of weeks. Please connect with Unite to Face Addiction online via Facebook, Twitter, and their website.
See you on October 4th.