“I never thought that after experiencing the turmoil that I did—not knowing whether I would be alive the next day or not—that I would actually be reversing all of that and helping other people out. 

Growing up was hard struggling with mental health and later addiction. I remember my own suicide attempts with trying to overdose, those were really dark moments. I had friends who have died from overdose as well. Then hearing about other people’s overdose attempts and then those who have accidental overdoses. It was hard explain to a friend that someone that they cared about was going to jail because they were caught with narcotics. I just was done with not being able to do anything about it. 

Right now, I'm doing anything possible to help people who need help. I became a peer specialist and also realized that other opportunities were in the community that I can help with such as Narcan distribution and training, volunteering with the Compass program at  Cortland Prevention and then it grew into other volunteering opportunities that helped little by little by working with the lived experience group, to the RCO meetings, support groups and the opioid task force and working with the CANDLE Coalition with Access to Independence.

I want to get out into the community as much as possible to help as many people as I can tis order to prevent overdose and support people who are struggling to get off substances or if they can’t get off, maybe minimize. It’s their recovery story. It’s up to that individual what they want in life. I’m here to support them. It’s not my place for judgment or stigma. 

There are different recovery stories; there is recovery by complete abstinence there is assisted medication treatments, people can even take little steps to get down to nothing, whatever the recovery story is, so long as it is healthier than it was before, I’m there to support them with their recovery story. 

I want the public to educate themselves and reduce their stigma towards people who struggle with addiction and not to give up on people—we don’t know everyone’s story. There can be just one person that comes out of nowhere and helps to change a person's path. No matter how many struggling people keep coming through that revolving door, we have to help. I would highly recommend peers with lived experience to step into these places and be the person who can stop the revolving door and open up more options to people, get them help. 

I wish more people felt safe enough to talk about what they have experienced through addiction and substance use. A lot of people have a fear of being judged or stigmatized but I want peers to get involved in speaking out, it may be the only way to show the world that there is hope.”