“I have a thirty-year story about substance and alcohol use. I have been completely sober for almost three years now and it is still a daily struggle. In my active addiction and active alcohol use I was a horrible person and I wasn’t the best mom—my kids missed out on a lot of parts of me that I should've been giving to them. 

When I was young I grew up inside of a bar room with my parents who would drink every day. There was no affection shown in my household, there were no hugs and kisses from my parents, no ‘I love you’. By the time that I was 13 years old, I was keeping a bottle of gin in my school locker and drank all throughout the day because that's what I saw growing up—my parents never dealt with their issues, they just drank. I was so depressed and so alone that I eventually turned to doing drugs. I lost my first friend to an overdose when I was sixteen years old, I watched him use heroin day-in and day-out and I had always said that I would never do that, I would never stick a needle in my arm, but then years later—after experiencing a lot of domestic violence and trying to take my own life, which resulted in my children being removed from my care—I turned to using a lot of drugs. I struggled with that for about three years on and off but one day it clicked that I had to get myself together and turn my life around. I had to start my life back over from absolutely nothing—I had lost everything.

I realized that I didn't want to be in the situation anymore, I don't wanna be stuck in bed feeling sick anymore and chasing a high—which wasn't even a high anymore, it was so I wouldn't get sick. I missed my kids, I missed having a life and was tired of feeling so empty every single day. I had gotten arrested and then I missed a court date, so I was arrested on a warrant, and I spent three weeks in jail. I was ordered to do probation, but even before that I had tried reaching out for help on my own, and it just didn't go well.

While on probation, I was buying Suboxone off the street to try to keep me from doing drugs which then got me in trouble with with my probation officer. I was trying to do the right thing, but because I had a dirty screen for Suboxone, I violated my probation. I was then connected with a peer, and after listening to her story and hearing about how she changed her life around, I was inspired. I had never known what a peer was. 

I was losing too many friends to overdose and watching so many others struggle to get sober only to relapse again. I understood what that was like. I figured that if somebody could help me get through it, that I could help others too, that’s what made me want to do the work that I do now at the Wishing Wellness Center. We go along with people and advocate for their services. We find that employees from other organizations are more apt to listen when we accompany people to their appointments. We also help people build life skills because a lot of individuals don't know how to plan or pay their bills or organize their home or schedule appointments. We also offer social engagement where people can just come in and talk with one another, have a cup of coffee and play a game. That's just a little bit of what we do but it's all about peer to peer counseling, it is an incredibly valued and used resource here in Cortland.

Now my life is all about holding myself accountable and getting myself out there and showing the world that I am a better person and that I can help others make it through their tough experiences. I have a great job and I have a great relationship with my children, we have rekindled such an amazing relationship, my oldest wouldn't even talk to me for the longest time and now she's my best friend. We have a stable home and I was just able to purchase a new vehicle, which is huge because I went a few years without a license, but I paid off all of my fines and put all of the legal stuff behind me. Now life is pretty good compared to where I was. I was a homeless drug addict without my kids, without a job, without a dollar to my name—coming back from that is pretty amazing to me."