I am a part of the millennial generation that often gets a bad rep. Life was easy for me growing up. I had two parents that were together and worked hard to provide everything I needed and made sure I never went without. I made friends easy, fit in with my peers, but was uneducated on the illness of addiction. Both in and out of school, the depiction of a drug addict or an alcoholic was painted to me as someone who drank from a paper bag, used needles, smoked marijuana, was homeless and/or didn’t excel in school. For myself and many others, a drug addict was not supposed to be the aspiring athlete from the suburbs, the kid who got straight A’s, or the person from a nice family with no past trauma.

Oxycontin hit the streets and our grandparents medicine cabinets, which was and still is easily accessed by the younger generations. At the time, we had no ideas on the dangers of these pills, there was no real warnings from distributors, and they came from professional doctors who we trusted and not the drug dealer on the corner. It took me a long time and a lot of heartache on my family for me to come to terms and identify myself as an addict. On the outside I did not fit the “picture” of someone who goes to rehab, or detox, or someone who threw away every opportunity in life just to get my next “fix.” Purdue Pharma created a generation of zombies. Families are being torn apart and financial insecurities of our elders are growing because both death rates and overdoses have skyrocketed while Purdue Pharma continues to make millions and families are left the financial burdens of addiction. With recent lawsuits, Purdue Pharma will hopefully soon be penalized for marketing substances they knew were addictive.

My mission in life is to be a voice of recovery for my generation and make positive changes in the way people view addiction. Addiction is an illness and it should be known that it is not a personal choice. It is important for us to openly discuss addiction and to recognize that it does not discriminate. Addiction is in all of our neighbors, in most of our families, and comes in all different shapes and sizes. I strive to be a guiding light to everyone I encounter and hope to show them that they too can have a life substance free and can go on to help the next person suffering. You don’t have to struggle anymore, please reach out if you or someone you know is struggling with substance use disorder