Dana | Denver, CO

“I think when people meet me now, they’d never guess some of the things I’ve been through.”

I started using heroin recreationally in high school. It didn’t scare me; it seemed like another white powder that you snort. My family was unaware that I was using until my first overdose. They were shocked, but very supportive and put me through treatment. When that didn’t take, they had me live with them. Nothing they tried seemed to work, and it got to the point where they felt like they were out of options. I left and started living on the streets of Chicago. I did that for two years before getting treatment. I ended up relapsing. Shortly after that, I was driving high on Xanax and heroin, and killed someone in a car accident. I served five years in an Illinois prison.

In jail, there wasn’t much for someone who really wanted recovery. I didn’t want to leave the same person as when I went in, so I took it upon myself to find a way to cope without medication. I used physical fitness, meditation and a 12-step program to shift my focus and surround myself with a positive support system in prison. When I got out, my family saw the change in me. It took a lot of time to rebuild that trust and see that I was serious about it. I think when people meet me now, they’d never guess some of the things I’ve been through. But for those who are struggling, l can share my experience and show how those stigmas can be crushed. I’m a mom, I have a master’s degree, and I’m the director of a non-profit. Those are things that I never thought were possible for me.