I will share with you how my life has come full circle and that recovery is possible. All stories are different. This is my story.
War takes its toll on many lives, including families, friends and not just the veterans who serve. My father is a Vietnam veteran who served three years in Vietnam. He married my mother and, after I was born, brought us to the United States in 1973. I was not a soldier as it’s usually defined, but I too have fought my own “Vietnam” due to some of the negative experiences I have been confronted with in my life.
I became a deeply hurting person whose pain turned inward and became anger. Layers begin to build and the pain just went deeper. I left home when I was 15 and went to the West Coast. Things transitioned very quickly for me. I started using once-in-awhile, then abusing and, before I knew it, I was developing a dependency.
Along the way, I made mistakes, hurt people and, more than anything, I had a hard time forgiving myself. I was doing things that went against my true values and who I really was. What I was doing was just the symptom of what was really going on underneath.
Eventually a family, who were complete strangers, reached out to me. It only took one person to make a difference in my life, especially being a young person. This is why I so believe in prevention and early intervention. What happened to me, and sometimes happens to other kids, is that I was labeled after making a few mistakes and became the throw-away kid; thus the self-fulfilling prophecy begins!
However, this family told me that everything I went through could be used for a greater purpose. I didn’t know what, how, or when. I just knew they gave me hope. Sometimes a little hope is all you need. That was the turning point in my life and, since then, I have not used drugs for over 17 years.
Don’t get me wrong. It was hard work, especially in the beginning. There were many layers to work through already at a young age. But with the proper support and access to treatment, I was able to come through.
Since then I’ve been instrumental in helping others discover that same possibility. Bytelling my story it not only helped me to heal, but it inspired others on a path to healing and forgiveness. By telling my story, it also gave others hope that recovery is possible and to seek the help that is needed.
Every negative experience I went through in my life is now being used to serve a greater purpose. I have turned negatives into positives by starting my own non-profit organization relating to Vietnam, racial discrimination and drug addiction.
I am grateful everyday for another chance at life and have been active in advocating for people in recovery ever since. Although much progress has been made, I still see shame and stigma attached to people who suffer from addictions. I will continue to be the voice that helps change that. Today, I know I am not my mistakes. My life is significant and has a plan and purpose. We are not here to just work, eat, and sleep. We are here to discover our authentic selves and what our gifts and abilities are that will connect us to our world.