Profiles in Recovery

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Curtis Oliver

Oliver’s bucket list includes a goal to swim in every major body of water on Earth. He’s already conquered the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and the Gulf of Mexico. And he hopes to help others find joy – by taking 25 children to see college and pro sporting events, and by creating recovery support services that empower people in his home state to better their lives.Now in his 27th year of recovery, Oliver is on a path to fulfill lifelong personal quests. He’s come a long way from battling addictions that once left him 40 pounds underweight, homeless, jobless, broke and divorced.Today, Oliver is a leader in Mississippi’s recovery community. And he continues his own journey, still attending 12-step meetings after nearly three decades of being clean.

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Danielle Christensen

Homeless as a young adult in Long Beach, California, Danielle Christensen knew the deep descent of addiction. She was using drugs “every moment of every day, and always looking for ways and means to get more.” In and out of jails, Christensen was severely depressed and malnourished.What gave her a radical new life was intensive, court-ordered treatment.“I was given the opportunity to change my life, and with lots of help, I became somebody I could finally love for the first time in my life,” Christensen says.Today, she celebrates nearly four years of recovery and helps others rebuild their lives after addiction. Christensen is a case manager and peer specialist for the nonprofit Curran Seeley Foundation in Jackson, Wyoming.

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Donald McDonald

McDonald is part of “The Hope Squad” – a new approach that police in Raleigh, North Carolina are using to help survivors of drug overdose. Days after reviving someone, a police officer and two recovery experts – which often include McDonald – visit the survivor to provide support, empower recovery, and share information on overdose prevention.McDonald knows firsthand how recovery can change a life. After struggling with addictions since his youth, McDonald found long-term recovery in 2004, when his four children were little. Sobriety inspired a desire to help others recover, and a master’s degree in social work.Today McDonald is a leader in North Carolina’s recovery movement, and trains recovery coaches statewide. He serves as Director of Advocacy and Education for the nonprofit Recovery Communities of North Carolina, promoting addiction recovery, wellness and citizenship.“My proudest moments are when my wife and children tell me that they are proud of me,” McDonald says. “If I am a good man through their eyes, that is all that matters.”

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Tori McGough

McGough runs a popular Wyoming dude ranch that borders the majestic Grand Teton mountains. As a woman in long-term recovery, she sees beauty in the world around her – but especially in herself.“I don’t ever want to not love myself again, so I do the work of recovery every day,” McGough says. She overcame a 25-year alcohol addiction with intensive outpatient treatment and the support of a 12-step program. Now six years sober, McGough often chairs an AA meeting while balancing life as a business owner, wife and mother to three children.“If I stay in the moment, I find that each second is purposeful and has meaning,” says McGough, recipient of a 2017 Wyoming Women of Influence award for being an inspiration to others in her state.

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Rabbi Menachem Schoenes

Losing his mother at a young age, Schoenes dulled his grief with alcohol. “The bottle became my friend,” he says. Drinking led to other pain-numbing drugs, and by 19, he was homeless, struggling with multiple addictions, and suicidal.“My turning point was when I was ready to jump off of a five-story building in Brooklyn, New York,” Schoenes says.Instead of ending his life, he began the hard work of recovery – immersing himself in treatment, and the fellowship of a 12-step program.Today, Schoenes is nearing five years of sobriety. “I am okay today with who I am, and if I allow the wreckage from my past to define me, I would be defeated,” he writes on his recovery blog. “So I think my message is to empty your garbage daily and stop carrying around stuff from your past. We can’t take back yesterday, let alone the things we did weeks ago. All we can do is the next right thing and try and help someone else out.”

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DrugRehab.org MichelliRamon

Michelli Ramon

“Despite our efforts to avoid, deny and resist old wounds, they are always with us. So often we believe that trauma from the past will be our undoing but, in truth, the past wants only one thing – to be set FREE.”~ Michelli Ramon, co-creator of Somatic ReStorying (SR) trauma therapy; Program Director of Rise Recovery in TexasA survivor of childhood trauma and family addiction, Ramon helps others heal from intense pain and loss. She’s a clinical social worker and nationally-recognized educator on adolescent mental health. Her expertise in trauma therapy and shame resilience has been featured in a variety of media programs, including “Intervention,” A&E’s Emmy® Award-winning docuseries.Ramon says that in response to trauma, our bodies create patterns or stories that help us cope. “These patterns are an important aspect of our survival,” she notes. “The challenge is that they sometimes weave themselves into our core dialogue and often persist long after the painful experience has passed.”Releasing trauma starts with “a willingness to observe the ways in which we are responding to hurt and a readiness to awaken our HEALED selves,” she says.

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DrugRehab.org MarkGoodson

Mark Goodson

What’s ordinary – even dull – about daily life is actually “brilliant and divine,” writes Goodson on his blog, "the Miracle of the Mundane."After nearly dying from addiction – a drug-induced psychosis in Mexico led to psychiatric treatment and eventually, recovery – Goodson’s spiritual journey has evolved over the past decade. He’s found new perspective as a man in recovery who is also a high school English teacher, husband and father, peer mentor and coach.“The fact that I am living on borrowed time motivates me to make the most of every day I have to live,” Goodson says.“I didn’t know how to live without drugs and alcohol. I was ready to die. And I nearly did,” he says. “It was by grace that my life was spared and I was given a second chance. I try never to forget that. “

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Elliot Bokman

Persistence paid off for Bokman – who went through five inpatient stays and multiple relapses before achieving healthy, long-term recovery.Sober for nearly seven years, Bokman still attends several 12-step meetings each week, and finds purpose in mentoring others. He serves as program director for a men’s sober living community in Los Angeles, where he helps clients rebuild their lives and explore new passions such as surfing and boxing.“I find boxing to be a great outlet for most of life’s stresses,” he says. “We try to get the guys involved with it a few times a week, with the opportunity to do some very light sparring down the line if they show interest. Mostly, we do it for a great workout.”

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DrugRehab.org ChristineCampbell

Christine Campbell

Campbell spent a dizzying decade in the shadow of a famous rock and roll band, after marrying the bass player for Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. It was a life, she says, that fueled her addiction to drugs and alcohol, providing “access to excess that nearly destroyed us.”“I have come a long way from Lear jets and limos – struggling to find myself, be a mother, stand proud and discover what matters,” Campbell writes of her journey to recovery.A painful childhood and lack of family support made her path more daunting. By the time Campbell entered long-term sober living, she was a rail-thin 92 pounds, suffering from mini-strokes and a broken leg “from another drunk fall weeks before.”The intensive work of recovery gave Campbell a new life. She advanced her education, earning a Master’s Degree in Counseling, and began to walk alongside others struggling with addiction. Today Campbell celebrates 25 years of sobriety and lives quietly in northern Michigan, where she writes to encourage people at all stages of recovery.

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DrugRehab.org Dwight Vaughter

Dwight Vaughter

Vaughter is at the helm of one of Detroit’s largest behavioral health and recovery organizations, Self-Help Addiction Rehabilitation, Inc. (SHAR). Each year, the nonprofit helps more than 6,000 disadvantaged men and women improve their lives.Vaughter’s own odyssey from heroin addiction, alcoholism and homelessness to a respected community leader signals what recovery can do.“I love relishing in the contrast between my pre-recovery life and my life now,” says Vaughter, who advanced his education in recovery, earning a Master’s in Social Work and other degrees. “I enjoy the respect that I get from others, the respect I give to others and myself. I love the "realness" of my spiritual life now without chemicals.”

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DrugRehab.org John Donovan

John Donovan

U.S. Army Major John Donovan is passionate about his country – with nearly three decades of military service, including deployments in Bosnia and Iraq. He’s equally passionate about his recovery from alcohol addiction.Growing up in an alcoholic family, Donovan lost several loved ones to the disease, then became a heavy drinker himself. He found sobriety during a moment of clarity in his youth.“I was dying and I saw my life flash before my eyes and every scene was filled with despair, hopelessness and pain,” he says. “And then this simple, but profound thought permeated the semi-comatose state I was in and the thought was this: “maybe if I stop drinking my life would be less complicated”.Donovan frequently speaks to military families about recovery, and is the founder of the nonprofit Recovery Community Network (RCN) in Central Minnesota.

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DrugRehab.org Justin Beattey

Justin Beattey

Waking up in the Emergency Room, Beattey felt the staples in his head as doctors patched him up after another blackout.That was the catalyst for recovery, and Beattey’s transformation from drug user and convicted felon to a passionate peer mentor. Today, the Indiana resident coaches addicted men and women who are involved with the criminal justice system – helping them find their way to sobriety.“This daily interaction reminds me of the all-to-close reality if I do not work on myself daily and continue my path of recovery,” Beattey says.What he’s learned on his path to a meaningful life, he adds, is to value others. “The world has so much to offer if I simply allow myself to be involved with the people I come across and take the time to talk with and listen to what people share with me.”

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DrugRehab.org Terri Schaffner

Terri Schaffner

Schaffner watched in distress from her upscale Missouri home, as years of doing and dealing methamphetamine caught up with her.“When the task force kicked in the door of my condo and ran over my son in the hallway, I was done,” she recalls. “After running from my charges for a year, I finally decided to turn myself in and drove 600 miles to do it. I knew I would have to take care of those past mistakes in order to move forward.”Schaffner completed her third prison stay and gave up meth for good. “I discovered how hard it is to break the cycle without help, so I put my heart into obtaining my Master’s Degree to become a Licensed Addiction Counselor and Licensed Professional Counselor,” she says. Today, Schaffner runs a large treatment center in Shreveport, Louisiana, and leads a nonprofit, Active Recovery Foundation, Inc., which funds services such as adult re-entry programs, recovery homes, support groups and job readiness workshops.

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DrugRehab.org Matt Sonneborn

Matt Sonneborn

Going on dates often challenges Sonneborn to confront the stigma of addiction – and change public attitudes.“I think when people hear you are in recovery from addiction they tend to miss the “recovery from” part,” Sonneborn says. “The fact that I don’t drink tends to come up quickly when meeting someone new. I use it as an opportunity to teach someone about recovery. I refuse to hide it, though. I’m proud of my recovery and the more people that learn about it, the better.”Sonneborn uses his past to help others find recovery. He provides free coaching for the collegiate recovery community in Indianapolis, and works at a treatment center where he transitions clients into recovery and guides them back to health.

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DrugRehab.org DAVID FAVA

David Fava

Panic attacks – the result of childhood trauma – triggered Fava’s 15-year addiction to benzodiazepines. He was prescribed a parade of the tranquilizers – including Valium, Klonopin, Ativan and Xanax – to treat severe anxiety. But the long-term exposure made his problems worse, and left Fava near death.“I could barely talk without a stutter and was shaking with tremors. Most of my organs were shutting down,” Fava writes on his website. “I was having partial seizures. I was not in control of myself and needed intervention.”Breaking free of benzos was intensive work, and Fava’s withdrawal symptoms lingered for two years. But he recovered with an army of strategies – including professional addiction treatment, recovery meetings, a nutrient-rich diet, and daily yoga and meditation practices. Fava also began walking to relieve anxiety, starting with a half mile and working up to five miles daily.“Sometimes it may seem as though the withdrawal symptoms will go on forever,” he says. “My actual experience tells me that recovery is possible and that in time, the symptoms do subside and the brain does heal. I am proof! “

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DrugRehab.org Honesty Liller

Honesty Liller

At the tender age of 12, Liller began taking LSD and marijuana to escape a chaotic childhood. By 16, she was using crack cocaine; a year later, she was hooked on heroin.After surviving a near-fatal overdose – and trying for years to get clean – Liller found healing at The McShin Foundation, a leading nonprofit recovery center in Virginia. Her five-month stay at McShin improved all aspects of Liller’s life. She learned to value herself, to commit to recovery and be more present for the daughter she had during active addiction.Today, a decade after she first arrived at The McShin Foundation, Liller leads the organization as its Chief Executive Officer (CEO). She runs the daily operations, trains people to administer Naloxone – the overdose-reversal drug that saved her – and advocates for recovery in Washington and Virginia, where she’s helped a task force address the opioid crisis.“Recovery has given me so many gifts of love, forgiveness, and self-worth,” says Liller, the 2015 recipient of the Vernon Johnson Award, one of the highest honors from the national nonprofit, Faces and Voices of Recovery.

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DrugRehab.org Jami DeLoe

Jami DeLoe

Like many people diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), DeLoe turned to alcohol to silence the torment. In her case, flashbacks from a childhood rape and severe abuse by an ex-husband would lead to a PTSD diagnosis – and years of blackout binge drinking.“At first it was an easy way to get those thoughts and scenarios out of my mind. I would gladly suffer through a hangover if I could stop the thoughts for a while,” DeLoe writes on her blog, Sober Grace. “That, of course, led to my really extreme alcoholic drinking.”DeLoe’s road to healing began with medication, lots of therapy and 12-step work, and a novel PTSD treatment known as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR).“The good news about this PTSD thing is that there are some great treatments for it,” DeLoe notes. “I take medication to treat my depression and PTSD, and that has made a huge difference in my life. Being properly treated has saved me and I believe it was a huge help in removing my compulsion to drink.”

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DrugRehab.org TIM SEDGLEY

Tim Sedgley

It took grit – and grueling practice – for Sedgley to ascend from the depths of drug addiction to the life he knows today. He is an ultra-marathoner who could barely run a mile in early recovery. A former convict who ditched all his negative influences and found a higher purpose. A devoted father who has worked hard to regain the trust of his family.“I learned that pain is a part of life. I learned to push though pain and welcome it,” Sedgley says. “I run. I hurt sometimes when I run. But I feel it. I process it, I am stronger because of it. I learned that I am so much more than I ever thought I could be.”

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DrugRehab.org OMAR PINTO

Omar Pinto

Omar Pinto lost his wife, his business and his sanity to the carnage of addiction. But a key part of his past – becoming a father – would inspire a sweeping transformation.“I kept a picture of my baby daughter in my wallet, and when I felt like using, I would pull it out and stare at her beautiful little face,” Pinto recalls. “I would call my sponsor, or other members in the fellowship.”A relapse in early recovery was the catalyst for ultimate change. Pinto had gone on a three-day cocaine and alcohol bender, and his wife – from whom he was separated – went searching for him, with their newborn in tow. She found Pinto high on drugs and walked away in disgust.“In that instance I was broken into tiny pieces,” Pinto says. “The pain was indescribable and I dropped to my knees and asked God once again to help me get clean for the sake of my daughter.” Thanks to his investment in fatherhood and Narcotics Anonymous, Pinto has achieved 14 years of recovery. Today he helps others get clean as host of the popular "SHAIR" Recovery Podcast.

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Jeff Wilbee

Jeff Wilbee

Wilbee was a patient in the locked ward of a psychiatric hospital when doctors gave him the news: he did not have much longer to live if he continued drinking and abusing drugs. Wilbee’s first reaction was denial – and then, he thought he’d just go out with a bang and drink himself to death. That was 42 years ago. Wilbee was released from the psychiatric facility and had a rebirth during a seven-month stay at a recovery home. He’s been committed to sobriety ever since. Today, Wilbee is recently retired from a distinguished career of lifesaving work. He led several prominent recovery organizations, serving as director of a Canadian agency that helps prison inmates overcome addiction, and as Executive Director of Addictions Ontario and Executive Director of the Canadian Addictions Counsellors Certification Federation. He also led the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC), a respected standards and credentialing organization that represents 40,000 addiction recovery professionals worldwide.

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Graham Rowson

Graham Rowson

For over 30 years, Rowson has been a local leader in North West England, raising money for charity and the community as landlord of several historic British pubs. He’s able to serve alcohol while maintaining his sobriety and self-control, after his own drinking became a problem. Rowson found his lifeline at SMART Recovery,® the leading secular self-help alternative. SMART shares components with 12-step programs such as fellowship and the goal of abstinence, but rejects the 12-step view that a person is powerless over drugs and alcohol. In time, the individual learns to gain self-control with help from SMART’s cognitive tools for managing thoughts and behaviors. “The label, ‘I am an alcoholic’ is converted to ‘I have a behavioral problem’ with SMART Recovery – thus stripping away the stigmas,” Rowson says. Today he’s been sober for nearly six years and volunteers for UK Smart Recovery, where he facilitates meetings, trains facilitators and advocates for self-empowerment and recovery.

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Michael Deleon

Michael DeLeon

“It can’t happen to me.” Michael DeLeon crushes that mindset when he shares his life story with young people, and urges them to take another path. The ex-convict, former gang member and recovered heroin addict has been speaking to schools and youth groups since 2000, when he founded the non-profit, Steered Straight. Born into a loving home, DeLeon tells students he tried caffeine pills to boost his productivity at a marketing job he loved. He never imagined that decision would lead to a cocaine habit and then near-fatal heroin addiction. His life choices, he says, had tragic fallout: gang involvement and crimes to finance his addictions, the breakup of his marriage and the murder of his mother by other gang members after a drug deal gone bad. DeLeon spent 12 years in prison and halfway houses before reshaping his life in recovery. He’s earned multiple degrees, is a certified substance abuse counselor and has produced four documentaries on the drug epidemic. Over the past two decades, DeLeon has shared his life story with young people in 47 states, encouraging them to make sound choices that enrich their future.

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Jeff Venekamp

Looking back on his young adult years, Venekamp realizes he was in denial – about the partying and the pain. “During the 12 years that I was a drunk, my life was a mixture of disorder, chaos, pain, and hopelessness,” Venekamp writes on the Face It Together website. “I lied to almost everyone. I lost important relationships. I lost tens of thousands of dollars. I lost and used friends. I lost my self-respect. I didn't see that then, but it is crystal clear now.” Venekamp found recovery from addiction at the urging of a friend “who was willing to risk our friendship in order to help me,” he says. Today, he is a positive role model to college students, serving as Senior Associate Director of Campus Life at Augustana University in South Dakota. “Since, I have been sober I have: met my wife, been a father to three beautiful children (two daughters and a son), engaged a fantastic job, regained my health, attempted to help others, shared my story, and I have regained my self-respect,” he says.

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Zulema Salazar

Zulema Salazar

“Life will not always be filled with abuse, neglect, and pain . . . you will be the rose that grew from concrete.” That’s what Zulema Salazar would tell her younger self. As a child, she endured toxic stress and was shuttled through foster care due to her mother’s heroin addiction. Zulema would later battle her own drug problems, spending nearly a decade of her life in prison and losing custody of her children at one point due to her addiction. She found inner strength and recovery with help from intensive residential treatment and 12-step support. Today, Zulema gives hope to others in the throes of addiction, and surrounds herself with strong, sober women whose friendships sustain her recovery.

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Tiffany Hall

When she first got sober, Hall was afraid of losing her identity. “I thought that I was this person who was a drinker,” she says in a video for the non-profit Recover Alaska. “But in fact, getting sober and being in recovery has really helped me figure out who I really am.”Today, Hall sees herself as an optimist who loves to help others and is grateful for her own second chance. “My relationships have developed much more since I’ve been in recovery,” she says. “I have much closer bonds with my friends and my family than I used to and I hope that I can stay clean and sober for the rest of my life.”A native of Anchorage, Hall was recently appointed Executive Director of Recover Alaska, which works to reduce excessive drinking and its harms around the state.

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Sheila Murray

Sheila Murray

Sheila Murray’s path to recovery is rooted in science and self-empowerment. She’s one of a growing number of people who have discovered effective alternatives to 12-step programs. Murray credits SMART Recovery® – the most popular AA alternative – with helping her overcome alcohol addiction. She followed SMART’s program for self-directed change, based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. “I discovered that I could be in charge of my thoughts, feelings and behaviors – and to question my irrational beliefs rather than just accepting them,” Murray says. “SMART has shown me how to lead a more balanced life . . . I use the SMART Tools not just for my addiction, but as a basis for my new lifestyle.” Murray’s own experience was so positive that she now volunteers as a facilitator for SMART Recovery in the United Kingdom.

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Matthew Kowalski

Matthew Kowalski

Matt Kowalski’s life shows the strength of the human spirit – even after decades of unimaginable suffering. He endured physical and emotional abuse as a child, and ran away from home at age 15. The next 25 years would be spent homeless, addicted and struggling to survive.It wasn’t until Kowalski was in his early 40s that his odyssey took a radical turn. He made the decision to reclaim his life and seek help for addictions to crystal meth, alcohol and other drugs. Today, he’s achieved 19 years of long-term recovery and is making a generous impact in his community.Kowalski works as a recovery coach and therapist in the San Francisco Bay Area; he and his wife Kathryn are active volunteers in Oakland’s violence prevention, essential services and public library programs. Kowalski is also a motivational speaker, author, musician and accomplished abstract painter. “For 25 years of my life, I was a homeless, disenfranchised, invisible person,” Kowalski writes on his website. “My art became my vehicle of self-expression and a path to mental health. It allowed me to buy in, belong, take my place in the community.”

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Kristy Nishihara

Kristy Nishihara

Growing up in Hawaii, Nishihara knew the tranquility of nature – and the torture of alcohol addiction. Her compulsion to drink was so intense, she could not stop even after being treated for seizures and other health issues triggered by her disease.“I was incarcerated four times due to alcohol-related incidents, hospitalized at least ten times, and ended up homeless,” says Nishihara.Life began to improve when she entered a 90-day residential treatment program and embraced 12-step meetings. Today, Nishihara is five years sober and uses her experience to bring hope to people in early recovery. “I wake up grateful every morning that I am not chasing that obsession,” she says.

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Christine Hamm 2

Christine Hamm

Hamm was only 29 years old when crystal meth ravaged her organs. “I was going through pancreatic failure,” Hamm recalls. “My naturopathic healer told me if I stayed on the path I was on, I had four years to live. I had the organ toxicity rate of a 75-year-old woman.”Hamm white-knuckled her way to recovery with lots of professional help and the support of Narcotics Anonymous. She found the courage to quit using drugs and to leave an abusive ex-boyfriend who was a meth supplier.Today, Hamm shares her journey to freedom as a Speaking Ambassador for the United Way in Alberta, Canada. “I have learned that my addiction does not define me,” she says. “Yes, it was a huge part of my life and shattered me into a million pieces, but that brokenness doesn’t make me who I am. I used that to build myself up (with God’s help) to become a strong, beautiful woman who has the tenacity of a warrior. I can make it through anything clean today!"

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Mike Pohl

Mike Pohl

Three decades into his recovery, Pohl remains in awe of the gift of sobriety – and its domino healing effect.Last year, the 8th Grade history teacher hosted a dinner for about 10 men in recovery, and their loved ones. Pohl told the men how they were giving their families the best Christmas present ever by being sober, clean and present for the holidays – perhaps for the first time in years.“As the tears came down my face, I realized how important this gift is,” Pohl recalled, “and how fortunate I am for my higher power to allow me to be a part of it.”Finding his way to a 12-step program helped free Pohl from drug and alcohol addiction. “I have discovered that my purpose is to help others find the type of recovery that I have found over the last 33 years,” he says. “Seeing someone recover is such a blessing and gives me the deepest kind of gratitude that I will ever know.”

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David Stoecker

David Stoecker

Stoecker turned 21 in prison and spent his young adult years haunted by memories of childhood abuse (emotional, physical and sexual). His descent into addiction would include multiple near-fatal drug overdoses, suicide attempts and homelessness before life took a striking turn.“A foxhole prayer while I was an agnostic started me on the road to recovery,” Stoecker says. Growing in faith, he shifted all his energies to recovery instead of substance abuse – working the 12 steps, focusing on successes, and giving back to his community.Today the former high school dropout has four college degrees, a family he cherishes and a passion for purposeful work. Stoecker is a leader in Missouri’s recovery movement and founder of the non-profit Better Life in Recovery, which provides community volunteer opportunities for people in recovery and sponsors advocacy and sober social events.

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Annette Marshall

Annette Marshall

Marshall was born into a family that had been plagued by generations of substance abuse.“Despite their best efforts, my parents were unable to be the loving and nurturing parents that they surely had hoped to be, and that I wanted and needed,” Marshall says. “They loved us very much, but were so broken inside due to their own mistreatment and untended wounds, that they were incapable of conveying that to us.”Marshall’s story of recovery is not one of personal substance use, but about finding her way back to wholeness in the fallout of addiction. She is the granddaughter, the daughter, the sibling, the parent, the niece, and the friend of people who have struggled with addiction – and it has impacted her life on many levels.Healing for Marshall came with the loving embrace of Al-Anon – and a spiritual awakening. “As I kept coming back to meetings, as I got a sponsor, worked the 12 steps – layer by layer as things were revealed, I began to deal with them. I started to feel peace. I wasn't angry anymore. I felt like I was finally experiencing some freedom.”

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Byron Merriweather

Byron A. Merriweather

Merriweather is building a culture of recovery in West Africa – and challenging die-hard superstitions about addiction.He works in Ghana, “a country that believes still today that addiction and alcoholism is caused by demons that take over the body,” Merriweather says. “There are health professionals ignorant to the fact that alcoholism and drug addiction is a disease – not a moral weakness, lack of will power, or a sin.”Working with Recovery Africa and Hopeful Way Foundation, Merriweather has helped more than 50 Ghanaians find long-term recovery since 2009. It was his own journey to sobriety back in the United States that inspired Merriweather’s calling; he uses his skills as an I.T. professional to mobilize Ghana’s movement.“I thank God for the opportunity to do His work of recovery very well in Africa,” he says.

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Terri Brown

Terri Brown

Riding her Harley through America’s national parks, Brown feels a calmness that eluded her traumatic youth. “I love nature, it helps ground me,” says the prominent South Dakota recovery advocate.Beaten and molested as a child, in a family where her adoptive mother was a binge drinker, Brown buried her pain with marijuana, cocaine and alcohol.“The sexual trauma was never discussed, the beatings were never talked about,” she says. “The drinking and drugging was a result of my trauma. Today, I know that to be true.” Growing up as a young gay person in the 1960s and 70s, Brown says her sexuality played a role in her addiction also.While incarcerated for multiple DUI convictions, Brown had a spiritual awakening that led to her recovery. She learned to embrace a new way of living and fill the hole in her heart with spirituality, serenity and peace. That was 19 years ago. Today, Brown is a recovery champion, serving on the Board of Addiction and Prevention Professionals, and helping others get well as Lead Recovery Coach for the nonprofit Face It Together in Sioux Falls, S.D.

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DrugRehab.org Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez

Living on the streets of Boston – scared and seeking refuge, food and her next drug fix – Sanchez lost everything to the disease of addiction.Taken into custody by the Boston Police Department, her life took a profound turn when she was sent to prison and then, to an intensive drug treatment program in Quincy, Mass.“I stayed there for 18 months, and this is where I found myself again,” Sanchez recalls. “I started working in the (recovery) field and surrounded myself with positive people. My children, family and friends came back into my life and I have been clean ever since.”

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DrugRehab.org Paige Miller

Paige Miller

Trapped in a cycle of addiction, Miller’s life seemed to echo the movie “Groundhog Day.” She kept re-living the same misery over and over:“For a year, I woke up sick, went to work, promised myself I wouldn’t drink, and by 5 p.m., my skin would be crawling. By 6 p.m., I was on the verge of blacking out,” she recalls.Miller’s blueprint for recovery involved outpatient treatment, ongoing peer support and regular physical fitness. Today, she’s determined to forge a different path than three of her grandparents, who died before age 50 from addiction and mental health disorders.“I thought my life was going to end at the age of 22, and recovery gave me the second chance I needed,” Miller says.

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DrugRehab.org Haner Hernandez

Haner Hernandez

A distinguished scholar, Dr. Hernandez is known for improving addiction recovery services for America’s Latino and Hispanic populations. It was his own triumph over heroin and cocaine addiction – and a dangerous past as a street gang leader– that drove Hernandez to empower others.He dropped out of middle school, but Hernandez embraced learning in recovery and now holds a doctorate in Community Health Education from the University of Massachusetts. He’s a national consultant on health disparities that hinder access to treatment, and oversees professional training and support for Massachusetts agencies that help Latinos and Hispanics recover.“We have to believe in people more than they believe in themselves!,” Hernandez says. “This can be scary for some, yet rewarding at the same time. I believe everyone has the potential to recover and no one does it on their own. My role is to be of help in that process or to get out of the way.”

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DrugRehab.org Jen Yockey

Jen Yockey

Teased and bullied as a child, Yockey discovered alcohol at 15 and suddenly morphed into the life of the party. She was voted “most fun to be with” in high school, but her insecurities lingered – even after earning a full-ride athletic scholarship to a top college, where she was popular in her sorority.“There was a part of me that knew that they only liked this person that I had CREATED when I drank,” Yockey writes on her blog. “The true me, the REAL me, was rejected.”After years of trying to fit in – and drinking to oblivion to escape her true feelings – Yockey got sober in 2009. Today she’s a work in progress but comfortable in her own skin. Recovery has inspired her to be authentic with her family, without pretense in her friendships. “The drama, the self-loathing, the incomprehensible demoralization is gone,” Yockey says.

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DrugRehab.org Andre Johnson

Andre L. Johnson

Recovery often sparks radical change, as Johnson can attest. The former high school dropout and convicted felon wore his first cap and gown at graduation from a drug rehab facility. Today, Johnson is pursuing his doctoral degree in psychology, and is a national leader in the recovery movement. He was honored by the Obama administration as a “Champion of Change” for helping thousands of people rebuild their lives.As founder of the nonprofit “Detroit Recovery Project,” Johnson has secured more than $15 million in grants over the past 20 years to provide services and support for people battling addiction.He coordinated the first Narcotics Anonymous convention in East Africa, and was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services to serve on the national advisory council on substance abuse.

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DrugRehab.org Abby Foster

Abby Foster

Foster wears a hoodie that says “Keep Calm and Sober Mom.” It’s one of the simple ways that she spreads her message of recovery – and chips away at the stigma of addiction.“Finding my voice has been one of the greatest gifts I have received from joining the recovery movement,” Foster writes on her blog for Heroes in Recovery. Once addicted to alcohol and other drugs, the single mother now advocates on Capitol Hill and in local communities for families struggling with addiction. “As a teenager, I fancied myself a rebel, but recovery enabled me to be a rebel with a cause,” she says.Foster knows the striking changes that can follow sobriety. “Recovery has brought stability to my life and my family, allowed me to return to school to pursue my master’s degree in social work, and given me a voice as a recovery advocate, which allows me to help others and strengthen my community.”

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DrugRehab.org Diana Dubbs

Diana Dubbs

Dubbs is passionate about her work in Pennsylvania, where she helps people rebuild their lives after addiction. It’s a familiar journey for Dubbs, whose own battle with opioids led to a harrowing descent. Her health ravaged by drugs, she was sought by police and lost jobs and homes and her sense of self-worth.“I covered all the mirrors in my apartment because I hated the person looking back at me,” Dubbs recalls of her active addiction.She found a path to sobriety through intensive inpatient treatment and immersion in a 12-step recovery program. “Today, I find purpose in leading a healthy and sober life,” Dubbs says. “I have people who trust me and count on me. I have to remain accountable in all aspects of my life, whether I am working my program or just being human.”

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DrugRehab.org Jenna Hollenstein (2)

Jenna Hollenstein

There’s a saying in 12-step culture: Alcoholism is an elevator that keeps going down – but you can get off at any floor.Hollenstein exited long before her ride hit bottom. In fact, her drinking never produced a public crisis or rocked her career. But catastrophe isn’t the only way that alcohol can sabotage a life.Nursing frequent hangovers, Hollenstein began to see how she was drinking to distraction: trying to fill empty hours and squash feelings of depression, insecurity and loneliness. She was using drinking to make her world different – but missing out on living.Hollenstein entered an outpatient treatment program and discovered the practice of meditation, which she says “allowed me to embrace my life in all its messy, chaotic, wonderful imperfection.” She’s been in recovery for 10 years now and has learned to look inward for happiness and guidance.

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DrugRehab.org Tom Tompkins

Thomas Tompkins

Genuine personal growth is possible in recovery – and Tompkins is proof.Five years ago, he was facing DWI charges, constantly missing work days and cowering in a tiny, dark apartment – surrounded by cigarettes and pills and empty bottles of booze.Now five years sober, Tompkins looks outward to fill his days with meaning. “I found my purpose is that when life is good, help others. When it’s not so good, help others,” says Tompkins, who works today as a mentor and certified recovery coach. “My purpose is to live in that love that is within us all – and shine it on others.”

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DrugRehab.org Bo Brown

Bo Brown

When life gets rough, Brown grips the sobriety chip he carries in his pocket. It’s a source of strength – a reminder of the freedom he’s achieved after more than two decades of active addiction. He might also glance at the milestone that’s permanently inked on his wrist: November 5, 2013.“It was the day that I chose to live life differently as I had known for the past 25 years,” Brown says.He took his first drink at age 12 – unleashing “the beast,” as Brown calls his addiction. Teen partying progressed to years of binge drinking and drug use. “The beast grew and grew until it was bigger than myself,” Brown writes. “When the party ended, I found myself alone, broken and addicted.”Today, Brown enjoys a “polar opposite” life in recovery. “I am no longer confined to my own inner sanctum,” he says. “I wake up each day with optimism and hope and look forward to what each adventure will bring into my life.”

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Amy Parrish

Amy Parrish

Parrish was a heavy drinker for 20 years before an emotional wake-up call – and unconventional approach – led her to recovery.Hung over and unable to get out of bed one morning, Parrish saw the worry on her children’s faces. She knew they felt loved, but didn’t want them growing up in the shadow of addiction. So she vowed that day – December 7, 2012 – never to drink again.Searching for help online, Parrish found a sober blogger named Belle. “I wrote an e-mail to a woman I'd never met or heard of and said, ‘Hey, I'm trying to quit. I'm scared,’ Parrish recalls. “And then Belle wrote me back and said, ‘I’d be glad to be your pen pal.’ And she helped save me.” Finding connection online – and blogging about her own struggles and triumphs – has helped Parrish stay accountable and achieve long-term recovery.

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Meredith Bell

Meredith Bell

How do you quit drinking when you’re a wine industry executive in Sonoma County, California?“I am surrounded by people drinking, billboards that show happy couples in sunny vineyards enjoying the latest vintage, and meetings where we are trying to discover the best ways to market wine to people,” Bell says.She overcame a destructive drinking habit not by changing her environment, but how she interacted with it. Bell’s path to recovery involved serious introspection, peer support from Alcoholics Anonymous, and a few relapses before she got sober in 2011.“Every time I see a bottle of wine, I get a craving. It never goes away for me!” she says. “I deal with it by feeling the shame in my body that I used to feel when I would wake up with a hangover or remember something horrible that happened to me. I don’t run from the pain or try to cover it up. I allow these feelings to wash over me as a reminder that no taste of wine is worth the powerful sickness, shame and humiliation that comes along with it.”

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Aimee Quinn

Aimee Quinn

Quinn woke up in a hospital Intensive Care Unit after nine days in a coma – one of several opioid overdoses that she had survived. Painful childhood trauma was at the root of her long battle with prescription pills, heroin and cocaine.“Getting high helped me escape reality and allowed me to be whoever I wanted to be,” Quinn recalls. Waking up from the coma, she vowed to change her life’s course.“I gave myself a year. I told myself I would do everything I can to get clean and if nothing else worked I would devote my life to getting high,” she says. “Something clicked. I wasn’t on any medications and I started living my life. I went to school, worked full time, got a dog. I’ve done incredible things in my 4 ½ years of recovery.”Today, Quinn uses her experience to comfort and coach others as a trauma therapist in Florida. She says “the most satisfying thing is to know that I get to make a difference in lives every day.”

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Laura Silverman

Laura Silverman

Tattooed on Laura Silverman’s back is a classic bit of wisdom from 12-step culture: “One day at a time.” That simple mantra has sustained her recovery for nearly a decade.The daughter of a diplomat, Silverman spent part of her childhood overseas and graduated high school with honors. She also struggled with mental illness – anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and panic attacks – and was the target of frequent bullying. Silverman began self-medicating with alcohol when she was in college, and life quickly spiraled out of control.A second hospitalization for alcohol poisoning triggered Silverman’s journey to recovery at age 24. Today, she’s embraced her calling as a mental health warrior and recovery advocate. Silverman is the founder of The Sobriety Collective, a community of sober people who support indie artists in recovery and share their stories, podcasts and resources to heal and inspire others.

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Beth Leipholtz

Beth Leipholtz

As a college student, Leipholtz figured she was too young to have a drinking problem. The people in her social circle agreed.“But the truth was that I was always the drunkest one in the room,” Leipholtz recalls. “I was always drinking to get drunk, or to escape something that was wrong. My age had nothing to do with my relationship with alcohol.”After landing in a hospital following a night of underage drinking, Leipholtz entered an inpatient rehab program.“The days that followed were some of the hardest of my life, but they ultimately gave way to here and now,” she says. Today, Leipholtz has 3 ½ years of recovery and is a full-time reporter for a Minnesota newspaper. She stays accountable by checking in with her sponsor and blogging about sobriety. And she says she’s blessed to re-discover life’s simple pleasures: the world of books, the joys of running, writing, and being in love.

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Lotta Dann

Lotta Dann

Dann blogged her way to sobriety as the woman behind the popular site, "Mrs. D Is Going Without." The happily married New Zealander – and mother of three boys – never thought her anonymous diary in cyberspace would resonate with so many people (reaching over 4,000 daily visitors).Here’s an entry from Dann’s first month of sobriety (Sept. 2011), as she illuminates a 24-year drinking problem:“My body clock is amazing – 5 p.m. on the dot, or about 4:45 I'll look at the clock and think 'almost wine time!'. Wrestle with myself about whether to get any during the day. Pick up a bottle during the course of the day. Pop the top at 5 p.m. and it's gone by 7. But lately one bottle just hasn't been enough. I needed one bottle and 2 glasses more just for myself to feel 'full'.”Dann credits the support and wisdom of her online “tribe” with helping her recover from alcohol addiction. Today, she’s five years sober and a best-selling author. Dann has also teamed up with the New Zealand Drug Foundation and other experts to launch livingsober.org.nz, a non-profit that provides free educational resources for people in recovery.

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Leisha Cokley

Leshia Cokley

Leshia Cokley is a comforting presence to the children at Hope House in Augusta, Georgia. She helps care for them while their mothers are in treatment here, learning to break the cycles of addiction and poverty. Many hope to regain custody of their children as they recover at this non-profit residential center for substance use and mental health disorders. It was here that Cokley transformed her own life. "During the recovery process, I learned that secrets kept me sick–that it is okay to cry and get angry because feelings are fleeting," Cokley says. "I learned that I have had unhealthy coping skills most of my entire life." Cokley began to heal from drug and alcohol addiction at Hope House, and acquired skills to cope with depression and become self-sufficient. Today she relishes her role as a therapeutic child care assistant teacher at the center. "It allows me to give back that which has been so freely given to me," she says." I am most grateful for this second chance that I have been given."

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Kyle Infante

Kyle Infante

Infante was in the Los Angeles crowd on Nov. 17, 2016, when the U.S. Surgeon General issued his landmark report on addiction in America. Finally, the epidemic of substance abuse was being addressed by the nation’s top doctor. Addiction, the Surgeon General said, was a disease, not a moral failing. He called for urgent attention to the crisis, noting that 78 people die from opioid overdose every day in the United States. In many ways, Infante is today’s face of addiction – and realistic hope for recovery. As a teenager growing up in suburban Dallas, he got hooked on prescription painkillers. That led to heroin and crystal methamphetamine – and a cycle of overdoses, emergency room visits, jail time and psych wards. Infante spent his family’s money on drugs and relapsed multiple times before he got clean in 2013 – during his fourth rehab stay. "I never felt satisfied while in my disease, I just wanted more," Infante says. "Today, I have everything I’ve ever hoped for and more as a result of being sober. I see my life today is a direct result of recovery."

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Chenoa Woods

Chenoa Woods

"You’re only as sick as your secrets." It’s Woods’ favorite recovery quote – and a fitting adage for her own journey. Woods was blessed with a tender marriage, two healthy children and the benefits of a nice car, private schools and daily trips to the gym. But Woods harbored a drinking problem as she grieved the death of her mother and felt overwhelmed at home. After several alarming incidents, my husband asked me if alcohol was more important to me than my family, and I couldn’t directly answer him, Woods recalls. I knew what the right answer should be, but in my addictive mind I struggled with the answer. That’s when I knew without a doubt I had a BIG problem. Woods got sober in 2012 with help from a sponsor and Alcoholics Anonymous. I also embraced our family church and developed a personal relationship with God, which continues to sustain me today, she says.

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alex-elswick

Alex Elswick

The opioid crisis has pummeled Kentucky, killing 1273 people in 2015 – the nation’s third highest death rate for drug overdose. Alex Elswick lived to tell about his grim descent into prescription narcotics and heroin abuse. Today, the Lexington native is fighting for other lives at risk. Every minute of every hour of every day that I spent in addiction was abject misery, Elswick told the Kentucky State Legislature recently, as lawmakers considered proposals to address the epidemic. Growing up in an affluent suburb, Elswick attended private schools and played baseball for Centre College in Danville, Ky.He followed a familiar path into addiction, moving from prescription painkillers to heroin. I spent the very last days of my addiction sleeping on a tarpand shooting heroin under Highway 35 in Dayton, Ohio, Elswick said. Herecovered with the support of his parents and a six-month stay in a Salvation Army treatment program. Today, Elswick is a graduate student and co-founder of the non-profit Voices of Hope(his mother Shelley is also a co-founder), which trains people how to recognize and respond to a drug overdose.

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Corey Hudson

Corey Hudson

“Every heart has a story to tell.” That’s the refrain of a growing photojournalism movement, Hearts of Strangers, founded by Hudson to inspire empathy and courage. He interviews strangers about the hardships in their lives – and documents the resilience of the human spirit.The project has been a big part of Hudson’s own recovery from drug addiction and crippling, suicidal depression.“It was in the psychiatric ward that I began . . . to acknowledge the wounds and trauma, and learn to love and care for myself through that process -- without shame, guilt or fear,” Hudson says. “I believe that anything that enhances your connection and vibration with yourself, your environment and with all beings is a form of therapy we should utilize.”

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Tim Ryan

Tim Ryan

A savvy corporate headhunter, Ryan spent much of his six-figure salary on heroin and other drugs. The results were catastrophic: he had multiple overdoses (revived by paramedics with naloxone) and lost his career, home, marriage, time with his children – and eventually his freedom.“I was spiritually broken,” Ryan says. “My destruction hurt many people.” “Dope sick,” Ryan detoxed in an Illinois prison and began recovery with the structure of a 12-step program. Soon after being released, he faced his greatest loss when his 20-year-old son Nick died of a heroin overdose.“I went to a (12-step) meeting that night and dug deeper into my recovery and spiritual relationship,” Ryan says. He dedicated his life to saving opiate addicts, started a non-profit, "A Man in Recovery Foundation," and ran free recovery support groups. Today, Ryan works closely with families and law enforcement to help hundreds of people overcome addiction. It’s a calling, he says, to bring addicts “from dope to hope.”

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Tim Rabolt

Tim Rabolt

Hugging his parents after college graduation, Rabolt knew he was on a life-changing journey. He had battled drug addiction in high school, and survived planning his suicide as a freshman at The George Washington University (GWU).But Rabolt got the right help and support, and began to thrive in recovery. He made it through college clean and sober, and founded Students for Recovery, which led to the university’s acclaimed collegiate recovery program. Now working on a master’s degree at GWU, Rabolt was honored with the George Washington award for his commitment to improving the university.“It wasn’t just graduating college,” Rabolt recalls. “It was knowing I made it through college in recovery – and what that meant to my family.” Rabolt is on track to earn his graduate degree in human development next year, and is active in the national recovery movement.

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Rabbi Mark Borovitz

Rabbi Mark Borovitz

Rabbi Borovitz invokes his past as a convicted felon and alcoholic to bring people back to God.Once a mobster, thief and con artist, Borovitz has spent nearly two decades as a changed man in recovery. After a spiritual awakening in prison, he studied to become a rabbi like his brother Neal. Today, Borovitz uses his life journey to mentor Jewish ex-cons and addicts at his southern California treatment center and synagogue, Beit T’Shuvah.“Without purpose, life is meaningless and addiction is a response to the hopelessness,” he says. “My responsibility is to help each individual soul find their purpose -- what makes their soul fill up with spirit and light.”

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Michael Miller

Michael Miller

Raised by a hardworking single mother, Miller remembers feeling lonely and anxious as a child. He used drugs to escape his pain, and quickly became addicted.“I lived the life most people picture when they think of someone struggling with substance use disorder -- homeless, hovering at 110 lbs, in and out of jail,” he says. In 2013, a judge gave Miller a choice: spend up to 24 years in prison or complete a two-year treatment program in Denver. “A judicial system that 10 years prior would have sent me to prison immediately, gave me a chance I couldn't give myself,” he says. “Today, I get to feel a peace I never believed was possible. I have the opportunity to be a son, a partner, a friend and responsible citizen. I get to recognize and take accountability for my mistakes in order to be a better man tomorrow.”

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Nancy Carr

Nancy Carr

Carr considered herself a typical “party girl” — mixing career success with daily social drinking and weekend cocaine binges. Life spiraled out of control for Carr in her 30s, interrupted by two DUI arrests.Sitting in jail feeling hopeless, Carr’s journey began to evolve. She sought help from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and found clarity, “realizing that everything bad that had ever happened in my life was from drinking and drugging,” she recalls.Carr embraced AA, attending 90 meetings in 90 days. Today, as she celebrates 12 years of recovery, Carr still works with a sponsor and attends weekly meetings. “I’m not who I was when I was out there drinking and using,” Carr says. “I’m human and I’m still learning about living a sober life, but it’s better than it was when I was using.”

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Casey Mullen

Casey Mullen

Attorney Casey Mullen practices law in the same Pittsburgh courtroom where he was once convicted and sentenced to prison for cocaine possession. A 19-year-old college student at the time, Mullen was arrested for having a large amount of cocaine in his book bag.Finding recovery in prison, Mullen got serious about his second chance. He went on to graduate in the top 5 percent of his class at Duquesne University School of Law in Pennsylvania. There, he served as an Executive Editor at the law review, was voted top overall student, and earned the Honorable Joseph H. Ridge Award from the Allegheny Bar Association.Recovery is an “amazing gift,” says Mullen, who is now drug-free for 20 years.

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Crystal Oertle

Crystal Oertle

She shared a stage with President Obama and put a human face on the nation’s dire opioid crisis. Crystal Oertle, an Ohio single mother of two, recalled her soul-crushing journey from pain pills to heroin addiction as she spoke at this year’s National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta.Joining the President on a panel to address the epidemic, Oertle cited her success using Suboxone, a medication that reduces opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms. She’s still working toward long-term recovery and recounts her blessings when she’s feeling vulnerable.“I play the tape all the way through,” Oertle says. “I think about how far I have come and how happy I am and how many people I would be letting down if I started using again. I think about all the negative things that could happen, including death. And, today, I want to live.” 

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JON PAUL CRIMI

Jon Paul Crimi

Breathwork Meditation is “the single best tool I’ve found in recovery,” says Crimi. “It shuts down the noise in my head like nothing except drugs and alcohol ever did.”Now with 16 years of recovery himself, Crimi is a prominent sobriety coach/companion whose clientele includes Hollywood A-listers. The former personal trainer to actors such as Matthew Perry and David Arquette is also certified in Breathwork Meditation, which involves focused breathing exercises set to soothing music while lying on one’s back.Crimi is passionate about helping people prevent relapse and heal from dual diagnoses such as drug addiction with eating disorders. “There is no greater purpose than helping another human being recover,” Crimi says, “and we cannot possibly know the ripple effect it will have on other lives.”

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Stephen G. Seiver

Stephen G. Seiver

Extreme fitness buffs may recognize Seiver as a competitor on this year’s “American Ninja Warrior,” the NBC reality show with an insanely tough obstacle course.Seiver pushed his physical limits as he climbed a 75-foot rope above water and tackled the perilous “Floating Steps” and giant swinging “Tick Tock” pendulum. The Air Force vet and father of three was chosen from more than 70,000 applicants in 2016 to compete for the show’s $1 million prize.Although he didn’t make it to the national finals, Seiver is in peak form. It was his greatest personal obstacle – recovery from alcoholism – that motivated Seiver to reboot his body and his life. He trained for Ninja Warrior in recovery and dedicated himself to fitness and inspiring others.

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Tracey Helton Mitchell

Tracey Helton Mitchell

Mitchell was one of five young heroin addicts whose harsh lives were depicted in the top-rated HBO documentary Black Tar Heroin: The Dark End of the Street.A doctor gave Mitchell opioid painkillers when she had her wisdom teeth removed at 17. She got hooked, chasing a euphoric high that progressed to shooting heroin. Living in an alley in San Francisco, her skin covered in abscesses, Mitchell expected to be found dead – like her boyfriend Ben or Jake, from the documentary. But instead, she found healing through rehab treatment and peer support groups such as LifeRing Secular Recovery.Today, Mitchell is a longtime recovery advocate, married with three children. She’s earned a master’s degree in public administration and is a certified addiction specialist who has been drug-free for 18 years.

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Sharonlee Latham

Sharonlee Latham

Once addicted to painkillers and other drugs, Latham found renewal in Narcotics Anonymous – and the stunning Riviera Maya on Mexico’s Caribbean coast.Embracing alternative wellness, Latham trained in such techniques as Ayurvedic massage, reflexology and Reiki. She immersed herself in the healing properties of the Mayan jungle and the swimming holes of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. Today, home is Playa del Carmen, where Latham offers alternative wellness treatments and healthy adventures for travelers.Even after two decades of recovery, Latham still attends 12-step meetings. “For me, I need to keep my recovery process first and foremost,” she says. “Otherwise I don’t have the spiritual grounding to serve my purpose: being a positive influence to encourage others to follow their star.”

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Ben Cox

Ben Cox

Opiate addiction robbed Cox of his career as an Emergency Room nurse. Caught stealing narcotics on the job in northern Canada, he was arrested and his nursing license was permanently revoked.“Before I left the hospital to tell my wife what happened, I went into a bathroom and took the last dose of morphine that I had in my pocket, and injected it into myself,” Cox recalls. “That was when I realized I was truly powerless over my addiction.”Cox stopped living a lie and came clean to authorities and his family. He pled guilty, got treatment and has been in recovery nearly four years. “The thing that hurt the worst was the trust and respect I lost because of my addiction,” Cox says. “All the good that I had done seemingly felt erased, and all people saw was this mistake that I had made. I no longer felt like the confident, trusted, respected nurse that I once was.”

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Stephen J. Grant

Stephen J. Grant

At 19, life was just beginning for Grant. He was starting college, active at his university and “loving every minute of it.” But the anguish of his mother’s death sent him into a tailspin, losing years to heroin addiction.“When she died, everything changed and by the time I was 20, I had dropped out of school and my entire world was completely upside down,” Grant recalls. “It all happened so fast.” Grant got clean at 22, “but by then I had wasted nearly three years in parking lots and dingy apartments.”Today Grant is determined to make up for lost time. He’s immersed himself in the creative arts – a self-taught filmmaker, photographer, author and aspiring rapper/singer with an Extended Play (EP) record on the way and a new memoir, “The Hero in Me.” A Connecticut native, Grant recently moved to São Paulo, Brazil, where he has produced a documentary, “AFRO BRASIL” that highlights the black experience there.

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Kristen Rybandt

Kristen Rybandt

Early in her recovery, Rybandt took up running and found support online through her popular blog, “Bye Bye Beer.” Both activities help keep her sobriety on track.“I used to be terrified of relapse for about the first year of sobriety,” Rybandt says. “I’d have a drinking dream and think it meant I was on my way out . . .” Gradually, with more sober time, Rybandt stopped worrying about relapse and remembered the wisdom of a therapist, who told her “if I wasn’t sure about something, I should ask myself if it felt like a step closer to relapse, or a step away from it.”Today, the recovering alcoholic and working mother of two is grateful for the clarity that recovery brings. “I feel like I notice so much more than I ever did before. I love that my daughters know me as a Mom who cares and who is there for them. I love being up for the sunrise and not feeling hungover and filled with self-loathing.”

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Judy Laube

Judy Laube

A misdiagnosed back injury triggered Laube’s hellish journey into accidental prescription drug addiction and withdrawal. Taking what the doctors prescribed, she became dependent on benzodiazepines and battled for 11 years to get her health back.“If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone,” Laube cautions. Today, she’s passionate about raising awareness of prescription drug dangers and notes, “Addiction does not always mean abuse.”

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Lisa Smith

Lisa Smith

“My work wardrobe was ratty. All of my suits, like most of my clothes, were black because black hid the wine stains and cigarette ash . . .After my obsessive ritual of brushing my teeth and gargling with Listerine at least three times before chomping Orbit gum, I began to feel more like my version of normal—steady enough to get through my workday without people seeing me violently shake or stumble and just barely confident that no one near me would smell the wine that pulsed through my veins.”— From Smith’s memoir, “Girl Walks Out of a Bar”New York City attorney Lisa Smith was a high-functioning addict, hiding a spiraling alcohol and cocaine habit amid the pressures of corporate law.Attorneys struggle with addiction at rates that are twice the national average, and Smith — who is now 12 years in recovery — wants to change the stigma. “We need to raise awareness of this issue and make it a continuing conversation in order to encourage those who need it to get help instead of hiding alone in shame and fear,” she says.

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Cali Estes

Cali Estes

As an addiction therapist and life coach, Estes’ high-profile clientele includes rock musicians, corporate CEOs, notable actors and athletes.“I have worked with some of the most famous and powerful people in the world, yet when I see them, they are at their worst,” says Estes, who has shared her insights on “Dr. Drew,” CNN and other national media. “I feel like a proud momma bear when one of my clients gets and stays sober.”It was Estes’ personal odyssey — a tortuous food and diet pill addiction — that motivated her to help others. Today she draws on two decades of recovery — along with a Ph.D. in psychology, national certification as an addiction professional, and her skills as a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, personal trainer and yoga/pilates teacher to lead others to wellness.

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Adi Jaffe

Adi Jaffe

Jaffe’s career has the gravitas of a lifelong high-achiever. He holds a Ph.D. in psychology from UCLA, where he lectures and conducts research. He’s a columnist for Psychology Today, Executive Director of a California treatment center, founder of a popular website on addiction, and author of a TEDx talk about shame and stigma in mental health. Jaffe has also shared his insights on TV’s Good Morning America and Larry King Now.It’s a journey that could have turned out remarkably different. A former meth addict and convicted drug dealer, Jaffe spent a year in jail after a SWAT team raided his apartment. Today, 12 years into recovery, he hopes his striking transformation can inspire others to rebuild their lives.

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Jef Mullins

Jef Mullins

Mullins has a favorite quote that seems to fit the pathos and rebirth in his own life: “The world breaks everyone and, afterward, some are strong in the broken places” ~ Ernest HemingwayOnce homeless, indigent, out of work and ailing – the fallout from years of alcoholism – Mullins today is radically transformed. He’s lived and worked all over the world – serving as a headmaster in Spain, an executive with Europe’s largest provider of addiction treatment, and a psychotherapist with double diplomas in psychodynamic counseling. Currently, he’s living in the United States as Chief Executive Officer of Waters Edge Recovery, which provides behavioral health care in Florida.“My recovery has brought me so much – a great job, a loving wife, a nice car, a sense of purpose, etc.,” Mullins says. “But, far more valuable than any of that is that the people who loved me aren’t scared any more.”

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James Tower Profile In Addiction Recovery

James Tower

Tower’s calling as a Quaker pastor emerged from the depths of heroin addiction. The former atheist wrestled with poverty, violence and drugs in his youth — and nearly died of a heroin overdose in the summer of 2000. Semi-conscious and gasping for air, Tower prayed for salvation and a second chance at life.He immersed himself in recovery and began a serious spiritual quest — eventually earning a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree from an Oregon seminary. Tower strengthened his sobriety by attending multiple 12-step programs, including the Christ-centered “Celebrate Recovery” movement. Today he lives with his family in Iowa, where he is active in campus ministry and leads a local congregation at a Quaker church.

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Joe Powell Profile In Addiction Recovery

Joe Powell

Growing up in an alcoholic home, Powell felt helpless and frightened. The daily chaos had a profound impact on his eight siblings as well.“My father and mother died from effects of alcoholism,” Powell says. “I lost two of my brothers to alcoholism, drugs and mental health problems.”Like many children of alcoholics, Powell struggled with addiction as an adult. But he charted a new course with methadone treatment for heroin detox and a 12-step program for alcoholism. That was nearly three decades ago. Today, Powell is a leader in the recovery movement, helping thousands of people conquer addiction as the head of an acclaimed non-profit recovery organization.

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Kellie Ideson Profile In Addiction Recovery

Kellie Ideson

Ideson began her days with wine and Xanax, while shouldering single motherhood and a real estate career. She hit bottom when her teenagers found her drunk and defeated, clutching a bottle of pills. “They took action and got me the help I needed,” Ideson says. “And now, what happened in those few final drunken moments has become a lifetime of change.”Today Ideson is grateful for mended relationships in recovery, which she sustains with weekly therapy, 12-step programs, service work and Buddhist spiritual practices. “I pray now before my feet even hit the floor in the morning,” Ideson says. She works to empower others through her journey and says “having my teenage girls tell me they are proud of me is the best thing that has happened in my sobriety.”

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Jamie Lissow Profile In Addiction Recovery

Jamie Lissow

Lissow co-stars with Saturday Night Live alum Rob Schneider in Real Rob, a Netflix sitcom that Lissow also co-writes. Its a high-profile gig that he might have missed, if he'd still been drinking.Sober since 2013, Lissow benefits in recovery from greater clarity and respect for his craft as an actor, writer and stand-up comic. His career has been rising from the college comedy circuit to performances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, his own special on Comedy Central and now Real Rob."I learned that it wasn't over for me. And that we are never too old to start again and do it better, Lissow says. One of my favorite quotes (I'm paraphrasing) is from Joe Rogan. He says know that you have the option to live today like its that moment in a movie when the failure picks himself up after being beaten down and starts the journey towards becoming the hero.The day I quit drinking was that day."

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Clea Myers Profile In Addiction Recovery

Clea Myers

An Englishwoman from a privileged background, Myers came to America on an Ivy League scholarship — and graduated with honors from Brown University. Her journey took a grim turn when a boyfriend introduced her to crystal methamphetamine.Myers’ rapid descent into addiction left her emaciated and covered in scabs from compulsive scratching — a hallmark of chronic meth use. To finance her habit, she resorted to “dumpster diving” for valuables and later stole a van in Los Angeles while high on meth. Myers was released from a California women’s prison after she agreed to promptly return to England.Today, thanks to lifesaving treatment, Myers has achieved 12 years of recovery. The London actress often speaks publicly about the dangers of meth and is the author of “Tweaking the Dream: A Crystal Meth True Story.”

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Cathy Davis

Cathy Davis

Earning her college degree at age 50 is a highlight of Davis’ recovery from addiction. She says she “lost 30 years of life” to hard drinking and drugs, but they no longer control her world. Today, Davis has a thriving marketing career and is pursing an Executive M.B.A. at Cleveland State University. She hopes to eventually earn a Doctorate in Public Health.Since 2011, Davis has been a passionate advocate for the recovery community in Ohio. She was instrumental in obtaining the White House 2016 “Champion of Change” recognition for her employer, Northern Ohio Recovery Association (NORA).

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Paul Churchill

Paul Churchill

How does a closet alcoholic hold himself accountable in recovery? Paul Churchill went public, starting a weekly Internet podcast to bolster his sobriety.During his 20s, Churchill owned and operated a bar in Granada Spain, and was blacking out 5-7 nights each week from heavy drinking. He also spent a night in jail after being arrested for DUI while driving to work. Churchill recounts his struggles and successes on the “Recovery Elevator” podcast. The popular program, which also features weekly guests, is nearing 250,000 downloads on iTunes. “I never imagined it would connect me with alcoholics all over the planet,” Churchill says.

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Julie Orlando

Julie Orlando

Losing her three-year-old daughter to a rare genetic disorder was agonizing for Orlando. She drowned her grief in alcohol and stopped eating — weighing just 92 pounds at one point.“My drinking escalated to the later stages of alcoholism quickly after her death,” says Orlando, who had always been able to care for her family of six. “I needed help but was too ashamed to ask for it.”After searching online, Orlando found life-changing recovery through the sisterhood of “Women for Sobriety,” an international nonprofit. Her journey also included rehab treatment, 12-step meetings, and reliance on her faith, psychiatrist and sponsor. Today, Orlando is grateful for 16 years of sobriety. “I value my story, which includes a man that stayed, kids that loved unconditionally and a woman in the mirror who finally saw courage, confidence, compassion, love and humility staring back,” she says.

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Holly Jespersen

Holly Jespersen

Jespersen rappelled down a 22-story building to help fight addiction — an epidemic that claims the lives of 15 Americans every hour. She accepted the fundraising challenge on behalf of Shatterproof, a national nonprofit working to end the stigma and suffering of drug and alcohol addiction. It’s a disease that Jespersen knows well.A former daily drinker with a five-year cocaine habit, Jespersen was good at hiding her addictions. She had a robust public relations career with agencies in New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. But she wasn’t sleeping and began missing work, eventually losing her job.Today Jespersen is healthy and committed to recovery — sober since 2011 — and passionate about her work as Communications Manager for Shatterproof, which she helped launch in 2013.

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Howard Hoekstra

Howard Hoekstra

A beloved church pastor, Howard Hoekstra knew he had a problem with alcohol. He had the genes for the disease, and had tried for years to quit drinking on his own. The turning point came during an intervention by his concerned congregation at Calvary Church in Orland Park, Illinois, where he was senior pastor for 28 years.Hoekstra entered a rehab program for clergy and other professionals, and started going to Alcoholics Anonymous. The church welcomed him back after treatment, and Hoekstra continued his ministry there for several decades until retiring. His recovery was a catalyst for others to seek help, and launched a recovery ministry serving up to 100 people each week.

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J. Carlos Rivera

J. Carlos Rivera

Rivera brings hope to Native Americans with his life-changing personal journey.Growing up without a mother or father figure, Rivera became a ward of the court at age 13. He spent his teen years living on the streets or in group homes, treatment programs or juvenile detention centers. Through the process of intervention and recovery, Rivera found a sense of direction and the motivation to build a healthy foundation for his own family.After earning a degree in chemical dependency studies, Rivera became a substance abuse counselor and was appointed by California Gov. Jerry Brown to the Juvenile Justice & Delinquency State Committee. He currently serves as Executive Director at White Bison, Inc., an international non-profit that provides culturally-based healing resources to Native America.

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Deborah King

Deborah King

Battling drug addiction while you’re the child of a celebrity “brings you to a different level of ridicule,” says Deborah King, daughter of legendary boxing promoter Don King. “I was placed on the cover of gossip magazines, AP wires, and multiple media outlets.”Motivated by the prayers and concern of her late mother Henrietta, King tackled the hard work of recovery. She spent four months in a treatment center and lived in a halfway house with other women fighting addiction.King emerged with a calling to help others find healing. She went back to school for a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling and became a certified Intervention and Recovery Life Coach. Now drug-free for 11 years, King guides people from all walks of life in their journeys toward recovery.

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Cara Johnson

Cara Johnson

Recovery gave Johnson a second chance at college. She’s no longer high on pills, missing classes or passing out on campus. And she found purpose working as an intern for a non-profit, To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), which helps people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide."I find healthier ways to cope and practice immense amounts of self-care," Johnson says of her recovery. "For me, this means counseling, writing, exercising, and taking photographs of anything and everything."

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Jennifer Matesa

Jennifer Matesa

Chronic pain from fibromyalgia triggered Jennifer Matesa’s prescription drug addiction. Her doctor had given her hydrocodone and then morphine, OxyContin and finally, fentanyl — one of the strongest opioids on the market. As she juggled motherhood and a successful writing career, Matesa denied her growing painkiller addiction:“I wasn’t really an Addict. Addicts — well, everyone knows they don’t have kids, spouses, houses, jobs, everyone knows they Lose Everything.”Matesa freed herself from opioids with the help of a detox specialist. Today she shares advice on her ad-free blog, “Guinevere Gets Sober”— one of the first to explore addiction and recovery. Her commitment to removing the stigma of addiction earned her a fellowship at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

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Craig Whalley

Craig Whalley

Sober, secular and self-directed. That’s the essence of LifeRing, an international recovery support network that helped Whalley stop drinking.The retired bookstore owner was seeking an alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous. He liked the pragmatic, present-day emphasis of LifeRing, which believes that people DO have the power to overcome their addictions. Bolstered by peer support, Whalley learned how to strengthen his Sober Self and weaken the Addict Self.Now in recovery for 15 years, Whalley encourages others in his volunteer role as Deputy Executive Director for LifeRing Secular Recovery.

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Mike Barry

Barry was a popular television anchorman in Lexington, Kentucky. But while his public profile was rising, Barry fell deeper into alcoholism – eventually becoming homeless. Now 20 years sober, Barry leverages his remarkable life story to help others overcome drug and alcohol addiction.

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Dana Bowman

Parenting young children while struggling with alcoholism, Bowman knows the perils that many mothers face. They wonder if they drink too much, or if anyone shares their insecurities and social anxiety. They fear addiction is looming over their busy family lives. Here, Bowman offers practical insights on embracing sobriety -- a journey she chronicles in her memoir, “Bottled: A Mom’s Guide to Early Recovery.”

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Joseph Sharp

The ravages of methamphetamine extracted a painful toll on Sharp. His addiction led to near-death experiences and badly swollen limbs, the result of shooting crystal meth. But Sharp found a path to freedom -- fighting meth’s grip with a full arsenal of recovery strategies:12-step meetings, residential rehab, psychotherapy, Buddhist meditation, Christian Bible Study and daily altruism. Today, his life’s work is helping others find recovery and redemption from methamphetamine.

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Robert Hammond

A best-selling author, screenwriter and producer, Hammond enjoys a life of creative achievement. It’s a radical change from his drug-addicted past. Hammond was often in prison, homeless, or cycling through rehabs from ages 14 to 42. Today, as he approaches 20 years of recovery, Hammond reflects on the power of self and the joys of his second act.

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Bill Dinker

College graduation is a big moment for most millennials. But Dinker, who had graduated magna cum laude, had little time to celebrate. He was headed to jail the next day for an alcohol-related DUI, which led to a crash that injured four people.Dinker’s alcohol problem progressed to a painkiller addiction and later, regular heroin use. He got clean and sober after intensive rehab and today helps others through his work at Discovery Place, the non-profit treatment center where he recovered.

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Erin Bahadur

An honor student who completed college in three years, Bahadur was skilled at hiding her growing drug addiction. She progressed from alcohol and marijuana to painkillers, street drugs and eventually, shooting heroin.After serving nine months in jail for stealing narcotics, Bahadur transformed her life in recovery. She’s held two successful jobs, paid back over $20,000 in credit card debt, mended relationships, bought a car and found love. Today she shares her journey to support others in recovery.

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Katie MacBride

As a teenager, MacBride hid in her bedroom closet and “drank alone until it nearly killed me.” She emerged to build a much healthier life in recovery – now seven years sober and a successful author.MacBride is unflinchingly candid as she describes the ghosts of addiction and reason to hope:“I have been the drunk stumbling down the street at 8 a.m., the one you grab your child’s hand and cross the street to avoid. I have been the confused, angry woman screaming at a parking meter. If that is you, or someone you love, all is not lost. Not all of us recover, but many of us do. We behaved shamefully, but we are no longer ashamed.”

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Kelly Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald doesn’t fit the cliché of an alcoholic. She earned two college degrees, played four seasons of NCAA soccer and led a busy social life – all while binge drinking in deep denial.Fitzgerald once broke her nose while blackout drunk. She got serious about sobriety after passing out at a bachelorette party – a wake-up call that ended years of chaos and nasty hangovers. Now in recovery, Fitzgerald offers inspiration for livin’ la vida loca (without alcohol) through her popular blog, the “Sober Señorita.”

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Stephanie Newman

Newman is a testament to how people can change – and fully rebuild their lives in recovery. Daily cocaine and alcohol binges nearly killed her, and Newman spent time in prison for child neglect. She lived on the streets, stole to support her habit, and was often suicidal.Healing and compassion – and lots of peer support – came from the Sister to Sister program, a non-profit recovery initiative in Oklahoma. Today Newman is nine years sober and a positive role model for her children. She uses her life experiences to provide support for others in recovery.

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Jake Nichols

A pharmacist with an opiate addiction is a volatile combination. Nichols’ 15-year narcotics habit cost him a high-profile career and led to criminal charges for writing fake prescriptions and diverting drugs. After entering Massachusetts’ treatment program for addicted pharmacists, Nichols fully recovered. Today he’s rebuilding his life and aims to “help others fight this horrible disease and to demonstrate that recovery is possible.”

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