The first time I had a shot of rum was 45 years ago, when I was about eight years old. I got it from my grandmother, who was an alcoholic. Looking back, I realize now that my father was an alcoholic, too. In ninth grade, I started with the drugs.

I had no idea what kind of chaos and pain these things would unleash in my life. And once I was in the grips of addiction, I had no idea that I could ever have the kind of sane and happy life I have today. I really put a lot of effort into destroying myself. Finally, after years of failed attempts at recovery, what started turning things around for good was the professionalism and acceptance of the staff at Anuvia.

I tried rehab in Puerto Rico before I ever even came to the U.S. And then, over the years, I did a lot of treatment centers here, too. I went to a couple in New York City, and there was one I tried in upstate New York for five months. Then there were more in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Arkansas, another one in Charlotte, and finally Anuvia. I hit bottom many, many times, but I could never quit. Nothing ever worked for me until I got here. That was in December of 2001.

I had been in the inpatient program at a local hospital, and when I left, they kept recommending Anuvia. Of course, back then it was called the CDC. Finally, I went just because I was curious to find out why the hospital kept talking about it.

It was the first time I had ever experienced this kind of program. Everyone was definitely very warm and welcoming, but they knew this was serious, and they were very sensitive. They took everything into consideration. It really got my attention. My counselor was so professional, and very genuine – very real. There was no judgment, nothing like that. I’m so grateful for that – it really got me motivated.

There also was so much opportunity to identify with others – they put me at ease so I could drop my guard and participate in the group sessions. I had tried all this before, but here it was so personal. At one meeting when I was feeling very ashamed, a lot of people actually got out of their chairs to hug me. They really made me feel OK. I finally wasn’t scared any more about what people might say.

During that first year, I really concentrated on my recovery, and it was like finally waking up from a bad nightmare. I actually decided to go back to school.

With a lot of support from my friends in the recovery community, I enrolled in and completed an associate’s degree program. Then I applied to a bachelor’s program, and was shocked when I was admitted. I worked hard to become a social worker and give back in some way what I have received.

The future can be more different than we can even imagine. It’s hard for me to believe, but today I am a social worker, and I’m enrolled in a very competitive master’s program. Every day I have the opportunity to give others the amazing thing that the people at Anuvia gave me: another shot at life.