Justina – Age 22

Name (or alias): Justina – Age 22

What substance(s) are you struggling with? Heroin/opiates

How long have you been struggling? 4 years

Are you sober? If so, how long have you been sober? Yes, 6 months.

What motivated you to seek treatment? My life had fallen apart. I was 22 years old with no job, no relationship with my family and no hope. All my friends were overdosing, getting arrested and dying. The sad part is that wasn’t even enough to get me clean. I went to treatment to appease my family and while I was in in patient treatment, my sister went into labor with my first niece, and as much as it killed me to miss her birth, I realized if I continued using that I would miss her first words and her first steps and I couldn’t bare the thought of that. She’s now a part of my everyday life and she motivates me to be the best aunt I can be every single day.

Do you feel that there is adequate treatment for co-occurring disorders? What would be the best treatment for dual diagnosis? There is adequate treatment for co-occurring disorders out there, but they are few and far between [in Worcester]. For inpatient treatment there are post detox facilities like Arbour, Fuller, and Spectrum Health, which are great. The only outpatient facility that I can recommend FROM EXPERIENCE is the SOAP Program at CAC. They’ve done unbelievable things for me. The most important thing is to chase your recovery the same way you chased your next fix and never give up.

Due to your recovery experiences, what would you advise young people in Worcester about substance use? I would advise them that if they are leading the life of drugs, they should come to SOAP. Getting and staying clean is the best way. I probably wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for this program.

What strengths have you learned since you have been in treatment to help you stay sober? I had to change everything in recovery. I have an amazing support system in my family and my sober network. However, the biggest change I had to make was in my thought process. There are still times that I want to use, but when that happens, I have to reach out to my supports and let them remind me of everything I will lose when I’m not capable of reminding myself.

Due to recovery experiences, what would you advise young people in Worcester about substance use? Seek treatment, get honest, and ASK for help. Do it because YOU want a better life for YOURSELF. Not for anyone else, it won’t work. Get to meetings and reach out, make new friends (real friends). Get a job and progress in your life so you have a sense of purpose. Leave your old life behind and beautiful things will happen. I can promise you that.

What do you attribute your success in recovery to? Hard work and proper motivation, amazing people in my life that I can always count on, the program that helped me until I could find myself, therapy, and drive to be my best self.

How has addiction affected your relationships with family, friends, and peers? It has greatly affected my relationships. I was very close to losing my family for good and never meeting my niece. All my true friends got fed up with the lying and stealing – they wrote me off and I was left with the other addicts that only cared about me when it benefitted them. I’ve also loved an addict since becoming sober and I can wholeheartedly say it has given me so much insight in to the feelings of my loved ones and put truth to the idea that it is so much harder to love an addict than to be an addict.

What are some common pitfalls and places that people in Worcester can avoid to stay substance free? Anywhere that they used to pick up or use. It’s different for everyone,but you absolutely have to identify your triggers and stay far away from them.

What resources would you like to see in Worcester, MA to help decrease substance abuse? Substance abuse education, more detox beds, MANY more after care beds, more effective outpatient programs like SOAP at CAC.

What do you suggest for preventative measures for young people before they pick up a substance? Talk to someone in recovery who has been there and find out why they got out of it, read the obituaries and police logs, drive down Main South and look around – that is where substance use will bring you.

What else could the community do to make it safer? Make treatment more effective and more readily available, stop treating addicts like criminals, break the stigma, and EDUCATE!


**Participants were not paid for their participation**