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Giving Helped Me Heal

Katie was one of the first people to do a Facebook fundraiser for NCADA. And, her initiative was successful beyond what any of us here at NCADA could have imagined. Thanks to the generosity of almost 30 friends, family members, and co-workers, Katie ended up raising $1,190! NCADA was of course grateful for her efforts and contribution, but we weren’t sure how Katie had found out about our organization, or why she chose to fundraise for NCADA, among the many other, equally-worthy causes. We decided to reach out to Katie to find out, and discovered that her story lends a unique perspective and voice to the issue of addiction, and how it impacts the people we care about.

“Giving Helped Me Heal.”

In 2013, I returned to St. Louis after college (Oregon State), and I was looking for experience that would help me embark on a career in social work. I found a volunteer opportunity with NCADA, and really enjoyed my time there. I was able to work with young girls in a school setting, and answer their questions about drugs and alcohol. I also enjoyed the people that I worked with.

So, that’s how I knew about NCADA.

However, it was an experience I had this past summer that led me to start a Facebook fundraiser for NCADA, instead of accepting birthday gifts.

For about six months, I dated someone struggling with an addiction to heroin and opiates. You’ll have a hard time believing this—because I still have a hard time believing this myself–but I didn’t realize it, almost all the way up until I ended the relationship.

Of course in hindsight, I don’t know how I didn’t see the warning signs. He was smart, attractive, and kind. He grew up in a great area, and seemed to have a great family—although he never introduced me to them. He was eager to move in with me not long after we started dating. He loved going out drinking…who doesn’t? He told me that he was narcoleptic. So when he nodded off in a bathroom when we were out with friends, we did our best to help him home, thinking he had fallen asleep (he had used heroin).

Eventually, the sinking feeling that something was wrong, and that things weren’t adding up, began to edge its way into my consciousness. He downplayed and tried to rationalize everything. The social-worker in me tried to understand him, and justify what I was seeing and experiencing. My stress levels started to grow. At the time, I was also doing my best to fulfill my duties as Maid of Honor to my sister. I started to feel like I was freaking out. So finally, I went to my doctor, and was prescribed a medication to help me cope.

Soon after, I returned home one day to find that he had taken (as in used, not stolen) half my prescribed medication. That was the moment when I woke up. While I still hadn’t met any of his family members in person, I had connected to one of them through social media. I reached out to let them know what had happened. I learned that he had been struggling with addiction for quite some time, and had received treatment in the past. His family was solemnly familiar with this most recent relapse.

I ended the relationship.

It was heartbreaking. There’s no better word for it.

I did my best to emotionally navigate for myself—and for him, and his family–but struggled with my decision. I felt terrible about walking away…when is the right time to leave? It felt like I failed. But I also knew that no matter how much I wanted to help him, he didn’t want to help himself.

We all grieved for him.

So, months later, when my birthday approached, I told the people around me that I didn’t want anything for my birthday. Instead, I asked my family, friends, and co-workers—who have been supportive of me throughout this experience—to contribute to my fundraiser. And I knew who I would be fundraising for: NCADA.

I know it’s always good to give, but selfishly, giving is what helped me move towards finding peace of mind, and maybe even closure. Giving helped me heal.

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