“My name is Kim Curtis and I am a person in long-term recovery from substance use disorder.

I grew up with an alcoholic father and codependent mother. I witnessed a lot of domestic violence, endured both physical and mental abuse, followed by a sexual assault – and this all occurred by age 6.

From an early age, I always knew I was different from others. See….I never really felt like I belonged no matter where I was. One of my earliest memories of this was when I was kindergarten. I remember going to school every day crying. I’m not exactly sure what triggered the crying. I just know it was embarrassing and caused even more feelings of being different.

Throughout the rest of my school years, my home environment would continue to get worse. My anxiety and depression would continue to grow as my self-esteem became nonexistent. You see back in my day, symptoms of a mental illness were not talked about or they were just ignored. In my early twenties I discovered drugs. It wasn’t like I set out to become a drug addict (scary term – brings judgment). It was through a dental procedure that I was introduced to what would become the love of my life. As long as I was high, I could be around people without feeling inadequate, I didn’t feel as anxious anymore, and rarely felt depressed unless I couldn’t find my next fix.

Funny thing about ‘love’ – it can also have the potential to destroy us. So, this is how it ended for me. I destroyed myself, my jobs, finances and relationships. I had created my own prison, but only I held the key to unlock the cell door. It was through destroying myself that I was able to find my true self. How did I find my true identity? First, I entered treatment for my addiction and began attending self-help meetings. It was through peers loving me unconditionally, focusing on my strengths, and speaking life and truth into me that I was able to see I did have a purpose for my life and I even began to develop a renewed sense of self-worth.

I made a connection with a higher power and learned even in my darkest days, I was really never forsaken. Today, I can honestly say I regret nothing in my life – even if my past was full of hurt – because without those experiences and learning how to overcome them, I would not be who I am today.

The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of us but those who win battles we know nothing about. As a result of my recovery, I am a mother, a wife, a member of several professional boards, an employee, a friend, a supporter to others, and most importantly, I no longer defined myself by my past.

My future hopes include getting my Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice and working with juveniles in drug court.”