NJ woman, who once panhandled to buy heroin, turns life around after battle with opioid addiction

EATONTOWN, New Jersey (WABC) -- As an only child living with an alcoholic parent, Amanda's addiction to drugs started at an early age. And when her mom died, she went into a tailspin.

"The day my mom died, I lost who I was," Amanda said. "I lost my house. I put my children in foster care."

At one point, she found herself living on the streets of New Brunswick, sleeping on the steps of the library and panhandling just to buy heroin.

"It takes control of everything," she said. "Your entire body, your entire mind."

She even thought about taking her own life, but in the midst of her misery she met Al, a recovering user who now worked in the RWJ Barnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Recovery as a treatment specialist. He knew the pain of addiction.

"I watched it happen, and I couldn't stop it," Al said. "There's nothing I can do to stop it."
But with the threat of jail or worse, Al turned his life around and joined a community of supporters. And one day after some persistence, Amanda asked for help.

"She made that call, and that was huge" Al said. "To me, that's the hardest part for me was asking for help."

Now, Amanda has been clean for nine months and has reconnected to her children and other family members as she recovers. She says the services provided by the RWJ Barnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Recovery and Al, her peer counselor, have given her hope.

"I remind myself that I am worth life," she said.

WABC-TV and WPVI-TV are partnering with RWJBarnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Recovery and the state of New Jersey to host a town hall, addressing the worst drug crisis in American history: Opioid abuse and addiction.

Please join us Thursday, September 19th to take part in the forum, hosted at:

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
1 Robert Wood Johnson Pl
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Note: There will be free valet parking on site.


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