The Disease of Addiction Affects Us All

We continue this month’s theme of sharing personal stories of those who have been affected by substance use disorder. The story below is from Mariel, who is an inspirational example of someone who is in long-term recovery from substance use disorder and an advocate in raising awareness and helping to destigmatize the disease of addiction.

These stories are also being shared as part of the Knock Out Opioid Abuse program, supported through grants by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey’s philanthropic arm, The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey. The Knock Out Opioid Abuse initiative is now in its third phase. 

I commend those that have shared these very personal experiences. Stigma is a major barrier to treatment, support and recovery for people suffering from addiction. It also prevents the public from understanding the nature of addiction as a disease. Sharing these stories helps to break down stigma by humanizing those suffering from addiction, which hopefully will lead to policies that provide better access to treatment and care.

If you have a story that you would like to share you can easily do so here. If you have questions or need assistance, please contact Matt Birchenough at To learn more about the Knock Out Opioid Abuse initiative, please click here.

All the best, 
Angelo M. Valente, Executive Director of PDFNJ


By Mariel

I am a proud woman in long-term recovery from a crippling heroin and crack-cocaine addiction. I was able to initiate my recovery in 2007 at the age of 21 and have been able to sustain abstinence-based recovery since then. Science shows us that addiction is a chronic and relapsing brain disease. This is not opinion, it is fact. We must both decriminalize and medicalize addiction. Addiction need to be viewed as not only a public safety issue, but also a public health issue. When proper treatment and support is offered, people can and do recover.


Notice: This article reflects the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ). This information should not be construed as legal advice from the author or PDFNJ. Please consult your own attorney before making any legal decisions.

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