Why the neighborhood heroin addict might be the person behind you in line at Starbucks

I met Abby Kay Perrin of Virginia when she responded to WUSA9’s question on social media – what are you grateful for? The TV station launched this campaign around Thanksgiving, giving our viewers (and us too) the opportunity to express our gratitude – such an important thing to do, in my humble opinion.

Abby wrote that she was grateful to be sober for the first time in a long time during the holiday season, after battling heroin addiction for years. She was excited to share the holidays with her family and her daughter. Abby I texted back and forth and, soon, photographer Will Cockey and I were at her front door.

Abby told me heroin addicts aren’t always the toothless guy on the street muttering to himself. They are your friends, your co-workers, the person behind you in line at Starbucks, sometimes they’re your teachers, your fellow students, the person who answers the phone at the hair salon; they are everywhere. Abby shared that the shame and the stigma is one of the worst parts of recovering from heroin addiction. She’d been grappling with it for 8 years, ever since she was 15. At 23, she is a smart young lady, honest, grateful, and a proud mom of a vivacious 3-year-old. She is also brave, a fighter, and a survivor. She knows how precious the gift of life is. She’s seen friends die from addiction.

She opened up and shared her story so others wouldn’t feel alone. And she shared it to simply express gratitude. She is a beautiful reminder why we need to tell people thank you, share our stories, and be grateful for every moment we have.

This is Abby’s story.

Not long after the story aired, Abby posted on Facebook:

“So far I’ve had four of my friends share my story on their page and I also received a message last night from somebody who saw me on the TV and then found me online and wanted to tell me they’d seen me and that they’ve also had their own struggles with addiction. That makes me so happy to know that I touched at least one person out there enough to find me and want to speak with me.
Thank you to everyone who showed their support and for all the kind words you all have taken your time to write to me. I appreciate it so much. I just wanted people to listen to me and it’s great to know I’ve been heard on some level, even if it’s just a tiny bit, I’m still happy it’s reaching people. 
And to any of my friends who are struggling with this in their own way, please know they are people out there who care about you, and would listen to you. There are more people this effects than you think; when in active addiction you don’t usually open your eyes enough to see exactly who you’re hurting, but trust that it’s a lot more than you think. I never realize it effected as many people as it did, until some of my family members told me how they felt and what kind of worrying thoughts popped up in their head a lot. I know this is hard, I really really do, especially when you dig yourself so deep you feel there’s no way to the top; but please, listen- there is always a way out. Sometimes the answer may not be apparent right away, but it’s there. You’ve just got to keep trying and trying, no matter how many times you fail, get up and try again.
Don’t consider yourself a failure; you’re never a failure if you always pick yourself up and continue to try again. Trying is always an option. You will fail a lot of times on the way, but don’t let that discourage you. In fact, let that fuel you even more, because you day, you will succeed and you will make it out. I believe in all of us who struggle with this, even the person it’s hardest for me to believe in- Myself. But, I do because I have to if I want to stay alive, for my family, especially my daughter, and for the people whose lives I may be able to touch one day in a positive way.

Abby, thank YOU for sharing your story with us. Just today, I watched a video of Oprah Winfrey talking about failure. Her quote on failure spoke volumes.oprah failure

We all fail. It’s a part of life. But, we can’t let is stop us.  Do you know who else failed….a lot? Steve Jobs. Albert Einstein. Michael Jordan. The Beatles. Walt Disney. And the list goes on and on. Looks like we’re all in some pretty good company. But it’s never a fail to open up and share your story, like Abby did. It looks like it already has done a lot of good. I know it’s inspired me.


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