I wasn’t raised by abusive parents or addicts. My biological father was an alcoholic, but I wasn’t around him to be influenced enough for my issues in life. I smoked my first joint when I was probably 14, and soon thereafter I also experienced getting high on cocaine. At the time I was already smoking cigarettes. So you can say I wasn’t making the best choices right off the jump. I graduated high school with decent grades in 1999 and planned to start college at VHCC, but by this time, I started experimenting with meth. I was loving life with this new found go-fast that I thought was way better than cocaine or pot. I could get so much done. Or so I thought. I was missing too much school, so I decided to take a small break that lasted longer than planned. Back then I didn’t know that I was on my way to finding out what living off the streets meant. Going on drug runs. I never realized I would be that one driving across state lines high on the drugs I was picking up, thinking I was ten feet tall and bulletproof. I hit several bottoms in the 20 years of my active addiction, but I thank God every day that I had a family that would pull me out every time. With the incredible support system I had, my family never did give up on me even when there were times I felt they should have. I’ve dated losers along the way, guys that would do nothing but sit around using drugs all day. I dated one of those losers for ten years. That’s when I got introduced to pain pills, Xanax, and law enforcement. I was indicted for possession of cocaine. I couldn’t find any meth, so, not satisfied with not having anything, I bought the only thing that I could get my hands on that night. That’s how I was. I would use anything to catch a buzz. Once I found pain pills and benzos this became my drug of choice.
It was a revolving door when it came to the system in and out of jail, burning all bridges I could burn down at the time, hurting the ones in my way. Xanax should have a picture of me in handcuffs as one of the side effects. When I was facing some jail time again, I decided to try to get help, so I went to Mt. Rogers and they TDO (temporary detention order) me to the Galax treatment center. They released me in 72 hours, but while I was there, they gave me methadone. When I was released, I was outlooking again. I like to think that there was something inside of me that wanted help and I just didn’t know how to get it or who to actually talk to that wouldn’t turn me into the police. The guy I was seeing finally got locked up, and my parents talked me into coming home. By this time I was about 34. I continued with my drug use at their house, finding a meth dealer, living it up. I then began supporting my habit like a real gangster. I could get as much as I wanted. This is when I feel I picked up the addiction of the lifestyle of selling.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  In May of 2015, I found out I was pregnant, but that didn’t stop me—even though it should have. The addiction had taken over me. I got in trouble while pregnant and was arrested for possession with intent. I was released on bond to her father who also was another support system who came into my life as a blessing. Now I was looking at jail time and for help about my drug use. I didn’t want to lose my baby, but I just didn’t know how to stop. My doctor prescribed subutex, and my baby girl was born healthy in January of 2016. Right after giving birth to her, though, I got into trouble again. This time I picked up another possession with intent, and I didn’t get a bond this time. Thank God for my support system because my baby was well taken care of. They never did try to take her from me. That was a blessing. I spent two years and two months in prison. God was saving my life because I could have pulled way more time then I got. God will set you down to get your attention if he has to. While locked up, I read a lot of self-help books that got me through the rough times. The guy I was with waited for me to get out, and I became pregnant a month later with my son. In March 2019 after giving birth through a cesarean, I got a prescription of percocets, and it was a downhill battle from there. Thinking I had control of my drug addiction, I found out I was totally wrong. A few months from that point, I lost my job and went back to doing what I knew all too well. To support my $200 a day pain pill habit, I thought I had to start that lifestyle back up with meth, but I also started using it again. This party wouldn’t last that long. It soon came to a halt in January 2020 with a knock at the door. I answered my door to the Smyth County search and seize team. Someone dropped my name that I was selling. I was a felon with no fourth amendment right, and they had all rights to come in. Feeling pretty blessed that I came out with just a possession charge of meth, I got off lucky. Now the law has become a big motivator when it comes to my recovery. I was on pretrial and this is where I decided to go back to the Galax Treatment Center. I completed the 45 day program and came home where I got into the outpatient treatment program at Mt. Roger’s Crisis Building. My Goal was to get into the recovery court program because I knew this was going to be hard to do for someone with my record. But I am living proof that if the right person sees you are doing right and trying to make a change for the good, the word can get around. My life was on the right track and then the Coordinator of Smyth County Recovery Court gave me Jason Pritchard’s information. She thought it would be a great idea for me to go through the Peer Support Training.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I wanted to be a Peer Recovery Specialist because in my journey, I noticed that everyone didn’t have the support system that I had. This saddened me. I feel that everyone in addiction needs support, and I wanted to help those lacking in that area. I like to think God worked a miracle but maybe I did. I’ve changed so much and have been nothing but blessed in my recovery. I had to be doing something right.
Working on peer training also was working on my recovery—holding others accountable for their recovery while they are holding me accountable for mine. Would I go back to that life? Not with what I know now. I wouldn’t sacrifice my kids for one day in jail, but in active addiction who knows what I might have done. I love them with all my heart, but that world can take over your whole mind and body. But there are passage ways out, and I am living proof. With a strong mind and my higher power at work, I am here on the outside to spread the message of recovery to the still suffering addict. Now, I am going back to school after 20 years of active addiction under my belt, and I know what my higher power put me here to do. But I wouldn’t recommend getting here the way I did.

Candace completed the Peer Recovery Specialist training through Ballad Health and is currently employed by Ballad.