Nearly 90% of people who die by suicide suffer from a co-occurring mental health condition. When I was 20, I made my first attempt at taking my own life. At the age of 22, I nearly accomplished my goal. Ending my life was the only way I could imagine escaping the steel chains that bound me to my spoon and my needle. My name is Cassidy and I suffer from substance use disorder. I’m an addict – but today I am sober. Today I am alive.

The first time I got high, I lost all the feelings of insecurity and inadequacy that I had suffered from as a child. I finally felt comfortable in my own skin. I felt like I truly fit in with others. I had no idea that my recreational drug use would eventually take off into full-blown heroin addiction.

A year after I graduated high school, I began abusing prescription opioids, but they got far too expensive so I turned to heroin because it was stronger and cheaper. Within three months I was unable to get out of bed without sticking a needle in my arm. Each morning when I woke up I would promise myself that I wouldn’t get high that day, but the physical cravings and mental obsessions to use were too strong to control with my own will power. Less than an hour later I would find myself sinking into euphoric oblivion, where my firm resolves to stay sober that day dissolved into the universe.

I couldn’t stop no matter how hard I tried. I would justify my use to the point where I fully believed that I wasn’t as bad as the junkies on the street. Within a year, I was that girl on the street, with no job, no food, no desire to live. All that mattered was my next fix.

Feeling completely and utterly hopeless, I decided to try and take my own life. I was positive that I wouldn’t wake up – but I did. When I woke up, I was still alone. I was scared. More than anything, I was angry. I didn’t know how to cope with my emotions and I didn’t know how to stay sober. The next two years trapped in active addiction were a blur of despair with a mission to die.

The last attempt I made is also my sobriety date. On July 29, 2017, I told myself that if I woke up this time, I would go to the hospital and I would seek treatment. On this day, my entire perspective on life changed. I became convinced that I was alive for a reason that I didn’t yet understand.

It was in group therapy at a residential treatment facility where I learned that I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only person that felt hopeless, I wasn’t the only person who tried taking my own life, I wasn’t the only person who suffered from an inability to control my drug use. I found a group of people who struggled with the same suicidal thoughts that I did and I began to open up to them about the things I had been through and how I felt. I began to learn about appropriate coping techniques to deal with my irrational thoughts. I realized that suicide was not an option, but recovery was. I began to heal.

The friendships I made in treatment were unlike any relationships I had ever had. These people loved me for my flaws and imperfections. The friends I made in treatment continued to be there to love and support me when I moved on to a halfway house, where once again, I was surrounded by women who had the same goal as I did – to find peace and happiness in sobriety.

Even though every day isn’t butterflies and rainbows, I am still able to make light of the darkest days knowing that I am sober, I am loved, and I have a purpose. I know today that the reason I am alive is to share my experience with others to help them recover from addiction. My goal is to approach individuals who are newly sober and show them the same support that I needed when I was hopeless. The brightest aspect of my life today is to watch others recover.

Individuals who suffer from addiction have a greater risk of dying by suicide than the general population. These people aren’t necessarily depressed, but rather are trapped in an obsession that they cannot escape. When I was in this state of mind, my thoughts were clouded due to the number of drugs in my system, and I was terrified to ask for help. The stigma that surrounds addiction needs to be talked about. The stigma that surrounds suicide needs to be talked about. I want to talk about it. I want to save lives. If one less person takes their life due to the hopeless nature of addiction today, my job has only just begun.