Stories of hope continue to motivate activists, elected officials and law enforcement officers to continue the fight against the opioid epidemic.
One Madison County woman has one goal in mind as she shares her story: to inspire others to know recovery is possible.
Ali Kokjohn says she grew up oblivious to addiction. The first time she felt its sting was through the death of a friend in 2015.
"I remember when Alexis died. And, at the time, I was so naive to the idea of addiction I thought that she messed up her own life," admits Ali.
Fast forward two years to when Ali was exposed to opioids, in a way many people are. "I had a back injury from soccer," said Ali. " And I was prescribed opiates."
She says the medication didn't just impact her physically, "And I realized that I liked taking the opiates because they made me feel better with my back, but they also elevated my mood a lot."
Ali says she believed that, if she followed the rules and took the medicine exactly how her doctor instructed, she wouldn't be at risk to develop an addiction.
It turned out she was wrong.
"Alexis died from this," remembers Ali. "And even still, after seeing everything that her family and everything that her friends went through, I still picked up those pills and put them in my mouth, thinking that this isn't going to happen to me.'
Things slowly began to spiral out of control. "I tried to stop and I would feel like I was losing my mind."
The Silent Struggle
"Addiction is such a lonely disease," Ali confessed. "And that's why people don't get help. They already feel so alone and so terrible about themselves that it's hard for them to go to the people they love."
She went to an inpatient 30-day treatment program, which included five days of detox. In that time, she met people going through the same struggles and she learned the process is different for everyone.
"There is not one set way that someone beats addiction. Let them find their process and don't punish them for not getting it right the first time or the second time," pleads Ali.
Ali recently celebrated one year of sobriety. She's no longer hiding her struggle. "There's so many people who will sit there and try to pretend like it didn't happen. They try to sweep addiction under the rug and act like it's taboo."
The 27-year-old is back in school, working to get her nursing degree and working on her new normal. She's also back on the soccer field.
Looking for Change
Ali's hoping to help society change its view of addiction.
"If we try to change the tone of addiction it would save so many lives," says Ali. "It's still going to happen but maybe it won't be a massacre like it is."
This is why Ali shared her story with us....with you. There is hope.
Are you struggling with addiction? Or maybe you have a family member you think is struggling? There are resources available to help.
We have compiled a list of resources available to those seeking help.