By Jordyn Grzelewski |
Thirteen years ago this week, Holly Brest made a life-changing decision. After 11 years of drug abuse, she quit cold turkey, she says.
The decision was prompted by another life-changing event: She was pregnant with her first child.
“Thank God I found out I was pregnant,” said Brest, 36, of Hubbard. “My oldest daughter really saved me.”
Today, she’s a mother of two daughters – Saphire, 13, and Quinn, 11 – and an advocate for addiction awareness. She recently organized Hubbard’s first “Walk Against Heroin,” an awareness event in which numerous communities now participate.
She’s also open with her kids about her story, wanting to instill in them an understanding of addiction that will prevent them from going down the same path.
Brest’s substance abuse began, she says, when she was the same age as her oldest daughter is now: 13. She started with alcohol, and it progressed from there.
Aware that, for many people, addiction is intertwined with mental illness or an attempt to cope with difficult circumstances, Brest says her drug use was simply experimental.
“I was curious with it. I wanted to see how I would react,” she said. “I take sole responsibility for my actions and my drug addiction. ... It was my choice to use, and my choice to get clean.”
She recalled trying crack cocaine at a party as a teenager.
“That night I got hooked, immediately,” she said.
For the next several years, she said, her life centered around one thing: getting high.
Her life “was rocky. At that time I thought I had life, and the world, in my hands. I had no worries, no fears. It was a life I thought I’d be living the rest of my life,” she said.
But day to day, the reality was difficult.
“I’d wake up and from the time I woke up to the time I went to sleep, I was high,” she said.
While she started with crack, Brest next tried meth, and then heroin.
Her life spiraled to its lowest point when, in March 2002, she overdosed twice in one week, she said.
Not long after that, she discovered she was pregnant.
“I knew I wasn’t going to get another chance at life,” she said.
So she stopped. It wasn’t easy, and she did relapse once, but she says she’s now been clean since Nov. 24, 2003.
“It was rough. I went through six weeks of pure hell,” she said. “Cold sweats. Night sweats. Vomiting. Diarrhea. The chills. Lack of appetite. The shakes. I had it all.”
Even now, there are some days when her addiction tempts her. But just like her pregnancy made her get clean, her daughters keep her clean, she said.
“I feel whole again. I feel healthy. It’s like a brand new life,” she said.
She also channels her energy into helping others beat their addiction. She plans to make Hubbard’s “Walk Against Heroin” an annual event.
“My best advice is what I told everybody at the walk: If you can chase the dope man, you can chase that recovery,” she said. “Chase that recovery like you chase that high.”
In her opinion, the most important thing people can do to combat the addiction problem that haunts many communities is to simply educate young people about drugs.
And to the people going through what she went through 13 years ago, she says: “Chase that sobriety. Because there are people out there trying to help.
“Just take that hand.”