RICHMOND, Va. — This spring, 25-year-old Holly Long will graduate from college with a degree in psychology. Her success comes after years of battling addiction — a disease she never imagined that she would recover from.
“I never saw it for myself,” Long said. “I saw people getting clean and I thought it was impossible because I tried so many times on my own.”
Long started drinking in her teenage years, and eventually turned to marijuana and cocaine. She said despite a loving and supportive family, she dealt with overwhelming feelings of depression.
“I couldn't take it anymore,” Long said. “I couldn’t take the feelings, I couldn’t take the way I was treated at school, and I just started using, that was my outlet.”
While recovery has taken hard work, Long said she fears for others as addiction is soaring in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) data, more than 100,000 Americans died from drug overdoses between May 2020 and April 2021. It was a 30% increase from the 78,000 deaths in the prior year. Most of the deaths are due to opioids, fueled by the powerful drug fentanyl.
Long said it’s difficult to see young people who are struggling with addiction or exposed to fentanyl-laced drugs at parties or among friends. She was poisoned with fentanyl in 2017.
“Fentanyl isn’t just a heroin thing, it’s an everything thing. You might try this one thing for the first time and think it’s harmless,” Long said. “When I took fentanyl, it was in a Xanax.”
After several near-death experiences, Long said she decided three years ago to get the help she needed. Her family also sought peer-support counseling from other families dealing with addiction.
Long’s parents said education about the disease of addiction helped them to create healthy boundaries, while supporting their daughter.
“It truly is a miracle to see where she is today,” said Long’s mother, Ellen. “She’s graduating from college; she has a full-time job waiting. She’s in the community helping others, and it’s nice to see her gifts unfolding.”
Long’s father, Michael, said it's difficult seeing other parents who have lost their children to addiction and suicide.
“We have amazing friends, several who have lost children,” said Michael. “They are advocating for all the other kids and it’s amazing to watch and see their involvement. They could be bitter, but they don’t want other people to deal with that.”
Through her advocacy work, Holly Long said she hopes to continue supporting and providing hope to others battling addiction.
“What I hope this segment will show people, is who I really am, who my family really is and that it could happen to anybody,” Long said.