RICHMOND, Va. -- Headlines about the opioid crisis seemingly week after week hit Alicia Venable in a deeply personal way.
Venable, who now runs the nonprofit Venable Community Services Inc., said years ago, her drug addiction led her down a dark hole, the same hole she now tries to prevent others from falling into.
"It's personal for me because I've been through the same walk of life. I'm now 13 years clean and off drugs. So I have a passion for helping people that come from the same walk of life. Because if I can stop, you can stop," Venable said.
It's a message that she carries boldly into the streets, doing outreach for the homeless and those who were formerly incarcerated and now are returning to the community. But Venable doesn't stop there.
She frequents the streets of area public housing communities where she herself once struggled with drugs, extending offers to help young people and adults whose lives are touched by drugs and gun violence.
"This is how I talk to them. I say, look, here are some resources for you on how to get a job. Put a briefcase in your hand instead of a gun. Here are some resources and I'll show you how to get off this corner. I say, aren't you tired of the police chasing you? Aren't you tired?"
Using her lived experiences, Venable is also a peer recovery specialist who is trained to assist those who are fighting drug addiction and those who are battling mental health issues.
"We meet them where they are and have a dialogue with them to bring them down so we can open up a line of communication and find out what the problem is and how we can help," Venable said.
Venable is coordinating and inviting others to an upcoming peer recovery specialist training on Saturday with the hopes of enlisting even more people who share her passion for helping those who are struggling from day to day.
"I'll be training individuals how to be peer recovery specialists. Show them where to get the 500 hours, how to become state-certified and I'll also help them get a job," Venable said.
It's a mission that she calls a ministry.
"If He can take me out of the bondage of drugs, then He can do the same for someone else, so I'm real passionate about what I do," Venable said.