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Governor Chris Christie • Lt.Governor Kim Guadagno
Division of Addiction Services

My name is Joni, & I’ve been clean and sober for 37 years.  My addiction was short lived, and I hid it well from my family.  I thought I started drinking at age 15, but then I saw some old home movies of me running around at a family party with a can of beer.  I was 2 years old.   I started smoking pot at age 13.  A friend of my Mom’s showed me how it should be smoked.  I lost interest in drinking because I didn’t like hangovers.  Pot was much kinder!  At 16, I started training to be a professional skater with the Roller Derby.  It wasn’t too long after that when friends introduced me to cocaine and opium.  I thought I died and went to heaven.  Coke to play & opium to sleep.  I tried other drugs, but nothing felt better than coke & opium.  After about a year, my friends began to tell me I had a drug problem…I thought they were nuts!  I could quit any time I wanted, but who would want to quit?  They didn’t know what they were missing.  I decided to placate them and attend an AA meeting.  I was thrown out because I didn’t drink. 

Drugs were easy for me to obtain.  Fans of the Roller Derby would give me all the drugs I wanted.  One day, one of the older Skater came to training.  She was about 45 years old.  At age 20, that seemed like an antique!  She was old and slow, and we were told to not make her look bad on the track.  First I was angry that this old lady was slowing us up.  Then I overheard her talking to one of the other skaters.  She said she was trying to get “back in the games” because she couldn’t do anything else.  She spoke about how she turned pro at 17.  That scared the hell out of me!  I turned pro at 17 too, and I sure as hell didn’t want to be her in 25 more years!  I took my skates off and never put them on again.  I decided to go to college, so my best friend & I robbed a store so I could get tuition money.  I almost flunked out because I was still getting high.

The day before Labor Day, 1972, I was up in my bed room sorting out lines of coke as I talked on the phone.  My Mom walked in with some of my laundry and spotted the lines.  She took her hand and brushed them on the floor.  She said “stop playing with this powder”.  She didn’t have a clue that she almost stopped my heart from beating!  As soon as she walked out of the room, I did a nose dive into the carpet.  As I was sniffing around on my carpet, I looked up toward my window and saw a reflection of what I looked like.  For the first time I realized I was a drug addict.  I cried for hours.  I was 21 years old.

I called my friends to tell them that they were right, I am a drug addict.  I had no idea about NA, and I had been thrown out of AA, so I didn’t know what to do.  My friends helped me get through the sick days.  They stayed with me no matter how nasty and sick I got.  I knew that I never wanted to go through that again!

When I look back on those days, it’s like reading someone else’s story.  I’m not the angry, vicious, person I used to be.  Most of the friends I’ve gained since I’ve been clean can not believe I’m talking about the same person.  Today, my life is full of bright lights!  That is NOT to say there are not challenges.  I lost both of my parents in 18 months, and I didn’t know I could survive the pain, but I did, and without drugs or alcohol!  I got through it just like I have other obstacles in the past 37 years - with the help and love of people in my life.  They are my Bright Lights! 

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