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Former drug user advocates holistic approach to becoming sober

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A former drug user turned activist says a holistic approach to treatment is what helped her get sober and put her life back on track.

Traumatic events led Marilyn Reyes to self-medicate her emotions through substance abuse.

"Being molested as a young girl, being raped as a young woman, it was very hard for me to deal with,” says Reyes.

In her late 20s, she turned to crack cocaine and heroin. Drug dealing landed her in jail twice in the 90s. When she was released, she tried different programs, but it wasn’t until discovering the Harm Reduction Coalition that she found her way.

Reyes says it was their holistic approach to treatment that has enabled her to become and remain sober. She says the home-like nature of the organization, acupuncture and reiki treatment gave her the strength to feel like she can belong somewhere.

Reyes tells News 12 that she is now an activist and co-chair for the Peer Network, a branch of the coalition. She advocates in the community on the dangers of HIV and Hepatitis C and participates in outreach programs, providing condoms to the public and handing out clean syringes with the goal of saving lives through harm reduction and the peer network.

Reyes credits the coalition for preparing her to work in the field, especially when she was continually denied elsewhere.

"Other places where I went, I was always denied because I had a felony conviction,” she says. “[The coalition] gave me my life back, and I'm so grateful for every part of my journey. It didn't happen overnight, but I made it and I'm still here and I'm still going to continue the fight."

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