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By T’Mara Morris
CCC Journalism Program

BLACKWOOD – Each person’s journey to recovery from alcohol or drug addiction is different, a counselor said as part of a recent addiction awareness lecture series at Camden County College. A recovered addict later shared the story of her journey.

Amber Monserrate stands after an addiction awareness lecture at Camden County College. By T’Mara Morris, CCC Journalism Program

“Each individual is different. It depends on the level of care needed and the client,” Amber Monserrate, an adjunct professor at Camden County College and a licensed clinical alcohol and drug counselor, said about how to treat a patient. Not all addiction meetings take place in a group setting nor does treatment always take place inside a facility. Some patients may feel more comfortable in a one-on-one setting or in their counselor’s office.

Monserrate, who spoke April 18 at Camden County College, said she knew at a young age she wanted to become a counselor. Initially, she wasn’t sure what type of counselor she wanted to be but during her time as a student at Camden County College, she took a course in addictions counseling and that’s when she decided what she wanted to do.

“I love the work I do but if I had to choose a hard part, I would say it’s the big case loads. It is also very demanding,” Monserrate said.

Monserrate stated she believes genetic predisposition and environment are usually the cause of addiction.

Recovered addict Nilsa Gonzalez, 38, of Collingswood, said she believes addiction stems from a lack of knowing your body and the toxins that one puts into it.

“It’s all just a temporary fix,” Gonzalez said. “For example, if you go to the doctors and you say, ‘Doctor I’m depressed,’ then he or she will prescribe you with Xanax or another form of medication to help with the depression. Before you know it, your body is depending on the drug to make you feel better and you want it more and more.  You believe it is helping with the pain.”

Some addicts go through stages where they refuse to acknowledge they are addicts, but Gonzalez stated they still know they have an addiction.

“It’s no coming out of it because you’re afraid of withdrawal,” she said. “While there are alternatives to assist you in the process of withdrawal, it’s harder to get off the synthetic drugs than the real drugs. Opiates and heroine stay in your system for three days but methadone stays in your system up until 30 days or more.”

Gonzalez said she wants those who are suffering from addiction to know there is always a way out.

“You get to choose. You can go back to that life or you can stay clean. Your mindset is your reality,” Gonzalez said. “I am a recovered soul. I will forever walk in righteousness and wholeness.”

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