Recovering addict shares thoughts on helping others

Donna Kuechenmeister started using drugs and alcohol as a teenager.

"My friends were all using marijuana and I wanted to be with the cool group. I was proud to be with that group of people."

For her, marijuana turned into cocaine and alcohol.

"I always drank and used for the effects," she says. "It just, of course, started causing problems right away as a teenager."

It took her young daughter saying something to make her realize something needed to change.

"So my 4-year-old at the time - I had been out partying - and she said to me, 'Mom you came home to visit.' I said, 'What do you mean? I live here.' She said, 'No you don't.'"

Donna sought support from her father and sister, who were also recovering addicts. 25 years later, she is clean and works at the Meta House. She is a peer specialist who helps other recovering addicts.

"The reality is addiction can touch anyone at any point in their life," says Meta House Vice President of Clinical Services Christine Ullstrup.

Meta House has been around for 50 years and offers residential, outpatient, and housing support.

Ullstrup says, "The benefit of being in a residential level of care is there are lots of people and eyes around you so they're going to help you make a different decision this time."

Meta House supports women ages 18 and older, but they will help their children find programs if they need help.

"Oftentimes teens don't understand that they're experimenting. Their brains haven't developed yet and so they're just trying things out and they don't know the reality of addiction."

For Kuechenmeister, a strong support system is a must for any addict, and her daughters are two of her biggest supporters.

"I texted them about this interview today and they said, 'I'm so proud of you. You'll do great.'"

For more information about the Meta House call (414) 962-1200 or visit MetaHouse.org.

For help with drug and alcohol abuse call 211.

January 23 - 27, 2017 is Light & Unite Red week- a week focused on drug and alcohol abuse prevention, treatment and recovery. TODAY'S TMJ4 has partnered with the Milwaukee County Health & Human Services Department for a resource phone bank. It will be Thursday, January 26 from 4-7 pm live on TODAY'S TMJ4 and online on the TODAY'S TMJ4 Facebook page.

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