Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘Addiction and mental health problems do not discriminate. They can happen to a lawyer, doctor, teacher – anyone.’


“My grandparents are from Ukraine, and they emigrated to Poland during World War II. I was born in Poland. Growing up, we spoke both Polish and Ukrainian, and I went to a Ukrainian school. When I was 10 years old, my father saw a flyer in a newspaper that said ‘Green Card Lottery,’ and we won! He and my mom moved here first, and later I came with my two siblings.

“Coming to the U.S. was different. In Poland, my grandmother would go outside to a well to get a bucket of water to boil for showers. That’s how we’d wash our hair at her home. I think that’s why I appreciate how much we have in this country.

“We continued our cultural traditions when we came to the U.S., like folk dancing, singing and cooking. The Ukrainian culture is beautiful; I’ve always been proud to be Ukrainian. My very first tattoo was of a tryzub, our national symbol.

“It wasn’t easy growing up feeling different from others. I had to adjust to a new culture, new language and new people. As a young teen, I had gone through a lot of trauma that I never discussed. It led me to start experimenting with different substances. It was the only way I knew how to cope with things at such a young age.

“I’ve had some run-ins with the law. Still, I managed to get my bachelor’s degree in visual communications and my master’s in education. I wasn’t your typical person in recovery, or the image of what people think that is. Because addiction and mental health problems do not discriminate. They can happen to a lawyer, doctor, teacher – anyone.

“That’s why today I make it my mission to help others, to spread hope, awareness and inspiration. The more we talk about and normalize our struggles, the more we can inspire change.

“I got certified and now work as a senior recovery outreach specialist on a mobile recovery unit. It’s a big RV that’s an extension of the clinic, providing therapy, medication, vocational and educational counseling and more. We break down all barriers. If you can’t get to a meeting or to rehab, we will get you there. If you need housing, we’ll advocate on your behalf. Some days we go to Eisenhower Park and see clients there. Other days we’re at probation doing outreach and Narcan trainings.

I choose to recover out loud for those still suffering in silence, like I once had.

“November 20, 2017, was the day my life changed forever. I got the date XI.XX.XVII tattooed permanently into my skin. It holds more significance to me than any other day. It allows me to celebrate my road to recovery, my struggles and my triumphs. It symbolizes hope and inspires others.

“I went back to school and got certified as an addiction recovery coach and peer supervisor, and I got my counselor. I got my family and friends back. I’m now living life to the fullest. I even started a clothing brand called Dear Recovery, which combines my two passions: my graphic design skills and my story of hope. One shirt says, ‘We are all healing’ and ‘I stand for recovery.’ Another says, ‘No more stigma, let’s start a conversation.’ I’ve had people come up to me when I’m wearing one of my shirts and ask how to get help for themselves or their kids.

“I wanted to develop a platform free of judgment where people can connect and find support. I wanted it to be a conversation starter, the doorway to have those tough discussions, to normalize as a society talking about ways we can help each other. The site provides a free resource page where people can find different resources and support. My end goal is to raise funds from the clothing and donations to provide a percentage to those that cannot afford therapy or treatment.

“I now run a support group at the Nassau County Jail on a weekly basis. I share my experience, strength and hope with the women there. I also go into different high schools throughout Long Island to educate and share my story with the kids. My mission is to normalize recovery, to normalize talking about our struggles. So many kids are suffering in silence, dealing with depression and anxiety. I also do Narcan trainings in the schools now.

“I want to destigmatize mental health and bring more awareness to it. Mental health is just as important as any other health diagnosis. I want to show the world that you don’t have to be ashamed because of a mental health diagnosis or your addiction. I am living proof that recovery is possible. Today, I am the face of hope, and I choose to recover out loud for those still suffering in silence, like I once had.”