I started The Rooms Project in March 2014 after celebrating my first year of continuous sobriety. I had battled my own addiction to alcohol and other drugs for an ugly twelve years, and when I entered the recovery community I was shocked by the number of people I found there. Here were everyday individuals just like me who could not on their own stop drinking or using drugs. It was through access to treatment and connecting with others that they were able to maintain their recovery.
As both a photojournalist and humanitarian, I was desperate to show life on the other side of addiction. I wanted to give recovery a voice through the stories of experience, strength, and hope I often heard in “the rooms” of recovery support groups and meetings. So I set out to capture the stories of anyone who was willing to share that side of themselves with me.
Since that time, the project has grown significantly. In February 2015 I raised more than $5,000 through Kickstarter to travel to twenty-two different states in the U.S. and meet more than 100 people living in long-term recovery. Thanks to these incredible donors, so far I’ve traveled alone through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC, which is not bad for a woman who—when drinking—couldn’t stand to be alone for more than thirty seconds.
In that time I have met more than 130 true recovery warriors—warriors just like those who have battled cancer—who have emerged as healthy, recharged individuals adding value to our society as they live on the other side of their disease.
I met a man, at one time homeless, who returned after a nineteen-year hiatus to finish his college degree. A female ex-con who entered prison at four months clean and now, six years later, is a marathon runner after running in place in her cell while serving out her sentence. Two former Rikers inmates now with full-time careers in the mental health and recovery industries. A priest who at the end of his drinking had shakes so severe that he couldn’t steady the host for Catholic Mass, and now leads by example for parishioners struggling with addiction. A woman who while working the streets was running to meet her drug dealer and just stopped, inexplicably, to make that call for help.
As a proud member of the recovery community, these are stories I hear every day in support groups and meetings. But to outsiders, these are stories that aren’t often heard.
That’s why I’ve driven more than 130 hours to bring these profiles to light in the hope of giving our society a genuine glimpse into the all-encompassing recovery community of which I am proud to call myself a member. For me, this project has become a metaphor for all the places my recovery can take me so long as I connect with others in my community. I plan to drive many more hours in support of this project because this, as a woman in long-term recovery, will help me continue to grow.
It is my hope that through this site—whether visitors are in recovery, not in recovery, or questioning their drug and alcohol use—they will find someone like them.