Profiles in Recovery

Zulema Salazar

“Life will not always be filled with abuse, neglect, and pain . . . you will be the rose that grew from concrete.”

That’s what Zulema Salazar would tell her younger self. As a child, she endured toxic stress and was shuttled through foster care due to her mother’s heroin addiction. Zulema would later battle her own drug problems, spending nearly a decade of her life in prison and losing custody of her children at one point due to her addiction.

She found inner strength and recovery with help from intensive residential treatment and 12-step support. Today, Zulema gives hope to others in the throes of addiction, and surrounds herself with strong, sober women whose friendships sustain her recovery.

Day Job:
Human Resources/Housing Coordinator and Peer Support Specialist at The Haven, a nonprofit treatment center in Utah.

What I lost to addiction:
I was emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. I found myself at a bottom I had never known. I lost the love of my life to a life sentence in prison.

At my worst, I was:
I grew up in and out of foster care because my mother was addicted to heroin. I lost custody of my children because of drug use and I was in a physically abusive relationship. I went to prison for the first time at the age of 19. I have been to prison 7 times and have done a total of 9 years.

Favorite recovery quote:
“I am not a victim of circumstances. I am a survivor of my past.”

What worked for me:
I went through a program called The Haven and the staff introduced me to A.A. The Haven taught me that I was worth it and Alcoholics Anonymous shows me a blue print for living.

Advice to my younger self:
Life will not always be filled with abuse, neglect, and pain. The time will come when you have to suit up and show up to give hope and strength. You will be the rose that grew from concrete.

Rules I live by:
Always try to do the next right thing. Try to be better today than I was yesterday. Surround myself with others who have been through the same struggle and have common goals in mind.

Best advice for newbies:
Try to find the similarities rather than the differences in regard to others in recovery. Reach out as much as possible and try new things. Often when we are stuck in addiction, we have no idea what we like to do for fun, what makes us happy or even what makes us feel uncomfortable. Rediscover yourself!

What I value most in recovery:
The friendships and the realness. People in recovery don’t often judge as much, so I can be loved and appreciated for who I truly am and not be afraid to show the real me!

What I learned about myself:
That drugs and alcohol were not my problem, they were my solution to life. If I were to live a different life, I needed to find a different solution. If I wanted to stay sober, I needed to chase sobriety as hard as I chased drugs and crime.

What saves me from myself
As a strong woman in recovery, it is vital that I surround myself with a network of women whom I can ask for help anytime I am struggling and also be there when they are struggling, too.

If you’re a person in long-term recovery who wants to share your insights, please contact us at [email protected].