Scholarship Recipient Spotlight Update: Elia Hopkins

You first met Elia when we featured her story in March, and she has made so much progress since then! Elia is recovering out loud, and she ensures her recovery is central to every part of her life.  She was awarded a renewal scholarship through The Ammon Foundation and is continuing her studies in Addictions Counseling at Camden County College.  As an Ammon-certified Empowerment Coach, Elia will soon facilitate her FIRST Empowerment Workshop at Living Proof Recovery Center in January! During the first Ammon Foundation’s ‘Recover Out Loud’ Leadership Summit in July, Elia served as a Team Leader throughout the two-day event.  Elia is thriving – not just surviving – as a woman, a mother, an employee, a supporter and a person in recovery.

Things weren’t always so easy for her though.  For 34-year-old Elia, life didn’t get off to the best start: she started using drugs at age 13, and by 15-years-old she was smoking crack cocaine. For the next 17 years she “ran the streets” using every drug she could get her hands on — a stark contrast from her life today. After finding recovery, Elia was awarded a scholarship from The Ammon Foundation and is pursuing her educational goals, while juggling motherhood and recovery.

In the midst of her addiction, Elia still managed to have two children. She was still spiraling out of control and she progressed to using heroin. She woke up on 13 October 2015 and knew that things had to change, “I woke up and looked at my kids and thought to myself, ‘what the hell am I doing to these babies’” she says. She finally reached her breaking point. “I just couldn’t live like that anymore,” she exclaims.

Desperate and without an option for treatment, she grabbed her kids, left her home, husband and all of her belongings and knocked on her mom’s door begging for help. “I was scared to death because she had cut me off a long time ago,” she says. But her mom listened to Elia’s pleas for help: “I told her I was using heroin and I was ready to stop, but that I needed her help.” To her surprise, her mom agreed. Elia spent the next four tortuous nights on her mom’s bathroom floor detoxing from highly addictive heroin.

Once she could move, her mom did what she knew best and packed Elia off in a car to the local AA meeting. From there she was connected to various resources like Project Hope in Camden and Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care MICA Program. While it was a struggle, Elia was determined. She attended the program every day for the next eight months and then graduated. Elia then began volunteering at Living Proof Recovery Center. It was there she realized, “I wanted to be a part of other people’s recovery and help others…when I was down and out.”

Elia underwent Peer Recovery Coach Training and was hired as a Peer Recovery Specialist. She says, “Being a part of the peer movement and helping people find their own pathway to recovery is my passion. I now have life purpose and meaning.”

Elia applied for funding from The Ammon Foundation and was awarded a scholarship to attend Camden County College to study Addictions Counselling. The funding helps towards her tuition, household bills, and the costs of raising children without having to work a second job. She is expected to graduate in May 2019. Speaking about the scholarship, Elia enthuses “I feel so grateful … having Ammon believe in me enough to help with my tuition makes me believe in myself.”

Despite juggling her children, work, recovery, volunteer work and school, Elia has not only survived, she has excelled as a straight A student. She also achieved the President’s List for the Spring 2018 semester. For Elia, her studies are enhancing her recovery, “My recovery gets stronger every semester as I am building a foundation to a good life for me and my kids.”

Asked if she has any tips for other students attending school while in recovery, Elia suggests “Time management skills — schedule each week and make sure you reserve time for homework and studying, so you don’t get behind.”

Our blog features the profiles of other recipients of the scholarship award as well as information about how to apply.