A woman who succumbed to alcohol and drug addiction spoke to 9Wants to Know about how she was able to escape homelessness and addiction.

“I am a survivor of child abuse and institutional abuse as a teenager,” said Jennifer Hill. “The drugs, the alcohol seemed to soothe that pain initially, but rapidly they got out of control.”

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In the late 1980s, Hill spent time living on Denver’s streets in “survival mode” as she grappled with the stigma of a mental illness and being without a home.

“The world never felt safe for me, so I isolated a lot in that isolation trying to cope. I just kept to myself and asking for help was horrible,” Hill said.

Eventually Hill said she met a mental health provider who didn’t force her to take medications, which was key in her recovery.

“What helped me get out of the hole was kind compassionate professionals that treated me with dignity and respect, who included me in my care planning,” Hill said.

Today, Hill helps people who are stuck in the same position she was caught up in at the non-profit Colorado Mental Wellness Network. She offers peer assistance and insight about mental health challenges.

“It feels like every day that I walk in there, I can reclaim all the difficult moments of my life. It makes me smile. It makes me happy,” Hill said.