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30 Sep 2019

Community Voices: Yes, I Overcame Drug Addiction—and It Makes Me Better Suited to Lead

Written by  Peter Maietta
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Peter Maietta. Peter Maietta.

Almost 20 years ago, I went through the darkest time of my life. I was in an emotionally abusive relationship with a man who made me feel isolated and weak. I wish I could explain why I loved him, or why I stayed, but as with most abusive relationships, it’s beyond words.

In the beginning, I didn’t realize he had a drug habit. By the time I put all the signs together, I was too invested to move on. He nagged me to try it, and out of desperation to fit into his life, I complied. Unfortunately, I liked it.

Thankfully, that relationship eventually ended. But just because the boyfriend was gone didn’t mean the addiction went away. I maintained the habit for a year on my own.

One day, I realized that I was putting my life, my job and my personal relationships at risk. I needed to come clean and get clean. I told my then-boyfriend, now-husband, Jim, the truth. He was supportive and responded with support and compassion.

I quit cold turkey.

It was the single hardest thing I have ever done. I was nauseous, lethargic and unmotivated. The temptation to fall back into the habit was constant and strong. But I was stronger, and I have never achieved something so momentous in my life. Regardless of the outcome of this election, or anything else I ever do, I doubt I will ever be as proud as I am to have fought through the sickness of addiction.

But with that pride comes the knowledge that I am privileged. The road to overcoming drug dependency is long, and it looks different for everyone. My story is not unique: 19.7 million Americans suffered from substance abuse in 2017.

Not everyone has the stability in their lives to “just quit.” Many people don’t have financial flexibility to miss work, health-care coverage to have regular check-ins with their doctor, or supportive spouses to fill in the gaps in life while they focus on recovery.

This experience is part of why I am running for the Palm Springs City Council.

Palm Springs is plagued with public-health and public-safety issues that intersect with each other.

  • We have one of the highest rates of opioid overdose deaths in Riverside County.
  • Our homeless population is growing, and is disproportionately impacted by substance abuse.
  • The LGBT community is at a higher risk of substance abuse and mental-health issues due to increased violence and other stressors.
  • The Native American population is historically the single most-addiction-impacted population in the United States. What is Palm Springs doing to help our neighboring communities?

The truth is our mental-health services, like all our social services, are lacking, at best. This must change, and I will fight every single day until it does.

For me, it’s not political rhetoric. It’s not about making empty promises on the campaign trail or telling people what they want to hear. It’s about an opportunity to make a real difference on an issue that is hurting our communities.

This is me. This is my life. This is my experience.

I am ready to lead from a place of compassion, understanding and empathy. Because I’ve been there. I have felt the struggle. I have overcome the demons. And I am holding my hand out to pull the impacted people of Palm Springs up with me.

As a community, we can overcome anything.

Peter Maietta is a candidate for the District 2 seat on the Palm Springs City Council.

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