Category: Your Story

My name is Hope Daniels. That’s not really my name.

Anonymous Portrait no. 1, 2018.

Part One.

My name is Hope Daniels. That’s not really my name. I decided to go with that name because I got a new job and I feel like my job won’t want me or basically wouldn’t want to hire me if they knew that I was in recovery.

I used to use heroin. I used to snort it and inject it. And it basically took everything from me and it made me a monster.

What job would want me if I were to be honest and tell them I’m in recovery, uh, from shooting heroin?

I grew up in Upper Darby and I started to use heroin mostly in Kensington. I was using for about five years.

My mom noticed the whole alcohol problem, um, I would go to like bars and stuff when I was like 18, before I was even old enough to get in, 19. And um, it got really bad. I moved in with one of my EX’s and um he would buy me beer, get me into bars and it’s crazy cause I have a whole family full of alcoholics and I didn’t think I was one of them at all but like looking back the signs were all there. It started with like beer and then gin and then I would like only go to work to get a paycheck so I could have money to afford like the beer on the weekends or this or that and it got to the point of me drinking just orange juice and vodka just sitting home doing nothing.

So then I got put into the rehab. I said, ‘Fine, I’ll go.’ And I fell like that just opened the doors to so much more heartache and misery. I try to stay compassionate but a lot of people in there like, were, they still… sometimes they go because they are court mandated to or ‘Do you ever really want to be here?’ or, it’s a hard process. So yeah, there would be certain days where like, ‘Oh, I used to shoot up this and that, I used to 8 ball this and that, be on the street, dododododo’… Like trying to sound cool and stuff but that’s all they’ve ever known. Like, how do you have a normal conversation? Well, that’s how addicts have a normal conversation.

I got involved in a stupid rehab romance. All theses terms… if you’re in addiction you’ll know all of these terms… um but, I got into a rehab romance with this guy, we got out- or I got out and then I waited for him and when he got out we moved into his mom’s house and that’s where I actually tried heroin for the first time. That’s where I tried wet for the first time. That’s where I did some xanies, drinking, this, that, we stole to feed ourselves. It was a mess and by the time my mom came a rescued me, my mom is an angel, she’s, I feel like, throughout all this, she’s the main reason why I’m still here and um she got me outta there. And then I, she wanted me to go to another rehab um, up in the mountains and I agreed. And I was driven and hour and a half or so all the way up to there only to be kicked out, a few- lets say maybe like three weeks in, to be kicked out for fighting. And that was rehab number two. I’ve been to about six, um, been kicked out of two, the last one was in Florida. I thought maybe if I ran away and went far away from the main place where all this bad shit was happening and I couldn’t get set free from this demon of mine, I thought if I ran to Florida, everything would be okay but um… it wasn’t.

I caught a plane home… sorry… and I stayed clean a little while. But it was right back to it. And my mom saved me. She broke down my door. Where I had vomit all over me, my face in the vomit on the floor. And I just, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I just surrendered. And it was hard but I’m so, I’m so grateful for where I’m at today. I really am. Cause I don’t want my mom to have to find me like that ever again. While my son is sleeping in the other room I rush to go do that like? It was a whole process, we moved my back room all the way up to her side of the house and now my room is next to her’s cause she’s so scared and she loves me. I have a lot of guilt that I’m working through but I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna feel like I used to anymore and I don’t wanna to hurt her anymore cause she’s sacrificed so much for me. I don’t want to feel dead anymore.

Anonymous Portrait no. 2, 2018.

Part Two

I don’t wanna like play the whole ‘daddy card,’ like I said I’m still working on that with my therapist. But like a lot of it, we discovered, me and my therapist, is the feeling of feeling unwanted, um not feeling loved, feeling, ugly, but mostly unwanted. My dad left when I was young and like I didn’t have a dad until I was about seven years old. So that void was there. And now I have my step dad who is like- he, he is my real dad. I love him. Um, but it hurts to not feel wanted, especially as a kid. And it’s not my moms fault. Um… but on top of that I was teased a lot, um I was called ugly, um… I was made fun of about my looks. Um… I was, I don’t know if I can say this but, white and black people used to call me ‘nigger nose’ because of my nose… Um… I’ve considered surgery, like… little things that may seem petty to people… You don’t know what we’ve been through. Or how we feel. Or how ugly we feel, you don’t know. So I was bullied a lot um… and I guess thats part of where my trauma started. And uh, I’m happy that I never did do any surgeries or anything because throughout all this I’ve learned that I’m beautiful just the way that I am. And if someone doesn’t like me, that’s okay because someone else will like me, someone else will love me, someone else will think I’m beautiful. But… even though I’ve moved past it, it still hurts. So that’s what I’m trying to work on right now. So that’s the trauma, that’s why I say I think it does go a lot deeper than just drug abuse, there’s something in all of us, some type of void, some, some hole that’s bigger than that other hole, you know.

The drugs and the alcohol made me feel beautiful and it was a lie. It was a lie because it was helping me to cope.

And now I’m clean and I’m starting to be okay with myself because I’m putting the work in with myself. Not just sitting at home twiddling my thumbs waiting for a change. I’m making that change. You know, um, I’ve been out of work two months. After interview, after interview, after interview, after no, after no, after no, I finally got a Yes! And a salary increase and benefits and a full time job and this is just one prime example of you accepting yourself, you loving yourself and you putting that work in to change to be the better person that you know you want to be.

I reached out because I try to stay humble and I try not to forget where I was. You want to remember and look forward to where you’re going but try not to forget where you’ve been because that kinda makes you who you are. And so sometimes I’ll read and I’ll google up on like ‘heroin news’ or uh ‘Kensington news’ to remind myself of where I don’t wanna be because any time I do read on it or if I’m craving and I read on it- it’s strange, like I said, you gotta figure out what works for you. Like, who would wanna read on it and that helps them heal? Well, that’s what helps me. Reading on it, and seeing people that have like, like the skin problems, or teeth falling out, like, I don’t wanna be there ever again, you know, the track marks, the people nodding off on the buses like, damn, I don’t wanna be there. So then my craving, that I was craving for a little bit, it goes away, because yes, for that instant little high, look what you’re gonna have to sacrifice for it. And it’s like, ‘What the heck? No, I don’t want to do that.’ So I’m like you just gotta play the tape through. All these terminologies from the rooms and this and therapy and rehabs, it’s starting to click. And maybe it’s because I’ve heard it over and over and over again but I don’t know, I’m just trying to figure it out and stay aware.

Anonymous Portrait no. 3, 2018.

Your Story: Family Matters

My half brother and I share the same father and are 18 years apart. I looked up to him all my childhood and for a little while wanted to be in the army just like him. My brother served in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He met his wife in the military and once they came back home  they got married, had a child and settled in Kentucky.

My brother kept serving until he was medically discharged with a back injury. Up until then my brother looked like he had made it. However, with a mix of the back injury and undiagnosed PTSD, he started to abuse opioids and pain meds. It had become so severe that after only a couple years, he and his wife divorced, he lost custody of his daughter and was living with opioid abusers like himself.

I remember vividly in the summer of 2015 when I was 16 years old my parents fighting in the kitchen because my mom didn’t want my dad to fly to Kentucky and bring my half brother home, thinking he’d have a negative impact on me. On that August day I thought my family had just fallen apart. The fight they had was so bad. My dad was planning on moving out and I thought my brother was going to die. I cried in the shower because I didn’t want my parents to know how sad and nervous I was. Fortunately, my parents did not get divorced but I still can’t believe how my father forgave my mother after saying all the mean and nasty things about my brother. My father and older sister flew to Kentucky and brought my brother home.

I have never had a deep conversation about how I felt about my brother’s addiction. The truth is I didn’t want to talk about it and my brother didn’t want to talk about his problems either. I’ve never had real closure because I haven’t been able to express how I felt and why. I come from an upper-middle class ex-military family living in the suburbs so I thought that if I talked about my brother’s addiction people wouldn’t care because people would think I was just trying to complain about something. Everyone has problems. I have a friend whose dad left him, I have a friend who doesn’t know his real father and I have a friend who doesn’t have a steady home to go to right now. They don’t really talk about their problems so why should I? Why should I be the one who gets special treatment and attention? I only told a couple friends about it but I never went into detail. I just wanted to let them know whats up but I wanted to be a man about it and fight the feeling. I especially didn’t want to talk to my parents about it because I didn’t want them to worry about me more and I didn’t want them to make special arrangements with shrinks or tell my teachers or friends or whatever. So for the most part I buried my feelings but if I could have an honest conversation about it I would say this…

My brother’s addiction confused me. He was my childhood hero and I used to want to grow up like him in a way. But after what happened I was confused about how I felt about him. I was mad about him for making our family almost tear apart. I mean how selfish could he be for not thinking how it would affect other people in his life? But I was also mad at myself and my parents for not helping him enough sooner before he hit rock bottom. He was so far away from home at that time. I wanted to help him but I couldn’t do anything for him. If he was an addict back when he lived at home with me I think I could’ve done or said something sooner to stop him from throwing everything away. But I never saw him when he was on drugs because he lived in Kentucky and I lived up in New England.

It’s the worst feeling when you know someone you love is hurting so bad on the inside and is hurting themselves because of it, but you can’t do anything to help. You just get updates with bad news. All I could do was pray, asking for my brother to be saved so he wouldn’t die so far away from home. So that’s what I did.

Flash forward to now, it’s been three years and my family is stable again. My brother is self-reliant, has a steady job and a serious girlfriend. He’s able to see his daughter for months at a time out of the year. It’s as if his addiction never happened which confuses me a little but I’m very happy for him. I have seen the opioid crisis take shape and complete full circle from relapse to recovery. I haven’t told many people about my story because I don’t want them to talk about me and my family’s problems when I’m not around. But if I had just two words to describe that summer it would be this— Family Matters.

A New Beginning

After taking a much needed break so that I could edit and produce the Kensington Blues book and exhibition, I am happy to announce that I am getting back to work. I’ve decided to significantly broaden the scope of the project. I’ll be introducing a number of new segments including follow up interviews with past subjects, stories of recovery, collaborative reporting with journalists and Kensington Blues: Your Story, a page dedicated to re-thinking how we think about addiction. Stay tuned!


Jeffrey Stockbridge


Matt Neal and Jeffrey Stockbridge at Savery Gallery, 2017. Matt is pictured in the bottom left photo from 2011. Photo by Stephen Perloff



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