Early in the morning of October 14, I laced up my running sneakers and headed into Manhattan with my family and friends for an event that I’ll never forget.
This year has been challenging for me. Around this time last year, one of my dear loved ones returned home from receiving in-patient treatment for his substance use disorder. At the time, I remember being so relieved that he was getting help—but I was also experiencing all the emotions that came with the uncertain future ahead. Still, sticking by him and supporting him through his addiction was never a decision I had to think twice about. And it’s an experience that forever changed my life.
It showed me firsthand how the stigma of addiction can affect a person. And that motivated me to try to make a difference in society. I did some self-reflection and realized that, even before this current experience, addiction had already greatly impacted my family’s life. My grandfather died from alcoholism, and I have cousins on both sides of my family who lost their father to overdoses when they were very young. Most of these tragedies took place when I was too young to understand or know better. But at 26, I am now making it my purpose to shed light on the stigma of addiction, not only because of my recent firsthand experience with my loved one, but also to honor my family members as well.
The Shatterproof Rise Up Against Addiction 5K event was the perfect opportunity to combine my love for fitness (I completed my first-ever half marathon last year, too!) with my love for the Shatterproof community, who have lifted me up so much since I became a Shatterproof Ambassador back in February.
I signed up for the event in August, and I immediately started recruiting friends and family to my team, “Taylor the Stigma.” I was eager to educate them about the disease of addiction, and about the important work that Shatterproof is doing.
Since this cause is so important to me, I set a challenging fundraising goal for myself. I’ve participated in several races in the past, and I usually never completed the fundraising aspect, or I would just make a small self-donation once registered—but I wanted this one to be different. So I set an ambitious personal goal of $1,000 and I began reading the fundraising tips provided by Shatterproof. Soon enough, I had my personal “rise up” story posted, and I started emailing family members and sharing my personal and team page on Facebook and Instagram. I stayed consistent with my posts, and always made sure I showed my gratitude and appreciation for anyone donating or helping to spread awareness. I swear, any time I received a donor notification via email it was the highlight of my day!
My proudest fundraising moment was on August 31 (National Overdose Awareness Day), when I shared my fundraising page with several colleagues. That resulted in an outpouring of generous donations, and the kindest reply emails thanking me for sharing my story. I was so nervous by bringing something so personal into my professional life, but it was well worth it. It reiterated something I had already become familiar with: Most people have been affected by this disease, either directly or indirectly.
By race day, I had surpassed my fundraising goal, raising nearly $1,700! My excitement grew as race day approached, and I was so happy that I held my commitment with my first fundraiser.
On race day, I was full of adrenaline. Walking down to the race site, I was thinking how there could not have been a more beautiful location for such a beautiful and wonderful event. The race was right along the Hudson River, beginning at Pier 84 and continuing through the park.
To be surrounded by thousands of like-minded people was indescribable. Anyone I crossed paths with, whether it was a volunteer or a participant, greeted me with a warm hello and smile. Looking around, even though my teammates were the only people whom I knew personally, I felt like I could connect with every other person who was there without even talking to them. The commonality among us, that shared experience, created an unspeakable bond.
Before the race, there was calmness amongst the crowd as various speakers took the stage. As the speakers shared their stories, I couldn’t help but look around and watch people console each other as eyes swelled and the raw emotion of why, exactly, we were all gathered together at the event set in.
David Price, the MC of the event, got us all amped up for our run/walk—and then, we were off! Crossing the start line and either walking or running alongside one another. My goal was to get my best 5K time, but I tried not to focus on it too intensely (the event was important to me, I didn’t want the day to be ruined if I didn’t meet my goal). But I was so pumped with adrenaline, I somehow managed to beat my goal time by almost three minutes! I was ecstatic. I crossed the finish line with a huge smile on my face as I high-fived Gary Mendell. I loved watching my mom, sister, step-dad and friends cross the finish line soon after me. Because after all, I could never have gotten to the place I am today without them, and will be forever grateful for their support during what has been a difficult year for me.
When I registered for this event, my first goal was to raise awareness of an important issue. My second goal was to fundraise for an organization that’s dear to me. My third goal was to get a personal record in my race. On October 14, I met all three of those goals!
I’m proud of all I’ve achieved, both at the 5K and in my life in general this year. By prioritizing self-care in the face of a stressful situation, I was able to step out of my comfort zone and share my story with the Shatterproof community. I was so nervous at first, but I ended up connecting with this community on such an extraordinary level. I left NYC on October 14 proud to have been part of such an amazing event, together with a community that has supported me so much when I needed it the most.