Adrienne Voltaire credits her daughter, Anya, as a driving force
behind her recovery from addiction.
Adrienne Voltaire is lucky to be alive. “I have put my life in danger, and not died,” she says. The human services professional and Highland Falls resident, 41, had been living, in her words, a “double life,” until February 25, 2018, when she became sober from an addiction to opioids. “It’s cognitive dissonance,” she says. “You know something is wrong, but then you act completely differently.”
Voltaire definitely understood addiction. She even had a certification in substance abuse counseling from Long Island University, among other counseling certifications, when she pursued her master’s degree in education. Still, she found herself a victim of addiction over and over again, to different substances. “As an educated person who wasn’t ‘raised that way,’ to see it unfold in your own life is bizarre,” she says.
The cycle of addiction for Voltaire started with food as a child and transitioned into alcohol and stimulants by early adulthood. She went to rehab the first time in 2007 for cocaine addiction. At the time, Voltaire had a baby daughter named Anya at home. Now 13 years old, Anya has always been a motivation for Adrienne in battling addiction. “I credit her with me still being here,” she says. “My daughter has been my ultimate focus.”
In addition to being a mom, Voltaire has also been a professional woman. She has worked in education and the Orange County Department of Social Services. She even had a career in local politics as a Town Councilwoman for her native Highland Falls from 2014 – 2017. It was during this time that she appeared on Spectrum News for a drug possession arrest. This forced her to become a public face for substance abuse addiction, but it is a path she has embraced.
“The reason I speak so freely about my addiction and recovery is because I was forced to,” she says. “I was given an unintentional platform.” She spent time in the Orange County jail shortly after her arrest, but the experience did not scare her straight into quitting. She relapsed, then gave up two months later.
Voltaire had tried to seek treatment in a detox center earlier but was turned away because her insurance would not cover the treatment. She has found other treatment methods for dealing with her addiction, but says that the drug treatment system is broken.
Voltaire has faced the reality of stigma for addicts, especially those addicted to heroin and opioids. “Many look at addicts as degenerates,” she says. “Heroin addiction has been an issue since the 1980s with the crack epidemic, and now it’s finally getting some attention.”
Her experiences have given way to pursuing a career as an advocate for those dealing with substance abuse. One of her goals now is to put her certification to use as a substance abuse and mental health counselor, and to specifically work with young people. “Why not capitalize on my misfortune in order to help people?” she asks. “My hope was always to be able to talk to young people.”
As she pursues this new career path, she is grateful to have a daughter who is strong.
“I have always been age-appropriately honest with her,” she says, “and she is everything she is in spite of me. My daughter is wise and insightful beyond her years.”
Currently Voltaire is confident that she is at a good place in her sobriety, a place where she can live life and be around substances without any craving toward temptation. She attributes this willpower to having a strong network of fellow addicts who have been sober for a time period longer than she has yet achieved.
“Recovery depends on personal vigilance,” she says. “It would be nice to say ‘Hey, I’m cured! Let’s go to the winery!’ But, it doesn’t work that way. Still, I feel comfortable in any situation.”