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Community Impact

Rosecrance alum shares how she journeyed from life’s shadows to the spotlight

Two-plus years after committing to sobriety, hard work is paying off.

Radio City Music Hall’s lights shined brightly on Rosecrance alumna Julia S., who reached a milestone of showbiz fame last summer. As musical director for the hit “Six: The Musical,” she performed at the Tony Awards and was there to celebrate when the show took home two Tonys the same night.

It was a rewarding achievement after a long journey in the shadows of mental illness and substance use. Through Rosecrance, Julia found the joy of lasting recovery and a community of champions that continues to provide life-giving support.

Growing up in Rockford, Julia began experiencing bouts of depression in high school. Those intensified early in college, and she used marijuana, cocaine, and opioids to cope.

“I lost my way and things got really out of hand after a couple years,” Julia said.

The next 20 years brought continued substance use and recurring bouts of depression with suicide ideations. Counseling revealed how childhood sexual abuse impacted the depression, but the healing process continued to be a long road.

Julia’s budding music career appeared ready for the limelight when she moved to New York City in early 2020 to work on “Six.” However, the COVID-19 pandemic shut the show down on opening night.

That left Julia feeling alone and isolated, and depression again lurked. She planned a suicide attempt and messaged friends one last time. One friend, however, called police, and Julia entered inpatient treatment. While there, she took time to journal and process life.

“Writing everything down helped me realize that this was insanity, that I definitely had a drug problem,” Julia said.

Marking November 9, 2020, as her official sober date, Julia connected with Rosecrance’s outpatient services after completing inpatient treatment in New York. Here, she found a strong support network of therapists and new friends in intensive outpatient and continuing care groups.

She also joined Rosecrance’s Alumni community. Even though most programming was virtual for the first months, it was a lifeline. And, she found a mentor in Alumni Director Colleen Fry.

“I’ve been so inspired and encouraged,” Julia said. “Colleen is filled with an incredible amount of joy and is a calming, centering presence.”

Reading articles and attending weekly meetings in the app continue to sustain her now that the shows have resumed. Plus, she maintains a counselor and 12-Step sponsor back home.

“Community is very important to not feel alone in the battle,” she said.

Two-plus years after committing to sobriety, hard work is paying off.

“I truly feel like I don’t have a desire to use drugs today,” she said. “I love life and the way it is now. I really love living.”

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