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Leigh Leckerman Scholarship Fund Helped Conquer Addiction

Cape May County HeraldPeople | Mon, 12/01/2014 – 3:42 pm | By Heather Burns
COURT HOUSE – Kelly O’Brien could have been anyone. She could have been sunbathing on a blanket next to anyone while summering at her family’s beach house. She could have been serving someone an ice cream cone on the boardwalk. Like many others just like her, no one would have known she was addicted to drugs and alcohol.

After years of dependency, the Leigh Leckerman Scholarship Fund changed the course of O’Brien’s life. The fund assists those in need to attend Livengrin Foundation for Addiction Recovery in Bucks County, Pa.

“There are people out there willing to help,” said O’Brien, “and programs and meetings everywhere.”

O’Brien began using drugs in fifth grade. By eighth grade she was a daily user. Calling herself “the Garbage Pail Kid,” she did any drug she could get her hands on.

“I was an honor student. I played varsity basketball. I didn’t think I had a problem,” said O’Brien. “I did two years at community college before deciding that school wasn’t for me. I was working, had my own apartment, I was fine.” But O’Brien said she was dependent on prescription drugs like Percocet and Adderall, as well as alcohol, cocaine, and other drugs at that time.

“I thought: ‘This is my life. I’m functioning, I’m working. I have to do drugs to keep going,” said O’Brien. She did drugs to get up in the morning, to keep her going through the day, and to get her to sleep at night.

Eventually, she stopped seeing friends and family. She was calling out of work. Living holed up, her main concern was making sure she had enough alcohol for the evening. Her sister took her to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting but O’Brien felt she “didn’t belong with these people who were drinking coffee and crying.” A four-day bender a few days later changed her mind.

O’Brien called it a spiritual awakening. On the last night of the four-day binge, she prayed for help. “I wanted to die, so if I was still here, what was my purpose?” A family member again took her to an AA meeting, which became her first of five in the next 24 hours.

It was at a meeting that she met Steve Leckerman, co-founder of the scholarship fund, who suggested she may be eligible to receive assistance to attend rehabilitation at Livengrin.

“I was thrown a life preserver and I took full advantage,” said O’Brien. Rehab wasn’t easy and there were many times she wanted to quit. “But the Leigh Leckerman Scholarship gave me an opportunity. Someone was funding this for me. Someone believed in me. I stayed because I wanted to finish and accomplish something.”

In rehab, O’Brien learned to live without the alcohol and drugs. She learned to cope with life’s ups and downs while maintaining sobriety. She recently lost her mother to an aneurysm, a huge loss that could have weakened her commitment to living sober.

“Life is life,” said O’Brien, “and getting high wouldn’t bring my mother back.”

Through her own struggles, O’Brien has found her purpose. She volunteers as a spokesperson for the Leigh Leckerman Scholarship Fund and Livengrin. She shares her story to help others break free of addiction.

“The hardest thing to admit is that you have a problem, but when you do, the weight lifts. It’s amazing,” said O’Brien. “Getting clean and sober is hard, but it’s a lot easier than hustling for the next fix.”

To read The Herald’s previous coverage on the Leigh Leckerman Scholarship fund, go to http://goo.gl/V3zshm.

For information on the Leigh Leckerman Scholarship fund, go to www.livengrin.org/leigh.

To contact Heather Burns, email hburns@cmcherald.com.

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