Guiding Lights: Our Staff’s Stories of Overcoming Addiction and the Road to Recovery

by | Mar 5, 2024

Overcoming the challenges along the path of substance abuse recovery requires a true commitment to change and the steps you must take along the way. The obstacles are multifaceted, ranging from physical withdrawal symptoms to an array of psychological and emotional hurdles. Societal stigmas can intensify the struggle, making it essential for individuals to find a supportive community that understands the complexities of the substance abuse recovery process. Enter, Zia Recovery Center.

Our community at Zia Recovery Center emanates a powerful force of resilience and compassion that thrives within the hearts of our dedicated staff – many of whom have navigated their own journeys to overcoming addiction. The beating heart of Zia Recovery Center truly lies in our team members’ narratives, and honestly, they’re not just stories; they are profound testaments to the transformative power of recovery and sobriety.

This month, we are taking a moment to amplify the voices and experiences of some of our team members who make our community the ideal place for anyone struggling with substance abuse disorder and seeking a supportive path toward overcoming addiction.

Personal Stories of Overcoming Addiction from Zia Recovery Center Staff

Christina Noriega, CPSW
Lead RTC Technician

Christina Noriega

Christina, our lead RTC technician, began her journey at Zia Recovery Center as a client seeking help. After successfully completing the program and deepening connections in the recovery community, she began working as a tech at the Detox/RTC location and eventually became the technician lead. Christina’s story is truly powerful. She shares that recovery has given her a second chance at life and an opportunity to be the woman she was born to be.

Through her own addiction recovery journey, Christina went from being someone her family couldn’t trust and was embarrassed of, to becoming the strong, independent woman that she is today. She believes this kind of transformation is possible for every person who desires sobriety, and with the help of Zia Recovery Center, addiction recovery can be done in solidarity. The process is that much more impactful when you are surrounded by a community you can trust and one that stands behind you.


“Today, I am a mom my kids can depend on, I am a friend who will show up in good and bad times, and I am a strong leader in my community.”
– Christina N.

Our Program Director, Dave, began his journey with Zia Recovery Center as a client four years ago. As a member of our team, Dave’s role is to advocate for our clients and provide resources to support them in their addiction recovery journey. But it didn’t necessarily start with success for Dave; when he was a doctor in the Air Force in the early 2000s, his career was taking off, but he was struggling behind closed doors. Dave was drinking heavily and began using meth, and on one unforeseen evening, he was involved in a car accident that led to an arrest and felony. Dave was discharged from the Air Force and lost his medical license. He attests this was one of the darkest moments of his life.

Six years later, he was still under the grip of substance abuse and found himself at yet another rock bottom, leading him to seek help at Zia Recovery Center. Dave says the support he received from our community helped him to kickstart his life.

Dave’s powerful insights are an asset to our team and help him connect with and support clients who are facing some of the most difficult days of their lives. He understands that recovery can be a process – initially teaching individuals how to stop using and eventually teaching them how to live. Dave believes that recovery can be a place where strangers you reluctantly sit by eventually become your strongest supporters.

“Whatever negative ideas you have of yourself – weirdo, crazy, awkward, violent, schizo, loner, misfit, wallflower, etc. – you are welcomed in the rooms of recovery. In fact, when you come to the rooms, you will finally find your tribe. As lonely and empty as life can be, recovery can help show you how to fill your life with meaningful things – a power greater than yourself to lean on, trustworthy friends, compassion for yourself and others, forgiveness, life skills, and more.”
– Dave P.

David Padilla, LSAA
Program Director

David Padilla

Ruth Rice, CPSW, CCSS 
Admissions and Intake Coordinator

Ruth Rice

In March 2017, Ruth began her journey with Zia Recovery Center as a client seeking support for addiction recovery. The life she was living was one she never intended, and she had a deep longing to have her children back in her life. Ruth was experiencing extreme loneliness, even when surrounded by people. Her inability to get a job and get away from the legal system were all pivotal factors in the moments leading her to seek help from Zia Recovery Center.

After working through each stage of the recovery program, Ruth attests that her life is better now than she could’ve ever imagined. Even on bad days, she can honestly say they’re still good days. She gets to be an active participant in the lives of her children and grandchildren, and she has the opportunity to provide transformational support to individuals going through similar struggles as she once experienced.

“I can’t make anyone feel unafraid of change, but reaching out is the absolute best thing anyone could do for themselves. Our community is so outstanding. A bunch of people with the same common goal: to just stay sober today. No big demands, no bossing around; just suggestions and a whole lot of love for others. Don’t wait.”
– Ruth R.

Uniquely Positioned to Help Clients Seeking Substance Abuse Recovery

Our team at Zia Recovery Center holds themselves accountable in their unique recovery journeys. Today, they continually push each other to become the best version of themselves – for themselves and the clients they work with – and can deeply connect with clients because they have truly been in their shoes.

A large percentage of our staff – 90% to be exact – are alumni of Zia Recovery Center’s programs and are living proof that our programs can work for individuals who desire to live a life without the limitations of addiction. When clients are experiencing emotional or mental difficulties, our team is there to share their own personal experiences, strength, and hope for the days ahead.

“You don’t have to struggle alone. Life doesn’t have to be how it is right now forever; there is a solution for change. You just have to want it and put in some work!”
– Christina N.

The first-hand experience of many of our staff members equips them to share a deeper understanding with clients and offer personalized care to address everyone as the unique individuals they are. Our team is honored to have the opportunity to watch lives transform through powerful interactions in our programs every single day.

Be Helped By Those Who’ve Been Helped: Zia Recovery Center

Zia Recovery Center’s staff members are not just professionals; they are living proof that recovery is a tangible, achievable goal. Beyond their personal anecdotes, their presence and experiences echo throughout our community and resonate with individuals grappling with their own battles. Our team understands the depths of despair that substance abuse can bring and the joy of overcoming those challenges, offering a unique form of empathy that goes beyond textbook knowledge of substance abuse recovery.

If you or your loved one is seeking help with substance abuse recovery, reach out to our team at Zia Recovery Center. Your path to overcoming addiction begins with a courageous first step. Be helped by those who’ve been helped – contact us today.

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