Regina Davis is a peer support specialist with SC SHARE.

They say to “never judge a book by its cover,” and this couldn’t be truer for Regina Davis, a certified peer support specialist with SC SHARE, a recovery-based mental health organization based in Columbia.

To look at her, one could easily label her an articulate, confident, and determined professional with a heart of gold. All these qualities are true; however, the journey she took to become this version of herself was paved with years of self-destruction.

Davis’s upbringing was considerably more conservative than that of her peers, which she attributes to the generational gap between the grandparents who raised her versus the much younger parents of her friends. The restrictions meant to act as a deterrent only further fueled her curiosity.

Her experimentation began at 11 years old, when she smoked her first marijuana joint; only a couple of years later, she became inebriated on alcohol. When Davis was 20, she started freebasing, which ultimately led to a life of addiction.

Associations with drug dealers and hustlers as well as her involvement in prostitution led to a cycle of jails, institutions and near death. In the midst of it all, Davis felt she was “living the high life” because of the abundance of money that allowed her to continue to maintain this lifestyle in the fast lane.

This was her world for 28 years.

At the time, Davis didn’t really understand the full consequences of her actions, living in desolate conditions without electricity or water and estranged from the people who loved her. Her addiction had taken complete control of her life and for a very long time she didn’t want things to change.

In recovery, a person rarely gets it completely right the first time around. Davis was no exception, experiencing five unsuccessful attempts at sobriety until it truly stuck the sixth time around.

Key ingredients to really making things work was a geographical change and holding herself accountable to be the biggest participant in her own recovery. There are many who believe relapse is inevitable, but that hasn’t been the case since Davis made her most genuine attempt at turning her life around.

When Davis reached a certain point in her recovery journey, she decided to pay it forward by helping others in their recovery.

She is not ashamed of what she has gone through because it was necessary for her to get to where she is today. It is her hope that others can learn from what she has experienced so that they might not have as difficult a road to travel.

Her advice to those struggling with addiction is to “quit while you’re ahead because it will only get worse. Nothing good really comes out of getting high … it ends really always the same. Jails, institutions, and death.”

Davis knows she must be vigilant to her daily maintenance plan, allowing her to continue to live her best life.

Laura Kaponer is a mental health advocate and social media blogger, as well as a volunteer with the local chapter of NAMI. #LauraKaponeris1in5 (as 1 in 5 Americans have a mental illness).