Maria was born and raised in a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was lucky enough to grow up in a supportive, loving household where her interests and talents were allowed to develop, and she was able to thrive. However, as a teenager, Maria struggled with severe depression and anxiety, which she hid from her parents for as long as she could. She started taking medication, which greatly helped, but the stigma surrounding mental illness combined with her anxiety resulted in her keeping her struggles bottled up and becoming reluctant to reach out for support.
When she was eighteen, Maria moved to Portland, Oregon to attend Reed College. She felt overwhelmed by the sudden change of structure, loss of support system and increased academic demands. Her mental health rapidly declined, and she turned to drugs and alcohol to cope. She managed to keep her substance abuse under control enough to make it through school, but graduation and the stress of post-college uncertainty only served to amplify her burgeoning alcoholism. Soon, she was drinking every day, blacking out frequently, and getting into increasingly dangerous and frightening situations. Despite hitting several apparent "bottoms" and the concerns of many around her, Maria was deep in denial, depressed, and felt powerless to make a change.
It wasn't until Maria became close with someone in recovery that she began to look at her drinking in a different light and recognize that a different way of life could be possible. In November 2014, Maria got sober, and slowly began to unpack the mental and emotional struggles that she had left untouched for years. She started seeing a therapist that specialized in dual-diagnosis, and a psychiatrist who finally found her the right form and dosage of medication. Additionally, she became active in Alcoholics Anonymous, built a support system of peers, and now sponsors other women who are new to the program. Maria considers being able to provide peer support one of the greatest gifts of her mental health and addiction recovery. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, hanging out with her cat, seeing shows, staying active and exploring the Pacific Northwest.