WALLINGFORD — Ana Gopoian still remembers the day she stopped using drugs.
On July 13, 1995, the Wallingford native sat in her bedroom, broken and despondent from years of substance abuse. The 32-year-old had battled addiction since the age of 12.
“I had a gun in my hand and I was going to shoot myself — not to die, but to validate all the pain I felt,” Gopoian said. “I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t think I was being punished enough for all the wrongs I did.”
Rather than harming herself, Gopoian called a friend, who kept her safe before helping her enter rehabilitation.
“I was given the gift of desperation that day,” Gopoian said about her decision to seek help.
Gopoian, who has remained sober for 21 years since, is now helping others overcome substance abuse. Since 2012, she has run support groups for families of people battling addiction at the Yalesville United Methodist Church, at 8 New Place Street. She has certifications as a Progressive Recovery Coach and Recovery Support Specialist. She is currently completing a program at Gateway Community College to become a drug and alcohol recovery counselor.
“I have not seen anyone accomplish as much positive stuff with people that need help as Ana,” Coalition for a Better Wallingford co-founder Ken Welch said. “If there’s anyone who understands the needs of addicts, she does.”
In September, Gopoian founded a nonprofit organization, TriCircle Inc., that she hopes will offer a substance abuse support program for young adults ages 18 to 29.
Gopoian said the recovery program, still being developed, will last 15 months and include three five-month phases, each focusing on different objectives. The program will focus on helping young adults understand the root of their addiction while developing skills needed for continued recovery after graduation, TriCircle Inc. board member Ray Demers said.
Gopoian said her own recovery helped her create a program for others. Other programs often discharge patients after 60 or 90 days, at a time when many patients are more likely to relapse without support, she said.
Gopoian would like to find local businesses that will offer employment to patients. The organization will also offer support to family members of patients throughout the program.
This week, Gopoian hosted an event to mark the launch of the organization. State Rep. Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford, attended.
“She has a strong vision of where she wants to go,” Mushinsky said.
Mushinsky hopes the program will help combat an opioid epidemic that she calls “the number one public safety problem in Wallingford.”
Gopoian said the organization will be housed in Wallingford and will open at the end of 2017. The organization will be publicly funded, but Gopoian said she could not elaborate.