TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Some of us search for many years to try and figure out our career path but for Kathleen Giarratano, her future was shaped in her childhood.
Giarratano’s journey here on the campus of Russel Sage College began well before she entered her first lecture hall.
“From my perspective, I was about four or five years old when I really realized the severity of my mother’s substance use and that really affected my family and my family dynamic.”
Kathleen or Katie as her friends and family call her grew up in Liberty, N.Y. A good student, a high school cheerleader and a young woman conquering a past that could have led her down a very different path.
“It would be really difficult for us to see my mother, she would be in and out of incarceration and she would say that she was coming home and then not really come home and so it really had me act as an over functioner in my family. I would clean, I would do the laundry as a child, and really take care of my younger sister.”
The 22-year-old is working toward a master’s degree in counseling and community psychology with a certificate in forensic mental health. On top of her studies, she has completed an internship in the assembly and dozens of speaking engagements at local high schools, something she says she is most proud of.
“I found that one of the greatest accomplishments. I feel better when I share my story and that is from the family perspective of someone who has been affected by substance abuse disorder.”
Sharing her story, Katie has inspired others to stand a little taller and be a little braver.
“I found that when I was at these speaking engagements what students primarily my age, because I am a young student, that they related to me so much and in return showed that they weren’t alone, that there were people that were going through this and it isn’t shameful and the stigma associated with substance use.”
If you ask Katie who inspires her every day she will tell you her mother, who is now 10 years sober, and all those who fight to stay clean and sober.
“Now you find if you are in a large group of people you can raise your hand and say who has ever been affected or know someone who has been affected by substance abuse, the majority of people will raise their hand.”