In this episode:
Daniela was 5 years old when she and her mom left communist Romania seeking asylum in Germany. Unable to live together as a family, Daniela and her mom were only able to see her dad in secret. Being caught would mean being sent back to Romania. Daniela’s primary concern was to not worry her parents, and this marked the beginning of Daniela avoiding her feelings.
After being denied citizenship in Germany, Daniela’s family loaded their belongings into a car with the plan of driving until they were granted asylum in another country. They ended their journey in Portugal. The immigrant asylum that was their home was a volatile environment. Listening to crime outside of their walls, Daniela did not feel safe. Here, she developed her love of learning and animals. Reading served as her escape and coping mechanism. Shortly thereafter, they moved to a fishing village in Northern Portugal where Daniela created some of her favorite childhood memories.
Daniela’s family immigrated to the United States, the fourth country Daniela had lived in and the third time that she arrived in a country not knowing the language or the culture. Being treated differently and being bullied was traumatic. However, this fueled Daniela’s life-long passion for fighting for those who are under-represented. Daniela’s mission is to create experiences that create connection and empower individuals to reach their potential.
To survive, Daniela pushed herself towards perfection. She excelled scholastically. Daniela also excelled at addiction or substance use disorder. Looking inward and being still was too painful. Daniela entered the University of Washington, joined a sorority, and discovered drinking. After suffering the traumatic loss of her 19-year old boyfriend due to an overdose, Daniela found comfort in alcohol. Yet she was able to function at college and at the company she co-founded. For a time. Until alcohol got in the way.
Daniela’s friend intervened, and while Daniela received this loving message, she didn’t know what resources were available or how to successfully recover. Initially, Daniela tried to stop drinking on her own. However, she continued drinking until she was charged with a DUI and arrested. Waking up on the cold floor of the jail cell, Daniela knew she couldn’t live this way, but yet she didn’t have the resources to recover. After Daniela’s father bailed her out of jail, she sought the structure of rehabilitation.
While in recovery, Daniela created the WEconnect Health platform in her quest to address the high rate of relapse and the lack of resources provided post rehabilitation. She wanted to create a community that offered connection and accountability. Daniela and her team have been able to quickly pivot, implementing novel solutions for individuals who are socially isolated because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Removing the stigma around mental health and equating physical and mental health have been challenging. Yet Daniela believes that sharing stories will help combat the stigma that has been associated with substance use disorder. Daniela believes that when we open up and share, we begin to pave our path to strength, success, and joy.
Be vulnerable, ask for help, and be gentle with yourself.
Recovery from substance use disorder is a life-long journey. Valuable resources that Daniela turns to include EMDR therapy, community support meetings, meditation, yoga, exercising, and journaling. Hope and inspiration were overshadowed by desperation early in Daniela’s journey. Daniela felt that her only way out was following the recommendations made during rehabilitation.
Daniela’s life is a gift. She has strong, loving relationships, and an incredible business that fuels her passion and fulfills her mission. Daniela’s greatest hope is that individuals reach their greatest potential, that people learn to look inward and work through trauma, and that they discover that being vulnerable and healing can lead to transformation and joy.
Thank you for listening!
May our stories help forge your path forward. I hope you’ll stay tuned for our next episode and in the meantime, learn more about my story on my blog.