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Woman transforms life with sobriety after a drug overdose and now is a successful attorney

In the depths of despair, when it feels like rock bottom is an inescapable reality, one woman's journey stands as a testament to the human spirit's capacity for resilience.

Woman transforms life with sobriety after a drug overdose and now is a successful attorney
Cover Image Source: Instagram | @sarhgad

Trigger warning: This article contains mention of assault and sexual abuse that some readers may find distressing.

While experiencing struggles and feeling like you've made rock bottom your permanent address, one might feel helpless and hopeless about ever coming out of it. Sarah Gad's story is an inspiration to those living through trying and testing times. Gad became addicted to opioids while she was a young medical student. Gad was prescribed pain medication following a car accident in 2012, after which she craved pills every morning irrespective of whether she needed them or not. "I emerged from the accident with several broken ribs and a compound fracture of my right ankle," Gad wrote for Marie Claire in 2019.


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Sarah Gad (@sarhgad)


 

This led to dependence and addiction that landed her a transient position in and out of jail between 2013 and 2015 until she was given the chance to change her life. "Though I understood addiction to be a disease, I naïvely thought that my medical education and training somehow immunized me against it," she said. She was beaten, stabbed, and sexually abused in Chicago's Cook County Jail. Gad's family then began looking for someone who could assist and support her, according to My Modern Met.

"I started isolating myself, canceling plans so that I could stay home and get high. I gained 40 pounds in two months and neglected myself in the most basic ways. One day, I looked in the mirror and was shocked. I barely recognized myself. It was like I had fallen down the rabbit hole and didn’t notice until I'd already hit the floor," Gad expressed.


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Sarah Gad (@sarhgad)


 

Fortunately, Gad's case caught the attention of attorney Kathleen Zellner, who is well-known for her work on wrongful conviction cases. She found Gad's story to be touching so she offered her help and a position assisting at the law firm. Gad desperately needed this chance and accepted it. Gad worked at Zellner's firm on the case of Mario Casciaro, a man whose murder conviction was overturned after a witness recanted their testimony.

Even though she still had her own legal issues, it was a case that inspired her to want to go to law school. Gad was admitted to the University of Chicago Law School, which she was able to pay for thanks to a Cook County settlement, but she still had to appear before a judge. She faced a mandatory minimum sentence as a repeat drug offender. She was perceived to be incapable of rehabilitation in front of the law but the presiding judge decided to give her a chance.


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Sarah Gad (@gadgadlaw)


 

Zellner always knew Gad had it in her to make something out of life. She's a practicing lawyer who just won her first murder case. She now works in the same courtroom she once walked into as a criminal. Gad uses her personal experience with addiction and the criminal justice system to make a difference after graduating in 2020 and receiving her license to practice in 2022. She now runs her own practice in Minneapolis, focusing on criminal defense, civil rights violations and immigration law.

"If you were to ask me 10 years ago why I wanted to be a doctor, my answer would have been simple: to help save lives and ease suffering. Though I never got to fulfill my dream of practicing medicine, that original sentiment has never wavered—it goes much deeper now," she writes.


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Sarah Gad (@gadgadlaw)


 

"I want to do everything in my power to help save people from the disease of addiction, to keep them from feeling the pain, desperation, and hopelessness that I experienced, and, above all, spare hundreds of thousands of people the lifelong devastation of losing someone that they love to this tragic, yet treatable disease. To put it simply: I want to make it stop—and I think, finally, we're figuring out how to do just that," she concludes.



 

If you are being subjected to sexual assault, or know of anyone who is, please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673).

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