Makiki woman explains how she overcame a life of addiction

It’s been said in order to succeed, you must fail.

Donita Garcia has beaten the odds before.

She was widowed at a young age and lost in a world of drugs and alcohol abuse while living alone on Leeward Oahu beaches.

“I was an addict and alcoholic in recovery. I have six years and seven months, and I was homeless on the beach,” she said. “I knew exactly how many, 128 recyclables every single day just to get a pack of cigarettes.”

But Garcia took action and got off the streets. Her next hurdle was her long battle with nicotine.

“I smoked for 46 years and I started at age 12,” she said. “At the point I was on two inhalers a day, I couldn’t breathe.”

Seventy percent of 46 million Americans who smoke want to quit, but only six percent succeed.

Thanks to Adventist Health Castle’s Live Well Tobacco Free program, Garcia has been a part of the minority for more than a year.

“I have grandchildren and I want to see my great-grandchildren,” she said. “Today I have 645 days or one year, eight months, and 14 days.”

“Donita is such a strong woman who has a lot of determination and ambition,” said Allie Hall, certified tobacco treatment specialist. “She’s not a quitter and she’s very uplifting, and I think that’s such a strength for her, especially when she talks to our other patients to let them know, ‘I’ve been through this and you can do it, too.'”

Garcia graduated magna cum laude from Windward Community College and will soon earn her bachelor’s degree from the University of Hawaii West Oahu.

“I’m hoping to be a lawyer, but you know, you can at any age. It doesn’t matter,” she said.

In the meantime, Garcia will continue to serve as a math tutor and a mentor at Hina Mauka for women recovering from addictions, while inspiring others with her story of survival.

Her next challenge? “Now, it’s trying to get rid of sugar,” she said with a laugh.

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