(Original Photo By: Q Brickell)

Music has the amazing power to bring people together. Electronic music, more than any other genre, is about that community and sense of inclusion. Deserved or not, EDM also has a reputation of being associated with drug abuse. For those who are fans of the music and don’t use, they might feel like they’re alone. They are not, though. That’s the story of this month’s fan feature, Kaitlin Gigliotti. Kaitlin has been through quite a bit in her life, but through storytelling, her career, and serving her community, she’s making a difference.

“My drive and goals have always been geared towards helping people. My mother found me in my room at six years old drawing a diagram of the brain – labeling each lobe for different emotions and motor skills. I would often give my couple dollars allowance money to homeless people on the street. I became an emergency medical technician at 18 years old and worked on an ambulance for two years. I currently work as a detox technician in a drug and alcohol treatment facility. I get to share my personal stories and experiences to help others.

When I was 14, my best friend at the time introduced me to Showtek (in their prime hardstyle days). It was different, upbeat, and the bass in his truck rattled my bones & stimulated my soul. We would dance and laugh until the sun came up. That man passed away tragically a year later and I continued to listen to EDM over the years, thinking of him and carrying him in my heart.”

Kaitlin had it rough; she’s battled addiction and depression at a younger age than anyone should ever endure. However, she did have a moment of clarity, where she realized that she was meant for something better. She sought help, cleaned up, and turned her life around. Now not only is Kaitlin clean and sober, she’s just as involved in her EDM community as anybody doing volunteer work for Insomniac Consciousness Group, which provides a sober sanctuary for EDC headliners. Her sister was also a big factor in her changing her life around.

“I’m 22 years old and probably have more life experiences and trauma than the average elderly person. I started drinking and using drugs when I was 11. By the time I was 13, I had become completely dependent on using to get through my days. The events that happened over the following two years, I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

I found myself waking up in my own vomit, with bruises I couldn’t explain, amongst very dangerous people. I was hiding in my closet smoking a meth pipe while my parents were asleep on the other side of the wall. I started stealing money, panhandling, and selling my body. At 15 years old, I became desperate and willing enough to change the way I was living and knew the key was to get clean. I started on my journey of recovery. A few days ago, I celebrated 7 years without a drink or drug! What a miracle.”

Despite the struggles and hardships she’s endured over her life, one of her passions is helping others through sharing her experiences. By sharing with others who might be going through something similar she has found a way to make a difference. It’s nice to have a safe space at a massive EDM festival, and for Kaitlin she takes pride in knowing she’s making a difference.

“While volunteering with Consciousness Group, I met a girl at the table who had her younger sister with her. She asked what we were and I gave her the spiel – ‘We are a group of clean and sober music fans that provide a safe place for anyone at the festival who isn’t drinking or using.’ Her face lit up and she had tears in her eyes. She mentioned being about a year in recovery and attending the same festival the year prior. Her story was…she got so drunk and high that she abandoned her sister and barely remembers what had happened.

This particularly touched my heart and brought me to tears because of the relationship I had and now have with my little sister. When I was drinking and using, I brought my sister with me to very dangerous and selfish places. I abandoned her a few times and I’ll never forget the look of fear and terror on her face when I returned. I’m not that person today. I get to be the “cool” sister and take her to concerts and festivals. I get to be responsible enough to drive her, make sure she’s safe, and enjoy the moment fully. I’m very grateful for that.”

You might wonder why someone would be this vulnerable in sharing so many of the terrible experiences they’ve had to endure. For Kaitlin, she enjoys being an example of someone in recovery who still has an incredible time dancing to her favorite artists. She still enjoys festivals and the music, especially hardstyle, and gets to help others. Having gone through many trials, she knows how important it can be to have a support network. Even better…at a music festival where we’re all looking for some way to belong. Thanks to people like Kaitlin, all that is possible.

“I enjoy being an example of enjoying the music without depending on any mind-altering substances. I devote a lot of my free time to helping young women get and stay clean and sober. I’m able to be a mentor for them and share my experiences – good and bad – to assist them in walking through life with grace and dignity. You are NOT alone. As cliché as that sounds, it’s very true. Reach out to people you love or find resources that can help. Whatever the struggle is, remember – this too shall pass.  One thing I’ve learned and am so very grateful for is that pain is temporary. Each struggle I’ve gone through has allowed me to share my experiences, strength, and hope with someone else, which hopefully inspires them to change their lives for the better as well.”

If you or anyone you know is suffering from any form of substance abuse or addiction, do not hesitate to act. Taking a screening can help determine if additional help is required. Visit www.mhascreening.org to take a free, confidential, and anonymous alcohol or substance use screen. Visit Mental Health America to learn more about recognizing addiction symptoms and offering support before and throughout recovery. Several global online and regional recovery support communities can be found at the links below:

Mental Health Americahttp://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/finding-help

To Write Love On Her Armshttps://twloha.com/find-help/help-by-topic/addiction

Visit JED’s Mental Health Resource Center for information, resources, and tips for how to help yourself or a loved one.