Woman shares startling before-and-after photo to give recovering addicts hope
via V Ginny Burton / Facebook

Virginia Burton, 48, has over eight years and five months of sobriety under her belt and that's the longest stretch she's gone without using. She was first introduced to marijuana at the age of six and by the age of 15 was a "full-blown addict."

She was incarcerated three times, twice with her mother.

She desperately wanted to stop, but couldn't do it on her own. But finally, she found sobriety after getting arrested. "If not for the police, I wouldn't be where I am today. They gave me an opportunity to change my life when they arrested me," she wrote on Facebook. "On my own, I wouldn't have stopped."


"I honestly thought I'd die on a park bench with a needle in my arm or by gunshot to the head," she wrote. "I would've never in a million years thought my life would look the way it does today."

However, things have changed.

A photo she shared on Facebook is going viral for showing the dramatic change she's gone through. The photo on the left is of her strung out on heroin and cocaine in 2005. The right, Burton after recently graduating with a political science degree from Washington State.

"How's that for motivation?" she captioned the photo.

Last year, as a junior, she was awarded the prestigious Truman Scholarship which recognizes future leaders driven to make change at the policy level.

An avid mountaineer, she told the University of Washington that she tackles each task in life like she approaches a summit.

"Making the decision to return to school so late in life was a challenge for me," she said. "I thought I might be too old to start my life over again and that learning might be harder than I imagined. I decided that I would tackle each challenge I faced with the same drive I tackle mountains. There is no excuse to stop moving forward. If I want to reach the summit, I must keep climbing."

Burton hopes her miraculous transformation will show people that anything is possible. "Stop selling yourself short," she wrote. "You don't know what tomorrow might bring so you might consider starting today."

Recovery Talk with Ginny Burton www.youtube.com

"If you would have told me that my life would look like it does today eight and a half years ago, I would have called you a liar," Burton told 10 TV's Bryant Somerville.

Burton hopes her transformation will show people that even in the direst of situations it is possible to turn one's life around.

"I want people to know that there is hope," she wrote on Facebook. "No one is disposable. You don't have to die in addiction. You can stop using, lose the desire, and find a new way to live. There are so many of us out here willing to help."

The post has clearly done its job. It's been seen by people as far as the Middle East, Switzerland, and Spain, and her inbox has been filled with countless messages from people thanking her for her hope and perseverance.

"I can't tell you how grateful I am to share my life out loud," she wrote.

Burton is looking forward to changing more lives by pursuing a master's degree at the Evans School of Public Policy in Seattle so that she can help change the prison system. Since 2011, she has worked as a volunteer with the Post Prison education program which works to support former prisoners.

Her long-term goals are to realize her childhood dream of becoming a lawyer, run for elected office, and to restructure prison time. Given how she's approached life for the past eight years, I wouldn't bet against her.

Photo courtesy of Justin Sather
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While most 10-year-olds are playing Minecraft, riding bikes, or watching YouTube videos, Justin Sather is intent on saving the planet. And it all started with a frog blanket when he was a baby.

"He carried it everywhere," Justin's mom tells us. "He had frog everything, even a frog-themed birthday party."

In kindergarten, Justin learned that frogs are an indicator species – animals, plants, or microorganisms used to monitor drastic changes in our environment. With nearly one-third of frog species on the verge of extinction due to pollution, pesticides, contaminated water, and habitat destruction, Justin realized that his little amphibian friends had something important to say.

"The frogs are telling us the planet needs our help," says Justin.

While it was his love of frogs that led him to understand how important the species are to our ecosystem, it wasn't until he read the children's book What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada that Justin-the-activist was born.

Inspired by the book and with his mother's help, he set out on a mission to raise funds for frog habitats by selling toy frogs in his Los Angeles neighborhood. But it was his frog art which incorporated scientific facts that caught people's attention. Justin's message spread from neighbor to neighbor and through social media; so much so that he was able to raise $2,000 for the non-profit Save The Frogs.

And while many kids might have their 8th birthday party at a laser tag center or a waterslide park, Justin invited his friends to the Ballona wetlands ecological preserve to pick invasive weeds and discuss the harms of plastic pollution.

Justin's determination to save the frogs and help the planet got a massive boost when he met legendary conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall.

Photo courtesy of Justin Sather

At one of her Roots and Shoots youth initiative events, Dr. Goodall was so impressed with Justin's enthusiasm for helping frogs, she challenged the young activist to take it one step further and focus on plastic pollution as well. Justin accepted her challenge and soon after was featured in an issue of Bravery Magazine dedicated to Jane Goodall.

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Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

As it turns out, underdog stories can have cats as the main character.

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