At age 12, Antonia Montalvo was given drugs by a family member who struggled with substance abuse; that person would leave her in New Brunswick while seeking a high.
She went to Rutgers Preparatory School, but lived a “double life,” hanging around drug dealers in New Brunswick. She suffered physical abuse, rape and domestic violence. She is afflicted with Crohn’s disease and sarcoidosis. She has overdosed several times and has even been pronounced dead. Her father was murdered.
She lived at four treatment centers and two recovery homes, but she said she wasn’t ready to do the work. “I was logically doing it, but wasn’t doing it through the heart,” she said. On June 13, 2015, she overdosed for the last time – coincidentally on St. Anthony’s Day, her namesake.
She had an experience where a shaman lady helped guide her through energy she received through her awakening from Christ. She experienced emotional freedom techniques to release her stored traumas. She said she saw a vision in the clouds, almost like her ego dismantling itself. That’s when Montalvo decided to change her life for good:
“There is never a moment in time I don’t think and feel the wreckage of what I did, it never goes away, but it can get better and it will get better. The minute you decide you’re going to change, you’re getting better. Allow the space, the wreckage, to keep you humble — and use the pain for strength and purpose.”
Six months into her recovery, Montalvo founded the Antonia Maria Foundation. On March 14, 2017, she established Gracie’s House (named after her grandmother) in a house her family owns in North Brunswick.
There are six beds – two singles and two doubles – for stays that range from three to 24 months. There is a shared bathroom and kitchen, plus a nook to sit and read and a living room with a shared television. Each woman gets her own bed with fresh linens, a closet and a dresser.
There are goddess cards, spirit animals, essential oils, Native American medicine, crystals, imagery, vision boards, yoga and reiki available to help connect each woman to her creative self. There is no religious affiliation, as women can follow whichever spiritual path fits them best.
Now, Montalvo considers herself to be the victor, not the victim. She said she uses her past addiction to empower herself. That desire to want more and more has turned into growth. She is selling Nama-slay My Recovery T-shirts to help fundraise, and she hopes to open a second house in the fall.
Gracie’s House is at 828 Livingston Ave., North Brunswick. To donate, volunteer, partner, visit AntoniaMariaFoundation.org. Antonia Montalvo can be reached at 888-633-2693 or 732-823-8350.