IT'S THANKSGIVING week, mi gente. Time to get grateful.
I know it might be hard to believe, given the radioactive reactions I've shared lately in response to some of my columns about President-elect Donald Trump, but I am thankful to you, my readers. The ones I've gotten to know over four years at the Daily News and the ones I'm just getting acquainted with at the Inquirer.
I'm also eternally thankful for the people who trust me with their stories and who have an uncanny knack of reminding me, when things seem most bleak, that there's a lot to be grateful for in this crazy world of ours.
Here's one example, courtesy of Nicole Kapulsky, a former heroin addict I wrote about last year.
Kapulsky, a mother of three, had been clean for about five years when I visited her home in the Philadelphia suburb of Glen Mills.
She was eager to share her story and her success with Vivitrol, a non-narcotic medication that she used to kick her addiction.
She was also grateful and excited about her future, which included her upcoming wedding, where she giddily planned to wear a poufy pink dress.
I'd almost forgotten about that when my phone pinged the other day. And then, there she was: Nicole (Kapulsky) Braclalenti, the email announced, a glowing bride in all her poufy pink glory.
"I promised pics in my pink poofy dress," she wrote. "Jeff and I wed on Saturday night. It was amazing."
She'd done it, and I couldn't stop smiling or sharing the picture.
"6 years clean in 2 months," she wrote in a subsequent email. "Life is wonderful. I have never been happier."
It was the flip side of a horrible story that is playing out all out over the country as the epidemic of opioid addiction ripples across America.
Even while I talked to her in 2015, I knew she was one of the lucky ones. The same year we met, there were more than twice as many deaths from drug overdose in Philly as there were from homicide. Just last week, the city's Department of Public Health issued an alert when emergency rooms reported nearly 40 drug overdoses in one day.
"I watched the news that day and was scared to death for the people out there," Kapulsky said.
Kapulsky had become addicted while going through a bad divorce. Desperate to kick it for good in 2011, a dope-sick Kapulsky went to a nearby library and Googled "ways to get clean on my own." She'd already done rehab and relapsed after methadone treatment.
The first thing that came up was Vivitrol, a non-narcotic monthly injection of naltrexone that blocks the cravings for heroin.
Vivitrol was her "miracle." But everyone's path to recovery is different.
Last month at a local Walmart, Kapulsky bumped into a couple of guys she used to run with. She told them about her success with Vivitrol and encouraged them to try it. She told them she'd help if they were interested, but while they promised they'd get in touch, the look in their eyes said otherwise. They were already looking for their next high.
"When I got to my car, I just sobbed," she said. "I was still crying when I got home because I felt so bad for them and because I was just so grateful that I managed to get away from that life."
Kapulsky doesn't spend much time looking back since getting clean, but that day, she couldn't help but consider how far she'd come.
She was about to celebrate her first Thanksgiving as a new wife. Her oldest son is serving in the military in Germany. She and her husband are hoping to open up a pizza joint soon.
She had gone through hell and come out the other side.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.