“I avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking upward” – Charlotte Bronte
This famous quote from Victorian novelist Charlotte Bronte was evoked by Lithuanian model and entrepreneur Vilma Biliene, who has an emotional, tragic, and inspiring story about her journey through addiction and arrival at the nascent journey of sobriety. As quoted from Vilma in her story, she says that recovery is a journey that “has no actual end.”
Vilma Biliene was born in Lithuania in 1979, by the age of 16 she moved to America in hopes to pursue her dreams and ambitions in Entrepreneurship and modeling. However, Vilma wed a Russian boxer who inflicted years of abuse and trauma onto her. She describes these years as the hardest in her life, and when she became addicted to painkillers (unspecified what type.) She suffered many back injuries from the physical abuse inflicted by her husband, which resulted in numerous surgeries.
To cope with the chronic back pain that persisted from these surgeries she had to take the painkillers to alleviate discomfort. This is a sad reality for many who have addictions to opiates or painkillers: the addiction started not from bad behaviors of the users doing, but rather as an unhealthy way to cope for pain inflicted unto the user.
This creates life’s most tragic irony—falling into addiction and further harm with medications that originally were supposed to “fix” or relieve current heath issues. Her life changed after years of addiction when she met a new man who became her second husband.
Her second husband helped her and supported her through her addiction, and Vilma describes that the first step to her life improving was changing her environment. When she triumphed over her addiction and despair, she began to use her pain to help others. Her road to recovery became a way for her to empower herself and other women who have had similar stories.
She now models and produces a line of leggings meant to inspire and empower women, to make them look and feel both comfortable and fashionable. What makes her design unique is that she herself appears on the leggings! A common criticism her faces involves people telling her she seems vain or narcissistic for having her face on the leggings, but Vilma argues that “the eyes” are what makes the piece powerful and vulnerable.
While critics may analyze her design as narcissistic, one can also view the design as her sharing herself with the women she has inspired by creating a symbolic connection—a connection that says “I am with you in spirit when you wear my leggings and we will get through the pain.”
Let us take Vilma’s journey as a chance to celebrate recovery and realize that recovery s possible for everyone. Even if life seems like it will never get better, the truth is that there is always hope.