Toms River native and author Alicia Cook, has sought to eliminate the stigma surrounding those suffering with the disease of drug addiction for years but now has expanded on her social advocacy to address issues surrounding mental illness, relationships and more affecting everyday people in 2018.

The tragic suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain last week are another reminder to increase the awareness about mental illnesses and conditions.

Cook was going through her own stressful situation and anxiety after writing her first book, just a couple years ago.

"I was not in a great mind space when my first book came out in 2016, 'Stuff I've Been Feeling Lately' so I kind of had to manifest my own hope during that time," Cook said. "What I learned to do through speaking to a professional and through open conversations with my family and friends still find the good in things, even if it was just a little sliver of light, like a glimmer of hope and I would hold onto that.

We are all going through a lot of stuff, especially these days. No-one's life is easy, we all have our stuff.

What I did was...'okay, I had a terrible week but let me find one good thing that happened'..and I clung to that because as dark as it may seem, I just think with the right help and support around you...I just want people to know that it's not the end, it will get better, it might get worse before it gets better but it will get better."

Her recommendation for those struggling with something in their life is to talk with someone like a mental health counselor or therapist and of course your own family.

Editorial: There's nothing wrong with you for seeking help or wanting to talk to someone, a family member, friend, teacher, mentor, mental health counselor or a therapist.

Your family and your true friends will not judge you because you want to get help for yourself.

If you feel in danger and need help right away and feel things look very dim, there is always help available and there is always hope and a way to make things better.

If you feel you or someone you know may be in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-TALK, or the NJ Hopeline, 1-855-654-6735.

Whether or not you believe addiction is a disease, if someone is hooked on drugs and wants to get clean should they be shunned because they're struggling and made the wrong life choice?

Cook provides an answer in her new book.

There's a stigma still associated with drug addiction and many people abusing narcotics are judged and outcasted.

Just because someone made the wrong choice in their life, it doesn't mean they deserve the pain they're in.

Cook says there's always a reason why.

"While some drug addictions form because of recreational use or experimentation, more times than not, there's a trauma or a mental illness connected to drug addiction because it's used as self-medication," Cook said. "They're trying to escape something, whether it be...if they were sexually assaulted as a child or any kind of trauma...I mean, no-one wakes up one day and says I want to live and die as a heroin"

While the stigma has improved she says it's important to find out why they made that choice in the first place to abuse drugs.

While New Jersey and the nation battles a drug epidemic, more celebrities like the 'Jersey Shore's'  Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino and comedian Artie Lange most recently, are stepping up to the plate, getting clean after getting in trouble with the law and then getting their message out there encouraging others to be brave and follow in their footsteps of reform.

Could the celebrity influence have an effect on those abusing drugs?

Cook, says perhaps it can.

"Overall, the more people that speak out about their own personal experiences and how certain things may have touched their lives...I think it breaks down the veil of shame," Cook said. "When someone of notoriety comes out and says 'I'm a flawed human, I had everything and I lost everything...I think that does help move the conversation forward."

Even in today's society there are still many social issues, that are unacceptable behaviors, and still go on.

Many of these issues affect everyday people, and Cook brings them to light in her new book.

Cook says among the current social issues she addresses in the book is the #metoo movement and how women are still being treated.

"I was walking back to my car from the gym and I was getting hissed at and whistled at to turn around by this one guy that was walking about five-feet behind me the whole time," Cook said. "It's just...things that we experience as women that don't seem real because it's 2018 and you'd think, how could this still be happening?"

Her book of poems also includes stories about unwanted pregnancies, rape, sexual violence, murder, relationships, breakups and overdoses among other issues affecting everyday people.

Learn more in the video below.

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