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Your best option now would be to go with a pre-paid phone (Verizon or another carrier, doesn't much matter).
If you knew you'd want to re-activate the Verizon account at some point, being pro-active and asking them to suspend your account without billing for the time you are unable to pay would have made more sense than just ignoring the issue. Contacting customer service to let them know BEFORE the account became delinquent would have saved you a lot of grief.
You said "Since I am not making money right now, and I can't use the phone anyway, I wasn't in a huge hurry to pay the bill." - and Verizon won't be in any hurry to help you fix it now either....
For the future - keep CS aware of your situation and let them work with you for the best resolution. And for now, get a cheapy pre-paid that will at least give you a phone you can make calls on and learn for the next time....