Karen, 36 years old, came to the Life Changes program through the Washoe County Drug Court system. She had spent more than 18 months attempting to satisfy the requirements of the court but struggled to stay clean and sober. Repeatedly, Karen would find herself drunk in a bar or sleeping on the floor of a dirty drug den. Karen supported her habit by any means necessary; thievery, prostitution, pan handling, etc. She was willing to go to any length to support her addiction. Finally, the court system gave her a choice: enter a residential recovery program or go to jail. Karen chose the Life Changes program.
When Karen came to Life Changes, she was broken and desperate. She had reached the lowest point of her life, her children, now teenagers, had been placed in foster care, she was homeless, jobless and without any degree of self-worth or belief that her life could change. Karen told the founder of the program that she did not believe Life Changes would work for her; nothing had ever worked for Karen. She said everything and everyone she had ever known was from the streets, she said she just wanted to get through drug court without going to jail and then she planned to return to what she knew best: a life of addiction, prostitution, terror, and homelessness. However, the Life Changes staff had different plans for Karen.
Through careful mentoring, support, and guidance, Karen gradually began to find her way through the maze of her life. She began attending the mandatory 12-step meetings, wrote away for her birth certificate, learned basic computer and social skills, and eventually received her state issued identification and social security card. Karen was now ready to venture into the job force. Karen’s very first real job was with a local charitable thrift store. She worked long hours for very little pay but found satisfaction in her ability to suit up and show up on a daily basis.
Karen’s goal was to complete all 90-days of her commitment to the Life Changes program without drinking or using drugs. She dreamed about the day when she would have her own home and hear the laughter and ruckus that comes along with teenage children. One day, Karen did not come home from work. The founder of Life Changes went on a search for Karen and found her drunk in a local bar. Per our agreement with the court system, we notified Karen’s caseworker who picked her up at the bar and took her to jail. After five days in jail, Life Changes agreed to take her back, as did her job at the thrift store. Karen was required to attend outpatient addiction treatment, to attend 90 12-step meetings in 90 days, and was put on a strict curfew. We are so excited to report that Karen stayed another 6 months with the Life Changes program and graduated without further incident. Karen is now an assistant manager at the thrift store that gave her that first opportunity at a real job, she has her own home and has been awarded visitation rights with her children.
Life Changes believes in every individuals right to change their lives, the staff at Life Changes are committed to empowering the women they serve to become the powerful parents, employees and community members they were destined to be before drugs and alcohol took hold of their lives. We believe that relapse is part of the disease of addiction and are committed to teaching our clients that recovery from active addiction is possible. Karen’s story is just one of many that we see. Sometimes our residents come to us ready to do whatever it takes to change, often, like Karen, they are just trying to get through their court requirements, many times, they relapse, but always, they know, at Life Changes they have a home and a family that believes in them.
There was a time when all that I feared at night was underneath my bed
But now the terrors of the dark all reside within my head
I can see their faces, forever locked in time
An eternity of suffering weighs on my mind
But if, what if, maybe if
I could have, I would have, I should have
It was my duty they said, It was my job, convinced me it would make me
So then why do these visions still haunt me as if I have done something terribly wrong?
Awake now. Did you hear that? Can you hear them scream?
She holds me closer and tells me it was only a dream
In order to protect her from the terrible things that I feel
I dare not tell her, but those screams are undeniably real.
Shaking, terrified, scared, and alone
Within her embrace she helps me to remember I am finally home
I want so bad to tell her everything just so she knows
But only silence like a cancer grows.
In the mirror an unfamiliar face stares back at me
I try to peel away the mask but I can’t seem to break free
Suddenly, through these borrowed eyes, the darkness begins to clear
I see now. It’s me. I am the monster that I fear