One year clean: A recovery story

Substance abuse. It can happen to anyone by choice or injury. “Sally” made the choice to use drugs that first time to fit in with her friends. Peer pressure is a strong thing, she said, as she sat down to share her story that brought her to Family Recovery Center’s Fleming House.

She can’t tell you why she decided to stop doing drugs. She doesn’t know, except that she woke up and knew she didn’t want to live that way any longer. “I thought the only one I was hurting was myself,” she said. “But that wasn’t true.”

She asked Family Recovery Center to let her tell her story publicly. She recently celebrated one year clean. But the path to this success was preceded by 26 arrests, prison time. In 2008, she became disabled and was no longer able to be a nurse.

The first time she entered Fleming House was in 2007. She didn’t stop using drugs so she was asked to leave. Crack. Opiates. She said she and one of her daughters were using heroin at the same time but didn’t know it or they would have done it together. That daughter is currently in prison.

Sally regrets that she wasn’t there for her three children, that she couldn’t make Fleming House work for her and the children in 2007. She has three grandchildren, two of whom she has not been allowed to see. And she was estranged from her mother.

Things are looking up for her since she turned around. She returned to Fleming House in June, consistently working on the goals she has, completing the programs she agreed to when she returned to this safe place. She speaks to her mother who calls her daily. And she is going to see her grandchildren.

She didn’t know about the possession charges she faced. In September she had to appear before Judge Ashley Pike who had the authority to send her back to prison. The possession charges dated back to April 2017.

Christine Wolf, residential manager and case manager at Fleming House and Mary Harvey, recovery coach, went with Sally to her court appearance where she admitted that her record was bad but also shared with the judge that she was working hard to change her life. The Fleming House staffers spoke on her behalf: Sally’s drug screenings were clean, she was completing her programs with the agency and mentoring women new to living at Fleming House and the programs there.

Judge Pike gave her probation instead of prison. She said serving time in prison hadn’t done anything to help her to turn her life around.

“I had a good life before drugs,” Sally said. “And I have a good life after drugs.” She’s not going to jail. She has relationships with her kids, a safe place to live (for now.) She is going to get her driver’s license and is looking for a car, and she has a relationship with her mother. She says she is not interested in dating, but from all indications, she is interested in really living her life. And she is concerned that there are more than the 10 women now living at Fleming House who need the same kind of opportunity.

Wolf has been the residential manager for four years, and became the case manager as well. Her mother administrated a homeless shelter in West Cleveland when she was growing up, so she saw things like substance abuse, which helps her to understand the women who come to Fleming House.

“This job at Fleming House has been the most challenging job I have ever had in my 46 years of life,” she said. “These women teach me something every single day.”

Sometimes the girls don’t want to go by the rules. They are asked to leave. But when they come back later, they usually are given a second chance, she said. Often they successfully graduate and remain clean.

Will there be more facilities like the big yellow house that love built behind Lisbon’s McDonald’s? The future isn’t written yet but the need is there. Fleming House is making a difference one life at a time, and Sally speaks her gratitude for her new life at Fleming House with tears in her eyes, genuine and sincere.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, FRC is funded, in part, by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.