More than 15 years ago, I found myself living without hope. I had no sense of direction and no sense of purpose. I was homeless and felt as though I was in an endless whirlpool with no way to escape. I was selling drugs and my body and soul and taking advantage of others - all to support my drug habit. I hated myself and the life I was living. I had lost everything and everyone - nothing mattered except the next drink and drug. At times, I wished I were dead. So before the child welfare could take my daughter away, I gave my Erica over to her grandparents, which was the best thing for her at the time.
It was a cold December and I wanted so desperately to change my way of living only to find myself arrested one more time for what I considered 'surviving'. It was at that moment that I had a decision to make - I was offered one last chance by the judge. After telling the judge my story and about my desire to change, he said, "I had better never see you in my court room again, do you understand?"
So I started looking for a place to get help and found Phoenix House. I've been clean since December 9, 1993, the day I entered the program. Phoenix House taught me how to live again. I learned how to address issues from which I was running, how to appreciate the little things, how to become humble and put a value on what was important. It was through treatment that I began to set priorities and make healthy decisions. I began trusting others, taking pride in the little things that meant so much. I now care about myself and others around me.
Life is not perfect. I work hard everyday to make a difference in others' lives. I take pride in leading by example and sharing what I've learned. I'm in school studying for my CASAC. I manage three AmeriCorps programs across New York state: Phoenix House AmeriCorps, the Youth Power Mentoring Corps and Phoenix Recovery Corps Programs where volunteers go out into the community and educate others about substance abuse. Volunteers teach prevention and life skills to youth and provide necessary resources for those who need help.
Treatment is hard and recovery is difficult. But my worst day today is better than my best day before I was clean.
I am forever grateful to Phoenix House for teaching me how to live life without medicating my feelings and for providing me with an opportunity to help others. I'm proud to be a part of the Recovery Movement, today my life has meaning and purpose. I have many friends and great colleagues - they like me and I like me too! So thank you to Phoenix House for helping me to be the person I was truly meant to be.
My name is Joan, and my story is about gratitude. What's Your Story?