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Apr

Eunice R., Sisterhouse

April 4, 2011

Eunice R. is a busy woman. She works full-time as an accountant, volunteers at her church, is vice president of her block club, helps her mother around the house, and provides child care for her daughter. She is also on the Sisterhouse board, serves as president of its alumni association, mentors a current resident there, and offers her services as an AA sponsor. “Staying active is healthy for me,” she says, “and I feel like it’s a chance to redeem myself for what I put people through during my addiction.”

Eunice, who has been clean for over seven years, has never felt more content. “I wake up happy now,” she says. “I feel joy and peace I didn’t know were possible during my addiction.” Recovery hasn’t always been a smooth road for her, though. Prior to her arrival at HAS, Eunice had been in and out of treatment since 1988. “I’d been getting high for fifteen years when I started trying to get clean,” she explains. “It was all I knew.”

Her difficulty maintaining her sobriety was compounded by her personal history. As children, she and her sister were repeatedly sexually abused by their father. “I couldn’t stay clean because I was keeping that secret,” she says. “My addiction was a symptom of that.” Eunice feels that her previous attempts at treatment failed because they did not address the root cause of her problem: “a lot of programs just focus on getting you clean in the short term,” she observes. “You do your twenty-eight days, then they just send you back out there without a lot of guidance.”

Still, in 2003, she decided to give treatment another try. “I used to pass by a homeless woman when I walked back and forth to buy drugs,” she remembers. “I sometimes gave her money or food if I could. Then one day I realized that if I kept going the way I was, I would end up like that myself.” She checked into Haymarket Center that night. After she completed treatment there, Haymarket Center staff referred her to Sisterhouse.

The eighteen-month commitment required by Sisterhouse was daunting to Eunice, but she went ahead: “there was peace in that house that I’d never seen before, and I wanted that so bad,” she remembers. The program’s emphasis on meditation and reflection also presented a challenge at first: “I hadn’t sat still with my thoughts for years,” she admits. Eventually, however, buoyed by the support of the other residents, Eunice made a decision that proved critical to her recovery: she told her counselor about the sexual abuse . “Once I stopped carrying that secret around,” she recalls, “everything got better. I didn’t feel like my father was still winning. I opened myself up to what the program had to offer.”

Without HAS’s emphasis on overall psychological wellbeing, coupled with the supportive environment at Sisterhouse, Eunice believes she would not be in recovery today. “I can talk about my experiences to anyone now,” she says, “but I couldn’t then. I felt safe at Sisterhouse. I don’t think I could have exposed what I did in a more traditional program.” Sisterhouse also offered valuable practical support, teaching life skills including cooking and cleaning and referring her to the Cara Program, which was instrumental in helping her secure employment.

Now that she is established in her recovery, Eunice is focused on meeting her future goals. “I want to go to Africa,” she says. “I want to get married again. I want to get a higher education and learn more about technology.” Mostly, however, she wants to give back. Thanks in part to her example, Eunice’s sister has also been clean for two years, and Eunice is eager to help others overcome addiction. She dreams of opening a treatment center one day, or pursuing a career as a motivational speaker. “The most important thing we were created for is to help other people,” she says. “Don’t give up on them—if you at HAS had given up on me, I wouldn’t be here.”