Editor's note: This week’s submission is the testimony of a 2021 Safe Harbor graduate, Stephanie H. In Stephanie’s story you will see the painful but clear link between trauma and substance use disorders.
Also, you will read a great deal about a place called Her Story. Her Story is a unique and vital link in the continuum of care in addiction recovery services. Her Story, located in Xenia, Ohio, helps women bridge the gap between homelessness and recovery services, providing detox services and intensive outpatient programming. Her Story is a short-term, faith-based, and residential program that helps women determine their next best step in the recovery process; an average stay is 45 days.
Her Story and Safe Harbor have similar values and goals, yet provide complimentary services. We frequently refer women in need of immediate assistance to Her Story. Also, some Her Story graduates who determine that they need long-term treatment enter the Safe Harbor program. While we are completely separate entities, we share a strong affection and respect for one another, as well as a social worker! Laura Nye, who wrote last week's blog post, is employed by both agencies.
Again, Her Story is a vital link in the continuum of care, and we are truly honored to labor in the trenches alongside these like-minded, passionate servants.
Stephanie starts her story with the “Serenity Prayer:”
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
- Reinhold Niebuhr
I was a child of two alcoholics/addicts. Our father was very abusive. There was little to no care of my siblings and I. Most days we didn't have food or utilities. I have an amazing sister though who has watched over me since we were children. Childhood was a struggle, needless to say. Since I can remember, I have dealt with depression and anxiety. I was introduced to drugs and alcohol at the age of 13. The drugs gave me a chance to escape reality into a life of fantasy that was somewhat more bearable. Even so, I had many failed suicide attempts. I was in and out of jail from my teenage years till my prison term ended in 2019. I am able to see now that prison was God's way of sitting me down to reflect on my life and what it had become.
While I was in prison, I knew if I didn't do something drastic, fast, I would have no chance at having a real life once I was released. Before my release date, I attended a re-entry group. This was led by two women that had information on short- and long-term recovery centers. I was drawn to Safe Harbor, which is a long-term, faith-based program. That was really new for me. I had never been in a treatment program before, or had a relationship with God. Yet, I felt this program was going to save me. After months of waiting, I was accepted and arrived at Safe Harbor on July 29, 2020. This is when my healing started.
I met many people who would become a huge part of my recovery: counselors, a sponsor, Safe Harbor staff, a spiritual mentor, and many supportive sober people. From then on, there were only people in my life that wanted nothing other than to build me up, to love me until I could love myself. They showed me that I could have a life that was meaningful and free from alcohol and drugs. I never thought I was worth a life free from pain.
I had recently separated from my husband as well. That was a relationship that was full of red flags since the beginning. It was another addiction from which I needed freedom. Breaking that addiction would show me just how much work I had to do.
The beginning of my new life had just started. I started to believe that I could change; I believed that one day I would be saved from my misery and pain. I did anything the Safe Harbor staff suggested that would benefit my recovery. I did journaling, self-affirmations, gratitude lists, morning devotionals, recovery meetings, one-on-one counseling for addiction and trauma, went to church, worked the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous with a sponsor, worked with a Christian spiritual mentor, met with a Certified Peer Supporter, did IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) groups - anything they asked of me.
I started working on my relationship with God. I had a void that nothing else could fill but Him. As I started to get to know Him, I knew I couldn't keep denying how His hand had been working in my life all along. Things I used to see as coincidences in my life, I now recognized as "little" miracles. He had kept me alive through all my years of addiction! I know now that He did not give me anything that I couldn't handle with His help. He has brought purpose out of all my pain. When I accepted that there was something greater than myself at work in my life, I began to have a relationship with God.
While I was at Safe Harbor I began a new life, a life of accomplishments that may seem small for some, but were huge for me. I have paid off all of my court fines, and today I have my license to drive. I never had my license before now, nor did I ever think I would get it. (And now I have a great car, too!) I have a huge support system, any of whom are willing to help me at a moment's notice. I have made real friends that encourage and help me, and want to be there for me. I've worked hard to get where I am today.
While still in the Safe Harbor program, I started volunteering at a place called Her Story to work off court fines. I immediately fell in love with what the Lord was doing there, in all of the staff's lives as well as the women that have the opportunity to be there. Every day that I was able to go there, it softened my heart. There are so many staff that just genuinely care about helping women start their recovery journey. Her Story is giving women a chance to find freedom from their addictions and be able to start a new future of recovery.
When I started volunteering, I had no idea that this was going to be one of the most important things in my life. I started out by sharing my "experience, strength, and hope" with the women. I was able to share some of my story and help encourage women to see that their life could be different, if they would commit to a life of abstinence from drugs and alcohol. As my volunteer hours dwindled down, I knew how important Her Story was in my life, and that to be a part of it was a blessing from God. When I was offered a staff position at Her Story, I knew that God was giving me a great gift!
When I began working with women at Her Story, I immediately knew that giving back the hope and encouragement that was so freely given to me was going to be a lifelong passion. Knowing from experience that life could be different and feel different, I wanted to empower these women and show them what a life outside of drugs and alcohol looked like. I now have 2 and a half years clean! I continue to work at my recovery. Every day I do devotionals with the women at Her Story and suggest they do self-affirmations and gratitude lists when they wake up in the morning. I love sharing with them spiritual practices that have helped my relationship with God. Starting the day by connecting with God and having a positive outlook can make a world of difference on how my day is going to go.
Working at Her Story has challenged me to be a better person, and given me more of a reason to grow in my recovery. I am able to be an example for these women, giving them hope that recovery is possible. It is such a joy to help the women feel heard, understood, and not judged. It is a privilege to help them understand that they are children of God, and that we want nothing but the best for them and their recovery. Her Story is about restoring and renewing women each day. Her Story is saving lives.
Helping women that are like me is what God and I want to do with my life! Today I have the confidence I need to further my education in this rapidly growing field. I will go on to better myself so that I can empower these women to do the same.
Since I arrived at Safe Harbor, God has revealed to me how He has been at work in my life all along. He has made it evident that I am now doing His will. I trust that He will keep revealing Himself to me and guide my every step. I am in a place of overwhelming gratitude for all that has been done to help me heal and start a new life of serenity and peace. I am able to work with amazing women, women who believe in me and make sure that I know I play an important role at Her Story. Being able to be a part of this team has given me courage to share my story with you. I am so blessed to be here. Thank you for reading my story!
If you would like to give the gift of healing this season to more women like Stephanie, please consider clicking the "donate" button below to give a tax-deductible donation to Safe Harbor. And/or, please visit www.herstoryhouse.com/donate-now.html to strengthen this crucial link in the continuum of care of addiction recovery services! We love to see the cause furthered and our colleagues blessed so that more women like Stephanie can find healing and purpose.