HER Fea­ture

For­mer ad­dict ded­i­cates life to help­ing peo­ple

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - CON­TENTS - Story and pho­tog­ra­phy by Grace Brown

S oci­ety some­times views the life of an ad­dict as a lost cause, but with the help of ded­i­cated fam­ily mem­bers and in­ten­sive re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, in­di­vid­u­als once caught in the grasp of ad­dic­tion can turn their lives around and help other ad­dicts do the same.

Rachel John­son’s road to re­cov­ery be­gan at the start of 2014 dur­ing the low­est point in her life. Just one day away from evic­tion, she had no one left will­ing to sup­port her af­ter burn­ing the bridges be­tween her­self and any­one close to her.

At the age of 19, she be­gan recre­ation­ally tak­ing pre­scrip­tion pills, and even­tu­ally moved on to stronger il­licit drugs like metham­phetamine. The sud­den loss of her fa­ther acted as the cat­a­lyst for her down­ward spi­ral. Un­able to find pro­duc­tive cop­ing mech­a­nisms, she turned to a life of ad­dic­tion.

“I reached the point where I was so bat­tered and bro­ken that I just wanted to die ev­ery sin­gle day. I knew what I was do­ing was wrong and I wanted to make a change, but I knew I could never do it on my own,” she said.

In a cry for help, she posted her de­sire to get clean on Face­book and a pa­role of­fi­cer just hap­pened to see the post. Not long af­ter read­ing it, the of­fi­cer was at the door of her ho­tel room ready to help John­son set her life back on the right path.

John­son ar­rived at the court­house and found her­self sen­tenced to a court- or­dered re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­gram.

“I was a lit­tle de­fi­ant at first. I told Judge ( Ralph) Ohm I would only go to re­hab if my dogs were taken care of and he was kind enough to find fos­ter homes for them,” she said.

Af­ter spend­ing five days in the Gar­land County De­ten­tion Cen­ter, she en­rolled in Shalom Re­cov­ery Cen­ter for men and women and be­gan her jour­ney to a bet­ter life as a pro­duc­tive mem­ber of so­ci­ety. Over the next six months, she whole­heart­edly ded­i­cated her life to get­ting clean and sur­ren­dered her strug­gles to Christ.

“I was very re­bel­lious at first and kept break­ing some of the smaller rules. Af­ter I got that all out of my sys­tem, I just let go and opened my heart and gave ev­ery­thing to God,” she said.

“I put my all into find­ing cop­ing skills and speak­ing to coun­selors about how to deal with the emo­tional bur­den of my fa­ther’s death. That grief and in­abil­ity to find a pro­duc­tive method to deal with my feel­ings led me back to drugs ev­ery time.”

Once she com­pleted the ini­tial 30- day “black­out” pe­riod, she re­ceived as­sis­tance find­ing em­ploy­ment and be­gan pay­ing to­ward her pro­gram fees. Shalom re­quires each client to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their lives in a way that builds a foun­da­tion for their lives once they have left the pro­gram.

Dur­ing that time, she com­pleted a 12- step pro­gram, at­tended meet­ings and classes that helped her de­velop pos­i­tive cop­ing mech­a­nisms, ob­tained gain­ful em­ploy­ment, at­tended church on a reg­u­lar ba­sis and pro­cessed the lin­ger­ing grief as­so­ci­ated with her fa­ther’s death.

She said the sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity and ac­count­abil­ity she re­ceived af­ter get­ting her first job while en­rolled in the pro­gram was in­stru­men­tal in her re­cov­ery process. For the first time, she felt wanted. Hav­ing to main­tain ac­count­abil­ity to the court and the pro­gram also helped keep her faith­ful to her re­cov­ery process.

Six months later, she grad­u­ated from the pro­gram and im­me­di­ately be­gan giv­ing back to the pro­gram that she be­lieves saved her life. To­day, she works at Shalom as the as­sis­tant pro­gram direc­tor and a coun­selor in train­ing.

The last step of the 12- step pro­gram uti- lized by Shalom is an act of ser­vice. Be­fore she en­tered the pro­gram, the thought of turn­ing around af­ter grad­u­at­ing and work­ing for Shalom had al­ready crossed her mind.

“I knew go­ing into this that I wanted to help. Shalom was a new pro­gram at the time, and I knew even­tu­ally they would need staff mem­bers to help,” she said.

“It’s cool to be on the other side of the pro­gram. While I was go­ing through it, I felt as though God wanted me to help peo­ple who found them­selves in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion what mine once was. I had no­body when I came to Shalom, so I wanted to be some­body for the women that would come to Shalom af­ter I had com­pleted the pro­gram,” she said.

Her du­ties in­clude one-on-one in­ter­ac­tion with all the fe­male clients en­rolled in the pro­gram. She as­sists in any ca­pac­ity needed from shut­tling clients to and from work, act­ing as a court li­ai­son and even serv­ing as a con­fi­dant to women strug­gling with chang­ing their lives for the bet­ter.

John­son’s in­put is a vi­tal part of the var­i­ous ad­just­ments to the pro­gram which con­stantly im­prove it and the suc­cess rate of its grad­u­ates. Her unique in­sight on the in­ter­work­ings from an ad­dict’s per­spec­tive led to the pro­gram’s ex­ten­sion and al­lowed her to con­nect and men­tor clients in a way no one else can.

“Get­ting a sec­ond chance at a pro­duc­tive life means so much to me. I have feel­ings of ac­com­plish­ment and of be­ing wanted and needed,” she said.

“Ev­ery day on my way to work I drive by the ho­tel I stayed in be­fore com­ing to Shalom. It is a stark re­minder of a life I never want to live again.”

Although she has com­pleted the pro­gram, her ef­forts to main­tain a life­style of re­cov­ery hap­pen daily. She avoids re­con­nect­ing with in­di­vid­u­als she used to call friends and finds in­spi­ra­tion to stay on a right­eous path on a daily ba­sis. She said that re­cov­ery is not

a mile­stone you reach and just move on from, but a daily ef­fort to not re­turn to old habits that once con­sumed her life.

“See­ing these bro­ken women come in with this life­less look on their faces and then help­ing to build them back up to pro­duc­tive mem­bers of so­ci­ety keeps me mo­ti­vated. I never want to see my­self in that place again, be­cause when I came to Shalom that was me,” she said.

“I have the honor of get­ting to help peo­ple turn their lives around af­ter turn­ing my own around. If I can make a dif­fer­ence in a client’s life while they are here, then I know I’m ful­fill­ing the call­ing God has placed on my life and that’s more than enough for me,” she said.

rachel John­son and Shalom ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor, ben Wiles

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