Growing up in Atlantic City, New Jersey, I never thought I’d know anything besides slot machines and table games. I was raised by casino workers and eventually became one at age eighteen, serving drinks to the gamblers on the casino floor. It was a glitz-and-glam industry and I was hypnotized by the fast-paced nature of the job. My self-worth and self-esteem were rooted in my position as a cocktail waitress and it was a very toxic environment.
I was introduced to pain medication and got into a vicious cycle with drugs and alcohol. Within a year I began to deteriorate physically and emotionally. Evidence of my substance abuse was strong, as I was losing weight quickly and often unable to show up for work. One day, I arrived for my shift and was called into the security office by my director. I was humiliated as they rolled the surveillance tapes showing where I had slipped an alcoholic beverage into my coffee while on the job. I thought I had been discreet but this was untrue. My dishonesty caught up with me, and I was terminated from the job.
This termination led me to treatment, as recommended by my union representative. I was introduced to recovery concepts but was unwilling to follow suggestions. My justification was that I was young and thought I should have a few good drinking years left in me! This was a delusion that would carry me for the next six years and through five treatment centers. My life was getting worse and worse and I was devastated by the overdose of my boyfriend in 2011.
Staring death in the face led me to the realization that I needed to change and that unless I was willing, I was going to die. This was when a friend of mine recommended Stepping Stone/Lakeview Health and he gave me the number to the call center.
I spoke to Paul at the Lakeview Health call center and he arranged to have me on a plane within 24 hours. In December of 2012, I was 23-years-old and arrived in Jacksonville, Florida with only a bag of clothes to my name. Tech Fredrick Haynes was waiting at the door and completed my intake. I’ll never forget how much fear and pain I was in that night and I don’t ever want to forget where I came from. Fredrick showed me compassion and a smile upon my arrival and it meant so much to me.
I began my process of recovery at Stepping Stone facility. For the first time in my life, recovery concepts were reaching me. I was convinced that I had to stay clean and sober entirely. I could no longer justify my drinking or drug use.
The therapists, nurses, and techs at Stepping Stone and Lakeview Health made a lasting impact on my life. Tech Edward O’Brien put out our sandwiches every night after 12 step. He would always show us respect and consideration for patients. I’ll never forget the kindness of Tech Tonya Clark as she would take us off-site to Celebrate Recovery where I was introduced to the concept of a higher power. Also, therapist Glenn Wheeler helped me learn how to quiet my mind and meditate so I could finally get a good night’s sleep after all of the damage that was done by my addiction.
My new life began here at Stepping Stone and Lakeview Health. They suggested I get a sponsor so I asked a 12-step volunteer. Weekend visits with my sponsor allowed me to build a foundation for my recovery that has been everlasting. I am so grateful that Stepping Stone/Lakeview Health allows contact with the recovery community to foster these relationships.
I was empowered and inspired by Music Therapist Brittany Harmon and had always wanted to learn how to play guitar but could never accomplish much due to my addiction. My primary therapist encouraged me and printed me out a musical chord sheet so I could practice. I got to work! In the 42 days, I was in treatment, I played guitar daily, in fact, almost every moment there was free time for us as patients. Playing guitar became my first coping skill. I still play guitar today (I own four!) and continue to learn other stringed instruments because of this revelation in treatment here at Stepping Stone/Lakeview Health.
Clinical Director Amanda Jack facilitated a family phone call where I made amends to my father for stealing his debit card. That phone call was the beginning of a long period of reconstruction and healing for my family. Today, my relationships with my family are restored because of the work has begun here by clinical and the continued effort one-day-at-a-time in recovery.
Aftercare suggested I stay in Jacksonville. I will never regret my decision. They arranged an interview at Alumni House. I was discharged from Stepping Stone on January 23, 2013, and began my sober living experience. Staying sober one day at a time and using the tools I was given here in treatment was what lead me to deep and significant personality changes. No longer was I the untrustworthy, irresponsible, erratic young woman I was when I started treatment.
The miracle of recovery took place in my life not overnight, but over time. I became a sponsor and a mentor to other young women, as well as a house mother, driver and facilitator for Gateway Community Services.
Within six months of sobriety, I returned to Stepping Stone to share my story as a 12 step volunteer. It was a beautiful achievement to sit on the other side of the seats and share the hope with the patients inside. I knew that if I could do it, they could too. Each night I returned I would see Therapist Glenn Wheeler and Tech Edward O’Brien.
When I had two years sober, Tech Edward O’Brien suggested I apply for a tech position. I thought that was beyond my wildest dreams, but I went for it. The day I showed up for my interview was a very bizarre and beautiful experience. I was waiting for reception when Clinical Director Amanda Jack walked out. She was shocked to see me. The miracle of recovery is indeed shocking because it transforms people from hopeless individuals near death into empowered minds who can accomplish anything!
One of the biggest blessings of my life was the day I received the phone call with the offer to be employed by Stepping Stone and Lakeview Health. Each step of the way is marked by achievements and growing pains, learning how to be a woman of grace and a servant style leader. Because of the work was done by this organization, I live a life of honesty and integrity, using the tools that were put in front of me as a patient and are continuously put in front of me as an employee.
I am honored to say that today I am a Lead Behavioral Health Technician and have the pleasure of working alongside some of the people that encouraged me when I was a fearful, insecure patient. I am so excited for the future of this company and for how many people will have restored lives because of the work that is done here. Today I have self-esteem, self-worth, and continued sobriety. Thank you all for never giving up on me and for allowing to give the gift of sobriety.
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