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Transition home is changing lives

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By Jennifer Caldwell

Any of the clients at the Shepherd’s Home could be the girl next door.  

In fact they are.  

To be more specific, they are daughters, sisters, mothers as well as bright, articulate women.

On the street they would present as ordinary people living ordinary lives.

But the reality is they are not. In fact, extraordinary is a far more accurate word to describe the lives they represent.

Extraordinary because they are beating the odds and the lifestyle of addiction with a little help from some new found friends and a lot of faith in the redeeming love of God.

When the Shepherd’s Home opened to the first resident on Dec. 5, 2009, it was the prayer of those who poured their hearts into establishing the transition home for women, that those who pass though the doors would be able to find freedom from the chains of addiction and the heartbreak that created the need for an escape.

Sitting in the living room among four of the home’s six residents on Monday morning Christine Morris, executive director, marveled at the transformation evidenced in the lives of women whom she is privileged to shepherd through the program.

“I would never have dreamed what could become of these ladies. Miracles. They are truly miracles,” Morris said beaming as she looked around at the faces that currently comprise the Shepherd’s Home family.

Although, each woman found her way to the home through a different set of circumstances, their stories are remarkably similar. Each is fighting for a life free from addiction. And while some are there as part of a court ordered intervention and some came of their own free will, all agree that they have bought into the lifestyle the Shepherd’s Home is selling.

“I was ordered to come here (by the Eighth Judicial Drug Court), but I knew that I needed something more than rehab,” Danielle, the 25- year- old mother of two, said of her path to the home.

For Danielle that “something more” is the spiritual aspect that many other treatment programs are missing.

Thirty-seven year old Charleen echoed Danielle’s comments regarding the Shepherd’s Home’s approach to dealing with addiction.

“I felt like I would have a greater chance for success if I came here,” Charleen said of choosing the transition home as opposed to a traditional halfway house option.

The immediate and complete immersion into the program that addresses body, mind and spirit is something that the women touted as the hardest but also the best thing about the way they spend their days.

“We start our day at 6 a.m.  At 6:15 a.m. we exercise, 6:45 a.m. we do devotions, breakfast is at 7:15 a.m. and we are ready for the day by 8 a.m.,” Morris said of the rigorous routine that occurs before any of the hard work ever begins.

Intensive outpatient therapy sessions, scripture memorization, Bible study, participation in the Celebrate Recovery program and weekly meetings with their sponsors and mentors fill their days. And this does not even include the employment outside of the home that four of the women have obtained.

“Now we don’t have to dread waking up,” Charleen said as she pointed out that each of them had discovered their lives now have purpose.

Elizabeth, the 25 year-old mother of a four year-old, has been at the Shepherd’s home since May. She is still stunned by how far she has come since moving into the home.

“I am still amazed that I am clean. I didn’t think I would ever be able to live this way,” Elizabeth said detailing her multiple attempts to shake the drug addiction that has plagued her since her early teens.  “I’ve never been without a substance in my body since I was 15.”

Pamela, 46, also expressed the relief she has found in her new lifestyle.

“It’s nice to wake up and know I don’t have to do something wrong to feed my addiction,” Pamela said, recalling the days of breaking the law to obtain money for her habit.

While discovering that God has a purpose for their lives is something the women of the Shepherd’s Home have longed for, Morris said in some ways the clarity brought on by sobriety creates a different problem.

“The longing to mother their children makes it a real struggle for them to stay here at times,” the executive director said of the residents’ desire to be with their children.  “Our biggest dream is to have another home where they can have their children with them.”

Despite the difficulties they are working daily to overcome, each lady said they are embracing their struggles both past and present because they have learned to cling to the promise that everything they have been through is part of God’s greater plan for their lives.

“I would not have it any other way now. I don’t think I would be able to appreciate things like bathing my child and the beauty of nature and friendships if I hadn’t gone through all I have,” Elizabeth said.

With her words catching in her throat, an emotional Charleen said she had learned to stop using the bad things that had happened in her life as an excuse to continue in a pattern of addiction.

“Now I see them (the bad things she experienced) as a tool,” Charlene said of the change she had experienced.

And it is those tools that each woman feels will be useful when they graduate from the year long program and begin a new chapter in their lives.

For Elizabeth, Charleen and Danielle going to college is on their radar. Elizabeth is certain being a teacher is her calling, while Charleen and Danielle are still contemplating their calling.  Pamela said she is looking forward to spending more time rebuilding relationships with her children and grandchildren.

Although the specifics of each of their paths are yet to be determined they are all convinced that they will use their experience with addiction to impact others.

Morris said that their stories impact her daily.

“My faith grows everyday because of them. They are miracles,” Morris said.