I’m a 36 year old woman who participated in the Busy Empowering and Employing Students (BEES) program during 2015. Growing up I lived in 38 different foster homes from the age of 7. I was removed from my birth mother’s home when it was discovered that my mother’s boyfriend had been sexually molesting me from the age of 3. I eventually left the foster care system to live with a young man who turned me on to crack cocaine. That began a downward spiral that ended with me going through the substance abuse treatment program at Mary Hall Freedom House. My drug use created a lot of chaos in my life; two felonies and the loss of my daughter to DFACS. When I came to “Every Woman Works” I was clean and sober and determined to become self-sufficient. After graduating from their program, I applied for over 200 jobs. Instead of giving up, I became more determined and resolute to become self-sufficient and to take care of my daughter myself. Finally, a manager at Chick-fil-A gave me a chance to prove myself. Today, I have been promoted three times and am currently in management. I credit “Every Woman Works” for believing in me before I was able to believe in myself.
“How did I end up here?”
“Growing up, I always felt alone – different. While all of my cousins and siblings played together, I was left out…. on my own. That’s where my lifetime of isolation started.”
Lisa, 47 years old, grew up in a small town in Arkansas (population 2,000) in a very religious family. At the age of 17 she was introduced to crack cocaine by her aunt’s boyfriend when she ran away from home to escape the strict rules imposed on her by her mother. After smoking the crack cocaine, she blacked out and remembers waking up and asking herself – “how did I get here”. Her first of many awakenings.
Two years later, Lisa became a chronic crack addict. In and out of her addiction she had two children, one when she was 23 and the other when she was 25. In 2003, she had another awakening and got clean and sober. For 13 years she cleaned her life up and became a productive member of society.
She worked for the American Red Cross for 10 years, took care of her “grandbaby”, and was in her second year of a Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She was in a relationship and taking care of everyone at work and at home. Overwhelmed by all that she was carrying – on May 17, 2016 she gave up! She quit. “I threw in the towel”. And started smoking crack cocaine again.
She went from being a loving grandmother, a hard working employee, and care giver at home to being a junkie sleeping in cars. “I couldn’t believe that this was my life. I crossed the line – lines I never imagined I would cross. How did I end up here.” She couldn’t believe that her life had gotten to this point – she had lost all hope. With tears in her eyes, Lisa tells me, “my 2 year old grandbaby, Jailyn, stood at the window looking for me for two weeks. She cried all day and even slept at the window waiting on me to come home.” That’s what breaks her heart. In her addiction she had abandoned the love of her life, her beloved Jailyn.
In July, 2017 she asked again,”how did I get here?”. She was at her lowest point. Her sister and Jalynne drove her to Mary Hall Freedom House to get clean and sober. In September I came to Every Woman Works.
“ I heard from other women who had gone through the EWW program that you would get your hope back here. When I entered the building I knew instantly that I felt a supreme presence. EWW gave me the gift of empowerment. At EWW, they gave me hope to have the faith that I can regain my power.”
- Lisa’s Story
A New Beginning
Amberley was born and raised in Georgia. When she was one year old her parents discovered that she had insulin dependent diabetes. At the age of 24 she was diagnosed with Stage 2 stomach cancer and BEAT IT! However, at age 32 she was devastated to learn that the stomach cancer had returned and was now at a stage 3 level. Amberley survived 19 stomach surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and four feeding tubes. In one year, she was in the Intenisive Care Unit 242 days! “I felt so scared and alone dealing with my health problems.”
Like millions of Americans, Amberley came out of her bout with cancer and multiple surgeries with a ten year addiction to opiates. My addiction ripped my marriage apart. Her husband abandoned her and her son after years of emotional abuse.
In 2011, Amberley detoxed off of opiates. “ I was free at last from the bondage of my addiction and my abusive marriage.”
This was when she met her “knight in shining armor” in Warner Robbins. He was a police officer and at first it was great. But it gradually became a living hell. He was jealous, obsessive, controlling and wanted to isolate me from my friends and family. “I felt like I was a criminal with him checking on me constantly.” On April 22, 2016 they had a huge fight that lasted all day and into the night. When she threatened to leave him, his response was “Over my dead body or yours”. Amberley and her son fled and slept in the courtyard of a church. At 11:00 am the Pastor informed her that her husband was “gone”. He had hung himself in the bedroom closet.
Within days Amberley and her son came back to Atlanta. “I left Warner Robbins and never looked back.” As a survivor of suicide, Amberley began to have overwhelming feelings of grief, guilt, and anger. Sadly, Amberley relapsed and began abusing opiates again. And stayed lost for awhile.
In September 2017 Amberley got clean and sober again by googling homeless women and addiction and found Mary Hall Freedom House. From Mary Hall she came to Every Woman Works. At EWW I found myself. I can get back up. I can believe in myself. Through the love and support of the women there I found I could overcome anything. I got hope – hope to gain my life back, gain my soul back, and to own my own home one day. “I have a new beginning.”