Gratitude

By Stefanie H.

It is vital in recovery to know gratitude.  To recognize its pulse and feel its sustenance is the key to serenity in sobriety.

Thanksgiving nears and while pondering a theme for this blog I found it fitting to write about my personal experience with gratitude.  Due to my incarceration and self inflicted purgatory the few years prior, I had little appreciation for anything. My focus was askew. I had no purpose.  I wanted to die.

Today there is hope. I am free from the proverbial chains of opiate/amphetamine addiction.  The incarceration paled in comparison to the mental slavery of active drug abuse.

Today, in this awe inspiring moment, I am so grateful for life and all the things I took for granted- telephone calls, short strolls, long walks, Pantene, carving pumpkins, baked spaghetti, grapes, iced tea, couches, after dinner conversations, sharing coffee morning silence, the way the sun filters between the blinds, camaraderie, speaking at GMU about my experience (and hope), belief in myself, knowing glances, Daddy, Momma, daughter, son, brother and autumn leaves….etc. etc. etc. I take a deep breath often times because as deeply as I felt misery I have travelled to the opposite end of the spectrum feeling overwhelming, breathtaking gratitude.  Guest House has been the vehicle on this beautiful new avenue of my life toward a better way.  All of those things I listed above I have received of focused upon while I have been here. I am encouraged daily to venture toward those things that give me peace and I finally appreciate. I am not that which I have been and today I know gratitude.

To be awake in my life is miraculous.  To recognize the miracle is gratitude and to voice the ‘Thank you’ is humility.

Thank you to Guest House for reminding me of all there is to truly be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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The Journey

By Stefanie H

Addicts, aka the walking wounded, while in active addiction seem set apart from the rest of society. We all know each other as if equipped with some extra sensory radar as we meet in the bars, jails, institutions, and finally recovery endeavors of our pathways. We seem to acknowledge each other with knowing glances and head nods that confirm our shared existence.  We compare the holes that exist within our souls. We continue to wander aimlessly searching , sometimes failingly, for that missing piece.

At Guest House, we find that it is only when we search within that we come close to the answer. We come from different walks of life.  We come from the city and the country. We started out differently but ended the same. We arrived here.  A new day and a new way arrives with us, if only we reach and grab the opportunity availed.  We cry, we feel, we laugh, we cook and sometimes…well, sometimes we are just silent.  We meditate on change as this wonderful place gives us opportunity beyond our expectation. There is hope.

I have learned here that the “small” moments I receive in sobriety are actually the profound moments.  These glimpses of euphoria and contentment allow me to finally walk my journey outside the bondage of addiction and give endless thanks for the trip.

Sometimes all we need is that possibility of hope to move a step forward. My journey has begun and for this I am eternally grateful for the 2nd (okay 99th) chance.

New Facility

New Facility Allows Friends of Guest House to Help 28 More Women

On May 1, 2013, Friends of Guest House opened its second facility in Alexandria, Virginia. The new facility can accommodate 7 additional residents, allowing Guest House to assist 28 more deserving women per year. The opening was made possible due to an expanded contract with the Virginia Department of Corrections and aided by the support of generous donors. In April, Guest House participated in the 24-hour Spring2Action fundraiser, where donors raised over $11,000 to help open the new facility.

The inaugural residents have already moved in and are getting settled in their new home. We are grateful for the support of staff, volunteers, and donors who believe that Guest House can make a difference in women’s lives. As a result of this support, 28 women will be making smooth transitions into the community and have hope for a better future.

 

Brittany GMU Intern, Friends of Guest House

Big Brothers Big Sisters

While there are programs for parents who have been incarcerated to deal with becoming a parent after incarceration, there are few programs for children to deal with the issue of having incarcerated parents. Big Brothers Big Sisters is among one of the programs nationally that deal with finding appropriate mentors for children who have had parents who were incarcerated, or who are currently incarcerated. Children with parents who were/are incarcerated are more at risk for being incarcerated than children without parents who are/were incarcerated. Big Brothers Big Sisters promises children a special friend they can talk to about any issue they feel like they have, without having to feel the threat of somebody not keeping their secrets. While mentors are required to report to the case workers if any “secrets” may lead to the child being hurt in any way, the relationship between the “big” and “little” is completely confidential, allowing children to truly open up. The programs consists of treating your “little” as if she/he were truly your little brother or sister and basically completing normal daily activities with your little. Educational trips, such as college scouting or museums, can be of some of the places appropriate to take your little, as well as lunch trips or walks in a park. The program has showed positive effects for children involved in it. In a study conducted of 1,138 youth, they were 46% less likely to start using illegal drugs, they skipped school days fewer times than the past year, and they had a marginally significant positive impact on their GPA’s. The program allows children to be able to talk to an adult that they can look up to, open up to, and trust.

References:

http://evidencebasedprograms.org/1366-2/117-2

Amanda, GMU Intern at Friends of Guest House

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Aftercare Program

The Aftercare program at Friends of Guest House is one of the main influences that determine whether or not a woman will continue to live a successful lifestyle.  It is typically a 6-9 month program where women who have graduated from Friends of Guest House will continue to have support through Guest House. The current Aftercare specialist, Mary, continues to support these women once they have left Guest House. The specialist helps them utilize the county resources they may not be familiar with themselves. These resources include grants for school, housing assistance, food assistance, and items through community donations (such as clothes and furniture). While interning at Friends of Guest House, I’ve had the opportunity to visit the home of a woman who is currently in the Aftercare program. From the moment we walked through the door, until we left, she was so excited we were there to visit her. This particular woman went back to school after graduating from Friends of Guest House; she received her associates’ degree and is excited to start working on her bachelor’s degree. With the help of the Aftercare Specialist, she applied for financial aid and was awarded grants to pay for tuition. When asked how the woman felt about the Aftercare program, she responded that it was important to her because not many people in her life have stuck around when she was doing well, and Friends of Guest House has done just that.

Amanda, GMU Intern, Friends of Guest House

Importance of Relationships

My experience at Friends of Guest House has shown the importance of relationships. Knowing someone is there to support you and also show you around is important. At Friends of Guest House, one will help others find their way around Alexandria and there way around Friends of Guest House. After interviewing different employees at Friends of Guest House it has become apparent that women need to develop healthy relationships with everyone around them from boyfriends/husbands to friends and other residents. Healthy relationships produce healthy people. Working on past relationships and developing them to be supportive is important too. “Reconstructing relationships can be a source of healing, connection, and support that women exiting prison need.” Healthy relationships help support the recovery process for women. Programs like life skills and parenting classes help develop their knowledge of healthy relationships with their children and significant others.

http://www.familiesinsociety.org/new/Teleconf/070316OBrien/87-3obrien.pdf

Marcy Beall, GMU Intern, Friends of Guest House

The Job Search

 A criminal background really makes it hard for many of these women to find a job. Working with one of the ladies here at Guest House, I was able to take some time to observe and learn how valuable the small things are.  I was able to help her make and organize her resume and I could tell it meant a lot to her. The women here have so much potential and I could personally see this through the resume I helped create. One of the women stated, “I really saw how much I had accomplished when I put it on paper” because it was visible. Individually the women must desire to succeed and accomplish things themselves first, but they do need a push in the right directions and that is a reason for Guest House existing. The staff does a phenomenal job interacting and being present for the women. They offer help, their opinion and truthfulness to get them on the right track. Job searching is a very difficult, but it isn’t impossible.

The women here have opportunities to learn many skills through personal mentors and workshops. They need the push and dedication from others that care about them, which many have never received before. Job’s are hard to find, but with the right mentality and dedication anything is possible to achieve! Never quiet and keep trying, that is what the women here want and are doing!

Melissa Alba, GMU Intern, Friends of Guest House

Drug Courts

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A drug court is a type of problem solving court. It is focused on solving the issue of why the crime was committed rather than just punishing the criminal. Drug courts are typically for non-violent offenders, and for offenders who commit crimes because they are addicted to drugs, instead of offenders who commit crimes and do drugs. The first drug court began in the 1980’s in Miami; since then the courts has begun to spread all over the United States. Drug Courts focus on the person who is committing the crime rather than the crime committed. They allow people, who sincerely want to make a change in their life, the opportunity to get help. “The essential ingredients are enhanced judicial oversight, lengthier case management (including post-sentencing supervision), and a general philosophy of restorative rather than retributive justice.” (Butts) There are currently only twenty-nine drug courts in Virginia. Sixteen of them are adult courts, eight  are juvenile drug courts, two are DUI courts, and three are family drug treatment courts. In fact if you live in Northern Virginia, or central Virginia, there are only three courts that are even in driving distance (Rockville Maryland, DC, and Prince William Virginia). While some may refer to these courts as “soft and cuddly”, the programs help offenders fight addiction and become successful members of society.   States all over the country are investing in programs such as drug courts to reduce recidivism rates. The programs differ greatly by state, and sometimes even county. I’ve only had the pleasure of observing the Prince William County Juvenile Drug Court so my information will be based off of their court proceedings. “The mission of the Prince William County Juvenile Drug Court is to reduce repeated delinquent behavior in non-violent substance-abusing juveniles through a partnership of family, community, private and government agencies, resulting in juveniles who are alcohol and drug abstinent, law abiding, and productive members of our community.” To participate in the program, the offender must have been charged with a crime and be on probation; the charges must be non-violent. In Prince William County, their probation officer is the one who recommends the offender for the program. “In exchange for reduction of or dismissal of charges, participants receive intensive outpatient treatment, random urinalysis, home-based family and individual therapy and intensive probation supervision.” Therefore, if the offender successfully completes the program and graduates from it, the charges will be dismissed. This is a serious compensation because it means they will be eligible for financial aid, and when filling out an employment application they will be able to answer no to the question of whether they have ever been convicted of a crime. The charges will not be expunged, meaning if they have to have a background check done for an employer, the charges will still be on their record; but the program will show the employer that they went through a great deal to improve themselves. According to the Prince William county juvenile probation officer I spoke with, the program is no joke. It’s tough for offenders because it requires so much out of them, and it can be a lot to take in for first time offenders who aren’t use to reporting in to anybody. The Prince William County Drug Court opened in 2004, like other drug courts, it’s a fairly new program. While research is constantly being done on these new therapeutic courts, research has shown to support that they do reduce recidivism rates. Reducing recidivism is not only important to the offenders. It’s important as a society, that we fix the problems that lead to people from entering a life of crime; it’s important to us as a community to help one other, to protect our neighbors, and to prevent our children by putting an end to the factors that cause people to commit crimes. If, as a society we can help people from becoming reoffenders, we’re helping our communities become stronger.

References:

http://www.pwcgov.org/government/courts/jcsu/Pages/Programs-and-Services.aspx

Butts, Jeffery. (2001). “Introduction: Problem Solving Courts” Law & Policy 23(2):121-124.

Amanda, GMU Intern at Friends of Guest House

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The Importance of Support Systems

Support systems are essential for individuals reentering the community from incarceration. Support can come in multiple forms such as friends, family, or reentry professionals. Knowing that someone is there when you need them can make a world of difference between feeling lonely, or knowing that you have the tools to succeed. I spoke with a resident of Guest House about the importance of support systems.  She said that having a support system gives her security and “a sense of direction”. Additionally, she said “it helps me through my day”. Having a support system highlights the seriousness of reentry and recovery.

At Guest House, the residents make up their own support system. When a new resident moves into the House, the women provide support by chaperoning and welcoming her in. Regarding the resident support system, my interviewee said “I think it’s a beautiful thing”.

Brittany, GMU Intern at Guest House