Gratitude. It shined across every fiber of Carla’s being when we met her. She had a wide, warm smile and said, “I just want to tell you thank you because I am so grateful for Cedar House!” She readily expressed her appreciation for the Cedar House staff because her experience completely changed her life.
Both of Carla’s parents were heroin addicts. She grew up in a home full of drugs, addiction and overdoses. By the time she turned 16, Carla was introduced to meth, and her family not only allowed it but encouraged her drug use. She said, “It felt normal. It was a daily thing for people to be getting high at our house and overdosing in the bathroom.”
Carla lost both of her parents to heroin overdoses. She and her seven younger brothers and one older sister were left with severe substance use disorders. As a young woman, Carla had seven children of her own, but the first three were taken by the state when they discovered a burn on her daughter’s leg from her father and learned of their drug habits. She said, “That’s when I lost it. After that, it was full-blown drugs. I just lost my mind.”
They became homeless, staying at parks or anyplace where she could find drugs. She and her younger children tried living in a domestic violence home, homeless shelter, and other recovery homes, but she couldn’t manage to overcome her addiction and get on her feet.
Six years ago, Carla announced to her boyfriend at the time: “I can’t do this anymore.” She was ready to change her life, but he wasn’t ready to allow it. When Cedar House returned her call about admission to the program, her boyfriend didn’t tell her. She continued waiting and checking in every day, but she began to lose hope. Finally, she decided, “My kids would be better off without me. I was going to jump off a bridge.”
Thankfully, Carla happened to answer his phone one day when they were getting high together in his garage. It was the admission team at Cedar House offering her and her daughter each a bed at Maple House, the Cedar House program for women and children.
At first, Carla found it difficult to accept change. She didn’t want to be there and struggled with the program, until she met Kathleen, Cedar House’s Clinical Director. Carla said, “She changed my life dramatically. She is awesome.”
After completing 60 days of the program, she started looking forward to building her new life. She said, “I was feeling really good. Six years later, I still never called my boyfriend back.”
With her 10-year-old daughter, Carla moved from Maple House to a sober living apartment for six months and continued with outpatient treatment. She enrolled at Northwest College to become a dental assistant. After graduating, she quickly moved up the ranks at a dental office from Intern to Specialty Assistant to Treatment Coordinator to, finally, the Community Outreach Specialist. She said, “I’m a go-getter. I’m a fighter. I knew there was more out there for me.”
Since then, Carla acquired a driver’s license, a car, insurance, and a house. She has a relationship with all of her kids and is now a grandmother with two grandbabies. She said, “God will give you back everything the devil takes away. I’m so blessed. I owe Cedar House my life. I would have jumped off that bridge. They never gave up on me.”
What a truly remarkable reason to be grateful.