“As I sought places to stay, I was accepted at other places but none of the others were like the Lake County Haven. When I walked into the Haven… I felt a sense of home. My vision of a shelter was 12 cots lined up in a big room. When I walked in here, I saw pictures of women who had made it. I saw little bedrooms with nice little curtains and a refrigerator with food. I made the perfect choice in choosing the Haven.”
Sandra grew up as the oldest child in a large family. Her father died when she was young, so Sandra took on a parental role for the younger children. Sandra’s mother valued education, and so Sandra attended college and got her master’s degree. Like many college students, Sandra drank in social situations. However, alcohol did not seem to be a problem for her. Sandra’s grades were excellent, and so she was very successful academically.
During her college years, Sandra fell in love and got married. The couple was very happy and soon celebrated their love by having two children. Things seemed good, especially from the outside. Within the relationship, however, Sandra could sense that something was wrong. Her husband became increasingly more emotionally abusive to her. He would belittle her successes, call her names, tell her that no one else would ever care about her. Gradually, she began to believe him. This constant brainwashing wore away at her self-esteem.
Then, one day her husband disappeared. Sandra was left to raise her two children alone while holding down a very stressful job. She became depressed and sought counseling. The counselor prescribed medication to “help her get through” this difficult time. Sandra soon discovered that if she would combine those drugs with alcohol she felt much, much better, if only temporarily. She felt she needed to take what comfort she could get. She never noticed the change from when she wanted drugs and alcohol to when she needed them.
Then things went from bad to worse. After her divorce, Sandra found a new relationship to help her end her loneliness. But this new man was not only emotionally abusive, but also physically brutal. Sandra endured these beatings. “I didn’t think I deserved more. My life was consumed by alcohol, drugs, and this man who beat me on a regular basis.” Sandra was forced to confront these problems shortly after Christmas one year.
“My boyfriend broke my jaw and then ran off with my car.” Lying in the hospital, Sandra began to see that she could no longer go on living a life full of emotional and physical pain. She decided to try to get help. She checked herself into a residential treatment facility for people with addictions. Sandra could hardly believe all this was happening to her. “I never thought I would be homeless. I thought I’d done all the right things. I’d put myself through college and had always been employed.”
Sandra completed the full three-month program of residential treatment. As that time came to a close, Sandra began to look for places to live. She had no money, no job, and two small children to raise. Although she was accepted at several programs, she chose the Haven. She felt something different about the Haven from the start. “When I walked into the Haven…I felt a sense of home.” Sandra liked what she saw and chose the Lake County Haven as the next step in her recovery.
New in her sobriety and independence and faced with real-world problems, Sandra was soon overwhelmed by her responsibilities. But her case manager acknowledged that while it seemed overwhelming, support would be provided and she would succeed. Sandra proved to be quite able to help herself despite her self-doubt. She got a job caring for a disabled woman in the early morning hours and rode a bike to get to work. Sandra had never learned to ride a bike as a child but once she got to the Haven and needed transportation to get to work, she learned.
At one point, Sandra started a new job but was let go after only eight days. She remembers being devastated. “I wanted a drink. My attitude was, see, I did all this stuff for nothing. I was crying and really in despair until I realized that there would be someone at the Haven who would be there to walk me through this.” Sandra feels she surely would have taken a drink without that support.
Sandra learned even more about faith, hope, and trust as she progressed in her recovery. She and her boys spent Christmas at the Haven. It was the first Christmas that Sandra was unable to provide a full celebration of gifts for her children. Despite her youngest son’s fear that Santa wouldn’t be able to find them and her older son’s assurance that it would be OK if Santa didn’t show up that year, Santa did make an appearance. In fact, Santa’s helpers had supplied the things on their lists and brought even more items than they had asked for!
Sandra’s children also got counseling, physicals for school, and volunteer tutors through the Haven. When Sandra moved to the Haven’s transitional housing program, she was afraid to be there at night. The staff took her worried phone calls, calmed her fears, and provided much needed support until the family grew accustomed to their new environment.
Today, Sandra is working full-time and has advanced at her job. She is managing her finances well and finds time to mentor other women from the Haven. She has provided childcare for Haven residents, has taken others to AA meetings, and even helped some women with employment. She enjoys sharing her experiences and “giving back” to the Lake County Haven. She sums up her life this way, “The Haven has cradled me through this experience. I feel strong.” ♥