The First Steps to Success


Like all of the women at Saint John’s Program for Real Change, Sandy and Starr share common qualities – courage, resiliency and strength. And, like all of the women who step through the red door at Saint John’s, they have had their share of adversity and despondency including depression, drug and alcohol dependence, abusive relationships, dysfunctional families, and homelessness.

But at the heart of their stamina is a belief in themselves and their ability to move towards a goal beyond themselves, a way to transcend their pain and demons by coming to terms with the fact that their bad times are only temporary.

This realization did not come overnight for either Sandy or Starr.

Fighting years of low self-esteem and absentee moms, they dropped out of high school.

A friend turned Sandy onto ecstasy at the age of 14, leading to heavy drinking and eventually methamphetamine, a highly addictive drug known for its euphoric effects. She had a series of troubled, often imprisoned boyfriends and, over time, five children, two of which were born with meth in their systems. Child Protective Services stepped in a number of times, placing Sandy’s children with her paternal grandmother and sending Sandy into rehab.

Sandy tried to remain clean after successive stints in various rehab and transitional housing programs, but once again tempted by drugs, she relapsed and began selling meth. Yes, recovery from substance abuse is an ongoing process that takes a lot of dedication – and yes, Sandy slipped several times until the birth of her fourth child. She then looked beyond herself, to her future and the future of her children.

Sixteen months after entering Saint John’s, Sandy will soon transition out of the Program. She has her high school diploma and driver’s license renewed since being suspended in 2010. She has a job and, more importantly, she has her youngest child of 16 months back in her custody. Sandy’s four oldest have been adopted by their paternal grandparents, but she is hopeful that in time she will have them all back under one roof. Under the guidance of Saint John’s, Sandy learned to believe in herself and reach her full potential.

Another incredible mother in our Program, Starr is thankful for the opportunity that Saint John’s offered her after 18 years of meth abuse. Her mom turned her on to the drug when she was 16-years-old and a high school dropout. Her life followed a similar pattern to the women who participate in Saint John’s demanding-yet-supportive mental health services, parenting classes, and career training. Those suffering from substance abuse, physical relationships, homelessness, couch surfing, pregnancies, rehab, and Child Protective Services.

But like Sandy, Starr was resilient.

She made the important decision to stop in the moment – pause– and moved past her crippling habits, giving her the fortitude to enter Saint John’s. With resolve and hard work, Starr has a newfound trust and faith in herself. She has two of her children back in her arms and is looking forward to beginning a new job with a property management group.


Blog by Guest Writer, Laura Windell

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