Behind a Pretty Face

Heart wrenching to see, and maybe even harder to understand are the depths to which one can fall with addiction. But witnessing one rise out of that chasm and go on to live a full life is an inspiration and a blessing. Katrina is a case study for us all.

Raised in a loving family, Katrina was a hard-working young girl who does not fit the profile we might imagine — dysfunctional or violent family, abuse and addiction, etc. In fact, Katrina was married with a home, a dog and a boat at 21, and working as a manager at a big retail store with a good income. But the drinking that started in her late teens steadily spiraled out of control so that by the time she was in her 30s, she had lost her home, her marriage and her two sons (now 10 and 14). She had four DUIs, and was living for years in a field across the street from Saint John’s with a man who was also addicted to alcohol. However, two years ago, at nine months pregnant, Katrina was arrested on a probation violation and found herself in jail – where she delivered her daughter, Mikaela. Four days later, CPS sent the baby home with her parents, and after serving her time, Katrina checked into Alpha Oaks Rehab Center for what would turn out to be the beginning of her new lease on life; her stay there opened the door for her acceptance at Saint John’s Program for Real Change.

So many questions came to my mind as I listened to this pretty young woman. How did she live day-to-day in that field across the street from Saint John’s? How could she choose alcohol over her children? How did she make the choice to enter our program? How was she so strong now?

From Katrina, I was reminded that addiction is all-encompassing; what seems rational for me, wasn’t for her. For so many years, Katrina says she found herself in a “rut” and it was simply easier to keep doing what she was doing as long as she had a drink or a bottle — and she was with others in the same spot. There was a community of dysfunctional support on the street, and she justified her situation by saying that it was better that her boys didn’t see her anymore since she was an alcoholic.

She and her boyfriend had built a little shanty and lived amongst this community of fellow addicts. Pregnancy, however, began to force her to look at her life and her future. She knew that she could quit drinking while she was pregnant but would start right back up after delivery. Something had to change. She says “jail and delivering my baby there was the best thing and a blessing” because it made her realize that her life must change. Katrina has successfully maintained her sobriety for over a year, and has been reunited with her little girl, who now lives with her at Saint John’s. She’s the team leader at Plates Midtown, and is now in the Job Readiness Program with great hopes of finding a good job, possibly in accounting or management.

She credits a “higher power” and the structure, discipline, team approach and support within Saint John’s for being the source of her success, as well as the long-term comprehensive program, which has made all the difference for her. “It was a shock the first day here,” but she knew her future and that of her child were at stake, so she chose to work hard daily and listen to her advisors and team.

Today, Katrina feels a sense of accomplishment and real pride in herself; she feels that she finally has her SELF back. She now talks with her sons, and she tries to be “present” in every moment with her little girl. She knows her weaknesses, but she feels she now has the tools to combat them in the years ahead, thanks to Saint John’s. Katrina hopes to be financially stable with a home for her daughter in a safe and decent neighborhood, and she is excited to get to know her sons again and to be active in their lives. She does not want to be dependent upon government support, and she hopes to be able to give back to AA and to Saint John’s in the future.

“Each day I walk out the door, I gaze across that field and I see the other women addicts, and I want to say, ‘just try it … try making a change! You won’t regret it.’” Katrina says. She is beginning to imagine the possibilities of a big and happy future, and realizing that it can and does happen. People can gain their lives back and move on to be happy and healthy.

I want to keep in touch with Katrina; hers is an inspirational story that is just beginning.

By Ellen Gemma
Guest Blogger and Volunteer
Former Asst. Principal, Jesuit High School
Former Principal, St. John the Evangelist School

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