No Looking Back

“If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes” —Shellee H.’s mantra

Shellee H. started using drugs at 18 when her brother died. She’s been to prison three times and to the county jail 25 times. She’s spent time on the streets and lost custody of her son. But make no mistake — she feels blessed today because of Saint John’s Program for Real Change.

Dates and details are very important to Shellee:

  • 5/17/2019 is her clean date.
  • 8/20/2019 is the date she entered Saint John’s.
  • There are 18 more weekends until her son comes to live with her permanently.
  • In May of 2020 she will be eligible for the job she really wants which is to work at a detox facility, and her 13-year-old son will finally be able to come live with her. This is a dream she never imagined — beyond the streets, the drugs and the cycle that she didn’t know how to break until she arrived at Saint John’s.

She tells me: “I’ve been homeless, a victim of domestic violence, prison, the whole drug life.” It was her probation officer who encouraged her to make a change and start by getting clean. “When they told me Saint John’s was an 18-month program, I was like ‘well that’s what I need! I don’t want to go back to where I was — who would not come here?’”

“If nothing changes, nothing changes.”

For the first time Shellee has goals and a plan. She explains, “They don’t rush you at Saint John’s, but there is a timeline,” and proudly lists victories that she has achieved since being here in the program:

  • I have gotten off probation four years early!
  • I have learned how to budget, pay off and settle a huge child custody debt.
  • I just got my driver’s license two days ago.
  • I am finishing high school.
  • I have regained custody of my son.
  • I have a job.

My mom is so proud of me. When I told her I was going to do this, my mom said, ‘I’ve been waiting for years to hear that.’” Shellee paused as she fought back tears, “I wouldn’t give up anything that I’m doing right now. It’s a blessing.”

What is it about Saint John’s program that you love, I asked? And without hesitation she says it’s the structure and the stability, “I have built a foundation here for the rest of my life.”

“When you’re done, you’re done; when you know it, you know it,” adds Shellee. “There is no looking back. You have to be willing to do it. I’m just grateful to be given the opportunity to become a productive member of society. I wish I would have learned about this program a long time ago.”

By Kara Turner, Saint John’s Guest Blogger and Volunteer

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