It’s not often that one meets a classically-trained opera singer, much less one who is a resident at Saint John’s Program for Real Change. Meet Sabrina — here since November after years of living in an abusive relationship and spiraling into depression and alcohol abuse.
Sabrina earned a BA and MA in Classical Voice and sang and toured the world with the San Francisco State Chamber Choir for years. How, then, did she find herself an alcoholic and homeless? It was, as it often is, that she had a long-term boyfriend who was a master manipulator and whose emotional abuse eventually became physical. Add to the mix their little son, Caleb, and the recipe was set for things to go from bad to worse.
Soon after Caleb’s birth in 2010, the physical attacks from his father became too much for Sabrina; she moved in with her mother to protect herself and her son and also to help her mother whose health was not good. However, the boyfriend eventually convinced her that things would be different and she went back with him — the rest is probably predictable to us who are reading, but not to Sabrina who had blinded herself to the truth and was sure this time would be different.
In 2012, Sabrina placed the 911 call that would ultimately put her abuser in prison for a year and would provide a 10-year protection order for her and her son. She and little Caleb moved in with a friend, and Sabrina started a successful career as a manager for the Hertz Rental Company. However, having to move to a night shift became too stressful for her and Caleb, so Sabrina took a new job in Palm Springs — where she knew no one. This situation, combined with parenting her autistic son alone, became a catalyst for clinical depression, alcohol abuse and two DUI violations. In 2019, Sabrina says she finally became “tired of being me, of embarrassing my family and my son, and of living this life,” and she checked herself into Gateway Rehabilitation. Her mother, unbeknownst to Sabrina, then placed Caleb in foster care, a move that would actually be a blessing for Caleb and Sabrina, though she didn’t think so at the time.
After three months of successful treatment at Gateway, being on our wait list and making daily calls, Sabrina was accepted into Saint John’s. Here, she now has a goal of working in restaurant management and re-gaining custody of Caleb. She speaks glowingly of him and the family who now cares for him; she sees him weekly and says he will start playing soccer soon and was in a community musical — apparently, he has his mother’s musical talent!
Sabrina is thankful to Saint John’s for helping her to feel safe, for the career opportunities she is receiving, and for the counseling that is helping her to be open with her feelings and to “be present” in each moment. It will be six months of sobriety this month as well as six months of aligning her “head with her heart” and living a life that is full of promise and potential. Next time you go to Plates for lunch, ask for Sabrina to serenade you! You will be happy you did.
(To listen to Sabrina’s beautiful singing, click here: Sabrina video2)
By Ellen Gemma, Guest Blogger and Volunteer, Former Asst. Principal, Jesuit High School, Former Principal, St. John the Evangelist School