She spent a happy childhood with her family on the Jersey Shore and moved to the Bay Area at 13. She traveled with them “across the pond” to venture through Europe at 18. She even went scuba diving with them in Mexico.
And while those waters hold sweet family memories of love and stability and adventure, when Tracy went off to college, she found herself adrift in an uncharted sea.
“I was pretty sheltered, and when I got to college, I rebelled,” she explained. “I lost focus, got in with the wrong crowd, and ultimately ended up in a harmful relationship that lasted decades.”
Tracy found her heart moored to a man who struggled deeply with addictions of all kinds, and her loving nature wanted desperately to rescue him from his struggles.
“What I discovered, however,” she shared, “is that in trying to save him, I began drowning myself.”
For the next 30 years, Tracy was tossed about by waves of drug addiction, alcoholism, homelessness, violence and infidelity. Sometimes she came up for air and reclaimed her own sobriety. But over and over again, the relationship dragged her back under.
“One of the big things that I have learned since walking through those red doors is that all those years of sinking and saving were the epitome of codependency,” she reflected.
Tracy realized that she didn’t just have a substance abuse problem; she had a relationship problem.
After decades of trying to stay afloat while being dangerously tethered to an unhealthy relationship, it was the development of healthy relationships at Saint John’s that have been life-savers for her.
“I remember when I first arrived, one of the other residents took me under her wing and welcomed me. At first, I was so shy, and I cried at every meeting. But then I realized that all of these women—both residents and staff—were for me. They have supported, encouraged, and taught me. I have learned so much from them as I watched their lives transform. And I learned that I can depend on these relationships rather than on an unhealthy relationship with a man.”
Not only did Tracy learn healthy dependence within real relationships, but she has also learned valuable tools for living in confident independence, too.
Tracy now has her license and a car and a full time job helping others as a blood donor outreach coordinator at Vitalant. “I love that I get to serve people who are serving others,” she beamed.
Tracy’s next step is to move toward the Independent Housing Partnership, where she will continue to learn to care for herself in healthy ways.
“I’ve never lived on my own,” Tracy shared, a little nervous.
But there is a hopeful glimmer in her eyes as she talks about setting sail on this new adventure. She lights up talking about growing her relationship with her son and daughter-in-law and sweet granddaughters.
Tracy shared a word of advice to other women entering the program. “Embrace it all! There is so much here for you.”
In other words, she said, “Dive in!”
Blog and painting by guest blogger and local artist, Kelsey Burke, an amazing supporter and volunteer at Saint John’s.