Finally Felicia

finally FeliciaWhen Felicia underwent gastric bypass surgery in 2006, little did she know that this procedure would produce the opposite result for which it was intended: instead of leading to improved health, it resulted in an addiction to opioids. When she could no longer get her hands on pain meds, she turned to meth, and from there, it was a twisted, agonizing downward spiral.

“When you take opioids, your body starts getting used to it, and to keep up with the pain management, you end up taking more and more,” comments Felicia. “I quickly became dependent.”

As a certified medical assistant with a work history including stints at both Sutter and Mercy, one would think that Felicia would have been extra conscientious about a potential addiction, but having used meth from the age of 16 until she was 20, Felicia surmised that she could quit again as she had done years earlier. She entered into a toxic relationship with a partner who abused her both physically and mentally, but, as she explains, he became part of her addiction – they were in it together, using together, being dysfunctional together.

“I lost everything because of my addiction – my job, my home, my dignity. I lost myself,” she reflects. “And I blamed everyone but myself.”

Felicia was in and out of rehab, in and out of addiction and relapse, and in and out of homelessness from 2006 until 2018, all the while trying to parent her two daughters, Athena and Rose, now 17 and 20. Somehow, Child Protective Services (CPS) never entered the picture.

“I had burned all of my bridges,” reflects Felicia. “Even my family had lost all hope. I knew something had to change. It was humbling and humiliating at its finest.”

Felicia lived on the streets for all of 2018 until she found Saint John’s in August, and since then, she has not turned back. Now nearly eight months clean and sober, she has given 100% of herself to the program, embracing all that Saint John’s has to offer. She’s attended classes, participated in substance abuse disorder counseling and family therapy, worked her way through the Employment Training Program at Plates Café, became a Tour Sister and a Sister for Change, and has just been hired to work full time as a referral coordinator for AllMed Medical Center. Yesterday, she got her driver’s license, which she hasn’t had for eight years, and this weekend, she is slated to work as a volunteer at the registration and merchandising table for the Narcotics Anonymous – Northern California Regional Convention 41 at the Sacramento Convention Center.

“Everything is falling into place for me now,” marvels Felicia. “I don’t even recognize that person anymore. And my daughters are both doing great – Athena lives here with me at Saint John’s, and we can now take the bus together in the morning, me to work and her to school. Rose is a registered dental assistant and works for Western Dental. Life is good!”

By Sue Cawdrey
Grants & Communications Manager
Saint John’s Program for Real Change

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