“The most difficult thing is the decision to act. The rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers.
You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life . . . The process is its own reward.”
Amelia S. is an intelligent woman with a kind smile that emanates hope and triumph in the face of so much hardship. Saint John’s has provided a safe place for her to realize her potential and become the woman she truly is and wants to be. Today, she is in the process of reclaiming a lost sense of identity, purpose and self-worth after surviving years of domestic violence, drug abuse and homelessness.
We sat at a bright red picnic table near the Saint John’s community garden on a sunny afternoon, as Amelia candidly recounted with infectious laughter, and a few tears, the powerful and moving story of how she got here today.
While enduring ongoing physical violence and mental trauma at the hands of her domestic partner, Amelia turned to drugs to numb the pain. One night Amelia awoke to find herself living through a terrifying nightmare when a man entered the tent they were living in, while her partner was away, and assaulted her. Even when her partner was with her, the violence escalated to the point where she was in fear, not only for her own life, but also for the life and safety of her unborn daughter.
Amelia made the brave choice to leave her abuser while still in the hospital after the birth of her daughter. She reached out for help from the hospital staff and found and entered an in-patient rehabilitation program and was able to overcome her drug addiction. Then she was able to move into an 18-month transitional living program. With a heart and a passion for the empowerment of others, Amelia started working to obtain an AOD certificate only to learn that none of the hours she put into earning the certificate would be counted. Feeling betrayed and once again homeless, Amelia used the money she saved during that time to buy a car, what she humorously referred to as a “hard shell tent,” to keep herself and her daughter safe during the night.
She learned about Saint John’s through a fellow graduate of the transitional living program and after some time on the waitlist, Amelia arrived at Saint John’s. “The first two weeks were hard,” she said with a smile, as she amusingly reflected back on her early days in the program. Adjusting to the highly structured routine, which includes a broad array of mandatory as well as voluntary classes, was a challenge. However, Amelia soon came to appreciate the daily routine, and has worked hard to meet the demands of the program, growing her skill set and reclaiming her identity and independence a little bit more each day. The unique, holistic, individualized approach to self-help at Saint John’s has allowed Amelia the freedom to begin her life anew and maintain her sobriety. She proudly shared that, as of the date of our interview, she had been clean and sober for two years.
At Saint John’s, Amelia and her daughter, Iris, can sleep safely at night while she heals from past trauma and rebuilds her life anew. After finishing a recent budget creation assignment, Amelia is now looking forward to meeting her 45-words-per-minute typing goal. She smiled as she told me how she was a bit nervous, but mostly excited for her job at Plates, one of Saint John’s three social enterprises. This will provide her with on-the-job training, which she can add to the resume she is currently building. Amelia is happy to see her daughter, now two, learning and growing, and looks forward to the brighter future that awaits them both as she rediscovers the valuable, strong and independent woman she truly is.
By Kendra Hall
Saint John’s Volunteer and Guest Blogger