Mary’s recovery journey: from client to housing manager

​For Mary, life was all she could want: a wonderful childhood, a great husband, a baby, her Ph.D., and a meaningful job as a researcher at Notre Dame. However, in 2016, she suffered a miscarriage and things took a turn for the worst. Her husband had an affair and domestic violence became a part of Mary’s story. Drinking became a way to survive.

For a time, life improved when Mary gave birth to their second child. All seemed okay, but, the impact of the continued abuse, the affair, and the realization that life was not going as she had hoped flipped a switch in Mary’s brain.

“My marriage ended, and I was left with all the responsibilities for the kids, house, and two cars. None of this was how I was planning it. My brain and body couldn’t take it. The only thing I could think of was drinking to make it through the day.”

Within six months, Mary’s drinking was out of control. She received an operating while intoxicated citation. Department of Children’s Services and Probation became involved, and she lost custody of her children.

For the next three years, Mary’s life was a revolving door in and out of treatment.

“I couldn’t figure out how to maintain sobriety because I hadn’t dealt with all my grief. Before I started drinking, my life was in my complete control, and now nothing was in my control. I was stuck in a victim mentality and couldn’t figure out how to get myself out. I can’t count how many times I fell down and had to enter detox again.”

Thankfully for Mary, each time she fell, she had support to help pick her back up: her parents and her faith in God.

“I don’t want to think about what life would be like without my parents. They made it so I could still see my children during this time. They supported me financially and loved me unconditionally through this.”

Mary’s drinking also started to impact her physically.

“I started having random seizures throughout the day, and without God watching over me, I don’t believe I would be alive today.”

Mary had completed inpatient treatment and started in Probation in late February 2020 just as the pandemic started. Unexpectedly,

COVID aided Mary’s ability to stay in recovery, despite others having different outcomes. The pandemic restrictions eased the pressure she felt to do more and more – allowing her to just be. Additionally, she saw her children more frequently which provided positive incentive to not drink. “I was healthy enough to think straight, and I felt a renewed connection to God to rely on Him.”

As Mary continued treatment, she started seeing Stephanie Miller, an Oaklawn therapist, and she felt things click into place, something she hadn’t experienced before.

“Even as we switched to Zoom calls, Stephanie’s energy and spirit kept me going. And I feel that God gave me the right time, the right person, and the right situation to keep going.”

As Mary continued her treatment and made progress, Stephanie encouraged her to apply to work at Oaklawn and become a Recovery Coach. The rest is history.

In November 2020, Mary started working at Oaklawn as a Recovery Coach and was placed at the Motels4Now project in South Bend.

“It couldn’t have been more perfect. It was humbling as it fit so well with my personality. It all came together. The best part about being a recovery coach is that often people need just one person to not give up on them. For me, it was my parents. As a recovery coach, I get to be that person for someone else.” Over the past two years, Mary has regained full custody of her children and was promoted at Oaklawn to Housing Manager.

“One of the things I love about being at Oaklawn is that they meet you where you’re at, whether as a client or an employee. When I was hired for the recovery coach position, I thought, are you sure? Have you looked at the last three years of my life? And the answer was, “yes, and we want to walk alongside you.” It is life-changing to have people believe in you. And I’ve never worked for a company where people are so giving of themselves.”

As the Oaklawn housing manager, Mary manages housing opportunities for clients and homeless individuals in a four-county region.

“I love my job now. I get to see the importance of housing from a state and local level and advocate for more opportunities in the housing world. I feel at peace with my past, and now I feel peace in my future.”

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