Paying it Forward: Arlene’s Story

ArleneMy doctor prescribed Vicodin to me following major surgery. Neither of us knew those pills would consume my every waking moment. Years before, I was diagnosed with major depression disorder, and Vicodin gave me a euphoric energy that overcame my melancholy. Nothing could compare to that high – not even my successful 17-year career as an executive recruiter. But my family was very important to me, so I weaned myself off the drug. I was on the Board of Trustees for the Council of Alcohol and Drugs when I relapsed. My mother had recently passed away, and I wanted to numb the pain of losing her. It was shameful admitting my addiction to my peers. By then, I had reached a devastating low and had to sell my car to pay rent. My children stopped speaking to me. Within a very short time, I lost everything.

I completed another chemical dependency treatment program, but upon release I was depressed and suicidal. My sister told me about a placed called The Women’s Home. I was hesitant about committing to an 18-month plan, but I decided to give it a try.

I entered The Women’s Home broken and lonely; I kept my hair pulled in a pony tail and wore a sad expression to match. The admissions coordinator kindly welcomed me in, and shortly afterward, everyone was treating me like family. Since then, the entire staff has made me feel like I will never feel alone again.

The Women’s Home can provide us with the resources we need, but we must trust the process and work for our success. We may not see the immediate benefits of doing chores or working at the Cottage Thrift Shop, but as the process starts to unfold, it all comes together. Trusting the process is what we call the “lather, rinse, repeat” approach in therapy, which means if you do the same routine each day and have faith, you will see the results, and the results will be good. And for me, they have been phenomenal!

I really love my life today. I have less money than I have ever had before, but I am happy. The networking skills I gained through vocational training helped me discover a new position working as an assistant to an addiction specialist at The Park at Memorial Hermann. I look forward to calling Jane Cizik’s Garden Place my new home when I graduate. My children and I are back in touch and my daughter is expecting her first baby girl. My goal is to use the skills I have gained and become a recovery coach one day. This dream to “pay it forward “ would not have happened if not for The Women’s Home. Everyone — from the counselors, to the support staff, to my fellow sisters — have inspired me to believe no matter the storm, I can endure. I will prevail. I am not alone.

Jessica’s Story

jessica t cropped

“A turning point for me was when I learned I have power over choice,” she said. “A healthier life is my decision.”

At age 12 Jessica was introduced to marijuana and alcohol by her mother, an active drug user. Her mother died a year later, leaving Jessica with the thought that addiction was her only option in life. Jessica told herself she could quit using anytime, but the next ten years became a pattern of self-neglect and desperate attempts to do whatever she could to sustain her dependency. She depleted her father’s savings and disability income, leaving both of them homeless. She roamed from shelters to abandoned houses and spent many nights in jail.

Her aunt, who overcame her own addiction, encouraged Jessica to seek treatment and attend 12-step meet¬ings. Each day she set a place at the dining table for her niece with the hope that one day she would fill it as a sober young woman. Jessica is grateful that her aunt pushed her to achieve sobriety, which led her to complete recovery at The Women’s Home.

Staff at The Women’s Home not only helped Jessica maintain sobriety, they allowed her to recognize her full potential. Their faith in her success made all the difference. Her counselor and therapists developed an individualized treatment plan based on the WholeLife program, through which Jessica gained emotional/mental, spiritual, financial, physical, social, and vocational stability. Now she knows how to manage a budget, provide for herself, and maintain successful relationships.

“Years ago, I couldn’t keep a job. Today, I’m honest, hardworking, and passionate,” she said.

Jessica is completely substance free and enjoys sober living at Jane Cizik Garden Place, a safe permanent housing complex owned and operated by The Women’s Home. She receives aftercare services at The Women’s Home and attends weekly support groups. She works full-time and is a part-time student at Houston Commu¬nity College. She has more energy to pursue other goals including becoming a skilled guitarist.

In her support groups, Jessica confidently tells others that the tools she gained at The Women’s Home saved her life. With her aunt by her side, she had the courage to share her journey in front of hundreds at The Women’s Home spring luncheon and was a featured spokesperson for United Way’s 2012-13 video campaign.

When Jessica compares the person she was before to the person she is today, a smile lights her face. She looks to her future with excitement and dreams about having a career, building her savings, and moving into a home of her own one day.

See Jessica’s story featured in United Way’s 2012 campaign video.

Giving Back, Going Forward: Bryson’s Story

IMG_7452 - bwBryson Blair was welcomed into The Women’s Home in 2012 and immediately took to the structured, disciplined WholeLife® program. She appreciated how the WholeLife® approach addressed her underlying issues, and didn’t focus solely on her alcohol addiction. Bryson was able to find role models and understanding friends in her new community. She also learned why drinking had taken such a firm grip on her life. She was treated as an individual with her own needs, and soon her road to recovery felt sure.

“My disease no longer defines who I am,” Bryson says of her chronic alcoholism. “I have learned to find self-confidence, and I have left behind debilitating insecurities and self-image issues that kept me down.” Today Bryson lives in a house she shares with her fiancé, and they are getting married in October of this year. She enjoys her daily run: exercise makes her stronger and healthier. Bryson works in a coveted retail position with a national employer—a position she earned not only with her skills, but also through her candid honesty about her journey to recovery in her interview. Her job is exciting and demanding, and Bryson’s journey of recovery keeps her grounded.
Bryson is proudest of the time she spends “giving back.” She tells her story to groups and on various television appearances with TWH staff, and she volunteers with current residents of The Home. This work reminds her where she’s been, where she is today, and where she’s going.

Congratulations for all of your successes, Bryson! The Women’s Home applauds you for your strength and honesty; you truly embody what it means to live a whole life. May you continue to inspire other women on their journey to empowerment!

Moving Out to Moving Up: Laura’s Story

_DSC0069Laura came to The Women’s Home after escaping an incredibly abusive eight year relationship.

She left, when she could not take it anymore, leaving with a tiny overnight bag and no money.

Laura found refuge at a small community hospital when her “angel”, a receptionist at the entry desk, saw her outward wounds and found a shelter for her to find safety. On the first day at her temporary residence, another client told her of The Women’s Home. She knew then, she had found a way to mend her broken life.

Her abuser had virtually controlled her every decision:  isolated her, stripped her dignity – because, you see, she was vulnerable. For her entire life, Laura had never had someone care for her and make her home a safe place to live. She dealt with homelessness and the foster care system as a child. She watched both of her brothers die, often the caretaker for their needs. Laura saw addiction and alcoholism take their toll on her parents and step-parents. She was the victim of sexual violence.

As a teen, Laura rebelled. She ran away from home and was truant from school. In her twenties, she grew quiet and accepted what she thought was her fate.

During her time at The Women’s Home, Laura found hope again. She set goals. When asked what made the difference, she was quick to say: “It was the counseling. They asked me to write letters to release all the pain inflicted on me. I learned to forgive, and I forgave myself.”

While at The Women’s Home, Laura’s vocational counselors assisted her with the confidence to interview and begin a job as an early morning baker at Einstein’s Bagel. Two years later, she is the preferred candidate for their general manager position.

A Guiding Light to the Lost: Tina’s Story


For 10 years Tina sought shelter at a bus stop, living a life consumed by addiction and a struggle to stay alive, by any means necessary. We may have all passed her by, a woman marginalized and out of touch with basic needs.

It wasn’t always this way. Tina grew up in Abbeville, Louisiana the daughter of a very young mother. She graduated from high school, became a nurse and started a family. Her marriage was violent and emotionally abusive, not too different from her childhood.

When her husband left her to raise the children alone, her economic struggles began. She turned to alcohol as a means of escape. She quickly lost control. She lost her job, her family, and she began to suffer from debilitating chronic depression. Tina attempted suicide twice. Her family rejected her and put her on a bus to Houston, broken and dejected.

Upon her arrival in a new city, Tina found work and an apartment; but her addiction again interfered. She was evicted and with no place to go, she turned to life on the streets making her home at a bus stop.

After a severe brain stoke in 2007, Tina began to pray that something would change. An arrest saved her life.

Tina was placed in the STAR Court, an alternative of treatment and support for repeat offenders. Rather than incarceration, she was guided through a continuum of care that led her to sobriety.

After cursory drug treatment, Tina found The Women’s Home Treatment and Transitional Housing Program. There she was immersed in the WholeLife Model of care. Mental health counseling was offered to her for the first time. She developed a spiritual life with the guidance of a volunteer spiritual companion.

Vocational counselors helped Tina formulate a plan and secure needed income through the social security disability program and food stamps. She learned to believe in herself and dream of a better future.

After her stay at The Women’s Home, Tina continued her journey through part-time work and study. She was able to have her own time and space to discover the God of her understanding. She spent months healing her body through access to public healthcare.

Today, Tina has created a new life. She has her own home, a beautiful apartment at Jane Cizik Garden Place. She is sharing her experience, strength and hope as an outreach employee for a local mental health association. She is a state certified recovery coach continuing her training as a peer counselor. She is a beacon of hope to brothers and sisters who find themselves lost and alone in shelters, on the street and in treatment centers.

Tina pays her own way for all her needs, having turned back the government assistance she once relied upon. Her journey from crisis to self-sufficiency is truly inspirational and nothing short of a miracle.

Strength did not come overnight: Deshon’s Story

TWH_ 217 9A - lower resThe strength she needed did not come overnight.

For many years, Deshon soothed the emotional pain of her traumatic childhood with destructive habits and addictions.  She needed time and a safe place to deal with the traumas of her past.  She found The Women’s Home.

Upon arriving at The Women’s Home, Deshon tried desperately to prove that she was the model resident.  She eagerly attended each class, participated in therapy sessions, completed assignments, and did her best to present herself as a confident woman full of hope. As the weeks passed, Deshon believed she was adequately equipped to begin searching for a job.

Re-entering the workforce was more difficult than Deshon had ever imagined. Her efforts to find a job were constantly met with rejection. Overwhelmed by disappointment, she finally surrendered and shared her fears with her counselor.

Some would say that act of surrender was a divine moment. By being completely vulnerable with her counselor, Deshon found the support she needed to change. She began to acquire new tools to control her emotions and soothe herself. After years of self destruction, Deshon finally recognized her own worth and her potential to create a life of balance and meaning.

Not long after, Deshon began a new temporary job assignment. She built a reputation as a productive employee and secured a permanent position and eventually received a promotion with recognition from her supervisor.

At home, Deshon turned to writing and choreography as a way to express the tumult of her past.  Through it, she found a release and connection to others.  Her life now reflected a spiritual awakening that afforded new possibilities.

All along the way, The Women’s Home was there to offer Deshon the care and healing environment that she needed.  Like the many others before her, there was no “quick fix” to her damaged life.  It was instead a process of establishing wellness and a balanced lifestyle based on the principals of The Home’s WholeLife model.