Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Residents Week - Day 3

CLICK HERE to watch the testimonial of Michelle, a former Guest House resident. The video is relatively short, but very impactful. Michelle helps to give a glimpse into the mindset of addicts going in and exiting incarceration.
Michelle spent years actively addicted to alcohol. Her addiction led her down many turbulent paths, and eventually she ended up in jail. She credits her arrest and subsequent incarceration as potentially saving her life.

Residents Week - Day 2

"It gets easier, this life of recovery. Not saying that you will not run into holes and brick walls, but if you can, just remember your reasons for change and live for yourself. YOU CAN DO IT!

I’m a resident at Guest House. Have been since April 27, 2011. I came to Guest House because I needed to transform. I needed positive role models. I need support. I know today I can’t walk this walk alone. Even being in a safety zone, when I walk out of the doors of Guest House temptation will always be there.

I had a test of temptation put forth towards me. I had just been at the Guest House for 2 weeks. After doing time in prison for 3 years and 10 months, I got to go out on my own. I went to Social Services to apply for food stamps, which was one of the things on my daily “to do” list. Just so happens there was no other resident of Guest House who could escort me that day. I went alone. Everything was fine, until on my way back when I was trying to catch the bus. I had just sat down at the bus stop and cracked open my soda can, when the nicest car I have ever seen drove by. The rims shining and the car was spotless. Not only was the car fine, but the fellow that was pushing them wheels was fine as well! He looked like money. He circled around and drove right up to me. This was truly a setup for a woman of my type! He pulled up to the bus stop and I started to smile. Boy was this the dream of any woman who just got out of prison! He rolled the window down and coolly said to me “You are fine!” and I couldn’t help but blush. He went on, “I circled the block about 3 times trying to find a way to introduce myself to you.” I was incredibly flattered and almost didn’t know what to say. Then, he asked the question that I have been running from, “Do you smoke?” My attitude instantly changed. “Smoke what?” I replied. “Crack” he responded, just as cool as before. “No, no I don’t. I’m in recovery and I’m a resident of the Guest House. I’m trying to live a clean and sober lifestyle!” I stood up, rolled my eyes, and began to walk off. He watched me walk all the way down the street, not moving his can an inch. When I got around the corner, I started to pray. Wanting to cry because I am a woman who has been an addict for 14 years – someone who had no desire to stand up for themselves and say no to drugs… alcohol… the whole lifestyle. That has been my LIFE. If there were no drugs then there was no me. Not today. Today I have a desire to say no, and mean it. I won’t stick around to be asked why or to try to be pressured, my life is too valuable to waste the time.

When you get tired of the lifestyle, the loss, the hurt, the consequences, and the lock-ups, your “no” will not even be a thought. It will flow. It may be scary because its new, but it gets easier. Practice. You are worth it. I’m not trying to say that any single instance will stop the temptation. But once you start saying “no,” it gets easier each time. You will feel in control of self. I did. I’m free. I’m clean and sober. I’m happy.

So stand up for yourself. Say no. And remember why you can do this. I know how it is. I did it. Enough is enough."

- - L.C. Resident of Guest House

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Residents Week - Day 1

Hello Again!
I wanted to thank all the people who responded to my previous blog entry. Today, I wanted to tell a little story about myself and how I see my life differently today.

Most of my life has been lived on a fast train to never ending pain, sorrow, and destruction. I never knew how to get off that train because I felt comfortable on that familiar seat I called life. Until one day that train came to a dead stop, and my everyday ride had come to an end. That is when I finally learned how to live. While I was locked up I learned that I wasn’t put on this earth to ride this misery train, I realized I deserve better.

My destructive lifestyle not only hurt me, but impacted the lives of my family – especially my children. My daughter was given up to my in-laws because I was too selfish to give up my seat on the fast train. My son, who I raised part-time, was robbed of a Mother. His Father was fully engulfed in a lifestyle that had no room for a child. This resulted in my son having to spend most of his life with his Granny. My parents loved and prayed for me so much and always believed that I would get it together soon. My Father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and was put in a home for the elderly. He spent over two years there before he passed away. After he dedicated his life to spending his time and energy on me, I was too busy on my train ride to come spend time with him. My Mother passed away about 10 years after my Father, and I didn't even attended her funeral.

You may be wondering why I wanted to tell you all this. It’s because I want you to understand that each day I have to face the repercussions of my actions and behaviors. It is hard to learn how to accept the things I can’t change, but it does give me the strength to know I never want to get back on that fast train ride again. I will never jeopardize another moment of my life and risk missing all the things that are important. I would give my life to be able to go back in time and tell my parents I’m sorry and love them, to be there for my children and not have missed such important milestones in their lives.

Friends of Guest House has reinforced the tools I need to live a normal, sober life. Guest House gave me the courage to face and overcome the daily pains and regrets of my past behavior. It is comforting to see that there are people who really want to see you be what God put you on this earth to be – an honest, loving person who takes the good with the bad. The staff and volunteers in this program believe in you and the person you are becoming. I have the strength now to be myself and I don’t feel like I have to put on a mask to live my life.

I want the readers of this blog to know that today I have learned how to ride the bus! It’s slow and makes a lot of stops, but I don’t have to get off if it’s now where I want to be. I can enjoy all the people, trees, flowers, beautiful babies, and even just a nice smile from the bus driver. I have come a long way from the fast train. God and the Guest House are my support. Both really care and want to see me succeed, rather than help me fall. I am thankful today for all I have endured throughout my life because it brought me to this place. I am now able to help others who are fighting to get off that fast train and just don’t know how. I never expected to take that ride for 30 years, but I unfortunately did. It hurts every day I wake up, but through the Guest House program, I can smile and be thankful to be alive in such a beautiful world."

- D.H., Resident at Guest House

Friday, June 3, 2011

Volunteer Orientation

On June 8th there will be an orientation/training for individuals who want to volunteer at Friends of Guest House. Anyone who is interested in attending this orientation, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Audrey Stahl, to set up an interview before June 8th. Her email address is: aleestahl@mac.com. The orientation on the 8th can only accommodate individuals who have met with Ms. Stahl and filled out a volunteer application. Those of you who want to volunteer, but either can't be interviewed before the 8th or can not make the orientation on the 8th be sure to still contact Ms. Stahl. We are always in the market for more dedicated volunteers!
Volunteers at Friends of Guest House work with residents on a wide variety of areas, including: GED tutoring, yard work, computer skills, living healthy (exercise, proper diet, etc.), and legal aid. We like to assess where an individual would fit best by learning of interests and specialties. For example, we have a volunteer who is a high school math teacher so he works with our clients on GED preparation. We are always open to new ideas for how volunteers could contribute to Guest House, so feel free to bring your ideas to the table for discussion!
Thank you!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Join Us at a Fun Dog Wash Tomorrow!

On Thursday, June 2nd, some of the staff and residents of Friends of Guest House will be helping out at a local dog wash, hosted by Your Dogs Best Friend. Join us from 5pm-9pm and have fun while your pup gets a bath! All donations and contributions go to Friends of Guest House.

Your Dogs Best Friend is a really great business that employees many of our clients. They are an award winning doggie daycare located at 2000 Jefferson Davis Hwy in Alexandria.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Announcing: Online Residents Week! June 6-12

Starting next Monday (June 6th) Guest House is going to do something a little different on the blog. We want to celebrate our clients, the women of Guest House, so we are having an online “Residents Week.” Each day during the week of June 6-12, we are going to post a story written by one of our clients and urge you to respond with some positive feedback.

When trying to transition and make positive changes in your life, even the simplest complement can brighten someone’s day. We are urging our clients to share their stories in a way that is comfortable and safe. We hope that you could help support them during this exciting and stressful period in their lives by posting comments of encouragement. Thank you in advance for your participation!

PLTI Jazz Concert

On Thursday, May 19, 2011, four Guest House residents and I were fortunate enough to be invited to the Parent Leadership Training Institutes (PLTI) benefit dinner and jazz concert!!

The event was to celebrate the fifth anniversary of PLTI Alexandria. PLTI offers free educational services to help parents learn how to navigate the system and advocate for their children, as well as their community. They believe that “democracy includes everyone” and individuals should be informed and active in their decision making.

The event was held at Convergence, a beautiful church off N. Quaker Lane in Alexandria. When we walked in Convergence, we were all blown away by the chic layout of a room, aptly called “The Sanctuary.” The “walls” of the room were almost entirely windows that looked out over the small green field outside. The Sanctuary was already filled with people socializing and eating together when we arrived, but it easy to find a place to sit and even easier to meet and mingle with a wide variety of people.

After about an hour of eating delicious finger-food and socializing, it was time to make our way into the adjacent room, the nave, where we would be treated to a performance by The W.E.S. Group. The W.E.S. Group is an awesome three man jazz band out of South Carolina. The nave, or as they called it “The Lab,” was almost entirely stained glass and when we entered the sun was setting, coloring the entire room.

As the band came on stage, we were all really anxious to hear some relaxing jazz. The saxophonist in the band, Will Smith, PhD, took the time to explained important concepts and techniques of jazz, helping the audience to feel involved in the music. Each song they performed was better than the last!

When the band was done and it was time to leave, the ladies and I were all smiles. We spent the rest of the evening talking about how much we truly enjoyed the entire experience. Just being able to sit with good company and listen to great music helped to relieve the daily stress of life and work.

We want to thank PLTI, namely Fay Slotnick, for inviting us and putting on such a fabulous event. It was really a perfect evening! THANK YOU!