JULY 1, 2014 ... When Stefanie was a child, she carried “a little Snoopy notebook in my pocket all the time and I journaled everything.” She was an avid reader as well.
Both passions—writing and reading—stayed with her.
They accompanied her throughout what she describes as “a beautiful childhood in a little Appalachian town about an hour west of Roanoke.” They accompanied her into marriage (she got married right out of high school) and motherhood (a daughter and, a year later, a son) and through her divorce.
Then came her years of addiction, which separated her from her passions and led to incarceration.
She came to Guest House upon release. “Once I found recovery,” she recounts, “I was asked in my interview for Guest House what my passion was and it really made me think: I want to write.”
| “Hope is never lost—even if a person does enter an absolute hell in the form of addiction—as long as there is that one little glimmer of hope, that one little ray of light, someone else saying ‘I believe in you, I think there are things that you can accomplish in your life.’” —STEFANIE
Our readers first met Stefanie in November 2013’s eNews and blog, when we shared her essay, “Gratitude,” in the spirit of the Thanksgiving season. She had just entered the Guest House Residential Program the month before. She wrote a house newsletter while in Residential. Now in Aftercare, and living on her own, she sends friends “quotes of the day"—her own or inspirations from others—and has written more essays, some appearing in the Guest House blog.
The hard road: Now 40, Stefanie has traveled a hard road. Her addiction started with dental surgery and a prescription for Percocet. She reports “this unbelievable euphoria. I felt as though I could do anything.” Stefanie took more and more Percocet and similar drugs. “Eventually, I got physically addicted. I would do any drug to not feel sick, to feel normal. It was unfortunate.”
As her drug use escalated, so did her drug-related crimes: prescription fraud, felony check writing and driving under the influence. She had several arrests but none leading to incarceration until 2009, when her offenses had accumulated to the point where the courts decided that “I definitely needed to be incarcerated. And,” she says, “they were absolutely right.” Stefanie was incarcerated for four years, initially at the Central Virginia Correctional Unit in Chesterfield and for her last 31 months in a therapeutic community especially for addicts. “I really benefited from being incarcerated. I know that sounds funny,” she reflects, but the help she received “changed my life. It changed my thinking. I was able to finally be accountable for the things I’d done. I was finally able to understand the disease of addiction.”
Upon release last year, Stefanie was admitted to the Guest House Residential Program, arriving in October 2013. She continued to progress. Three weeks after arriving, she began working at the Holy Cow and Pork Barrel BBQ restaurants in the Del Ray neighborhood, near Guest House. She has been promoted and, today, is one of the assistant managers. “It’s just a wonderful opportunity. I really, really enjoy it.” In January, she graduated from our Residential Program and is now receiving continuing supportive services through Aftercare. She lives in Alexandria in a transitional apartment she rents from Christian Relief Services (affordable housing proved a major challenge to Stefanie, as it is to so many Northern Virginians).
Looking back upon her journey so far, Stefanie says she has learned that “hope is never lost—even if a person does enter an absolute hell in the form of addiction—as long as there is that one little glimmer of hope, that one little ray of light, someone else saying ‘I believe in you, I think there are things that you can accomplish in your life.’ That is what Guest House provides.
“And with so many people affected by addiction today—I heard at one point that an addict dies every 19 minutes in this country*—to know that and to know that I beat those odds, it’s just unbelievable. And there are so many women who really want that help, too, but they just don’t know how to get it.”
Stefanie’s four-year clean date is coming up this July 10.
"Too often, while in active addiction, I lived in yesterdays and tomorrows allowing the todays to pass away. I could never find a balance. I have learned how vital it is today to know the sustenance of livelihood, to feel the cold wind on my face and give thanks that I am alive. And when I feel the wonder of this miracle I cannot know the indifference I knew so strongly in bondage. Today I feel the moment." —STEFANIE, from her essay, "The Moment" (Guest House blog)
*From CDC Grand Rounds (January 13, 2012): “... unintentional drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States, one death every 19 minutes.”