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The Power of Connection and Perseverance

posted at 2014-04-18 14:48:00

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The Power of Connection and Perseverance

      When you see Sierra you might think she attends one of the local colleges or is enjoying time with her friends and family or is taking in the natural beauty of our area with her dog, Jezebel, as she is pictured here. You would be right with all of those guesses. She is also on a transformative journey towards healing and recovery.
You see this vivacious, energetic, optimistic 21 year old young woman has struggled with substance use, abuse and addiction since she was about 12 years old. As Sierra says “I have struggled with drugs for most of the time I can remember. It has been a part of most of my life. I had to grow up really fast and help out my family. I tried to take care of my parents and myself and this started in elementary school.”
      In thinking about it, Sierra thinks her addiction began before she was using drugs. “I got into that co-dependent pattern really, really early on in life. As I got into my teens I found other kids who were in the same kind of pattern. Everything was available to us and we were used to that kind of life. It was easy to use that curiosity and experience and it was easy to get into that behavior. My dad was very up front about how he wanted me to avoid problems like he had in the past, but both my parents were big enablers and I got good at manipulating them so I was thinking like an addict before I was addicted.”
      Sierra believes she learned a lot from her parents (pictured left) especially her dad. “The most important thing I learned was that my dad lost things in his life and in some ways he felt his life was delayed because of it. I think that is why my parents pushed me about school and getting an education because that was something that I think my dad felt he missed out on because he dropped out of school. They wanted me to focus on school and my future but my head was not there.”
     In talking about her history she said it all seemed pretty typical. “It started with pot and wine coolers and it was something everyone else was doing. I had a lot of anxiety and I tried to medicate myself with pot and Xanax and alcohol. Then I got into cocaine and then I really understood I was addicted. I started stealing from my family and that got me involved in Felony Drug Court.” Sierra is grateful for drug court, “I will be moving to phase 3 [final phase] soon. They stuck by me too.”
     Sierra talks about her moment of clarity, “it was when my dad bolted his windows to keep me out and bought a safe and my mom wouldn’t answer her door. Being homeless and having no place to go got me thinking this is really bad but sitting in jail really was an eye opener but it was CARS and Dorothy [Radcliff] and Ann Lewis who really worked on me to get me into treatment. The whole organization really helped me. It was incredible. The lengths they went to get me help were amazing. CARS even worked to get me Medicaid. I finally started to realize there is a better way to live. I had to learn how to live like an adult. My biggest problem was becoming complacent. I got discharged from the CARS’ residential program because of that but got into outpatient rehab and got focused on living one day at a time. Eventually I went to St. Joe’s in Saranac Lake. They had a great mindfulness based relapse prevention program. I then went to CARS’ Supportive Living Program. Now I can’t imagine picking up. I have so much I am grateful for that using is not an option. Now I meditate instead of medicate.”
    As far as her future, Sierra has solid plans, “I want to learn how to live independently and especially how to manage my money. My long term goal is to go to TC3 and to get into paralegal work. I am working with Mike [Berry] from Challenge to get that going. I volunteer at the City Health Club. I want to get my feet on the ground so I may stay in Supportive Living for the first semester of school. I am also looking for dining hall work at Cornell or Ithaca College because it is solid pay and steady work while I go to school. I just celebrated a year sober.”                                  
Sierra's story is one that embodies CARS mission of transformation. The power of her work to overcome her addiction is a powerful reminder that great hope and possibility lives within each us waiting to be unleashed by the power of connection and perseverance.    

-by Bill Rusen