Righting the Wrongs

The impact of CHD’s Grace House

In retrospect, the proverbial rock bottom for Victoria is hard to pinpoint.

There are so many possibilities for such an unfortunate milestone in a young life. Was it carrying a baby boy to term at 19 while secretly hooked on Percocet? Was it the flip-flop to a voracious appetite for cocaine, then snorting heroin; or mainlining it? Was it weighing in, waif-like,at 98 pounds just before her first stint in rehab? Being “sectioned,” or in voluntarily institutionalized, by her mother? Was it the time she over dosed and was revived by Narcan at 21? 

“I was so sick in my head. The disease took over,” she said.

Drinking on the weekends during her suburban high school years in East Longmeadow seemed merely a sport. She didn’t play another, and alcohol transformed her into a “social butterfly.” That’s where it started, as far as she can remember.

After the “fun” was over, there were stints in treatment; living in a tent in the woods in Ludlow as winter approached; dope sick, everyday; stealing jewelry and household items from her family – including her stepfather’s wedding band. He is a quiet, kind soul who took on a large, rambunctious family. Victoria, now 25, felt no remorse when she cadged and pawned it for $15 to score drugs two years ago.

But, after seven months at CHD’s Grace House in Northampton in 2017, and after much growth and her most earnest attempt at sobriety, it was the thing that stuck with her. Though it was a sprawling rock bottom — that may have been rock bottom punctuated: the stolen ring.

CHD’s Grace House is a residential treatment facility form others in early recovery. It houses up to 14 families and Victoria was lucky enough to secure a room for herself and now 5-year-old, Mason. She worked the phases, attending group therapy, seeking out AA and NA groups, a sponsor, and complied with household chores to maintain the home.

Children’s Services Director Jessica King said the model is a rarity across the state, in that it accepts mothers who are pregnant or have children up to 18. There is only one other like it outside Greater Boston. Grace House Staff builds hours into its very structured daily schedule for moms to have one-on-one time with their children for crafts, projects and free play.

The house includes a sunny playroom with bookshelves and walls of toys.

“For some of these moms, this is the first time they are parenting sober. It’s a far different experience. We help them with that,” King said.

For her part, Victoria said the same thing in a separate interview.

“They taught me how to live a life,” Victoria said. “A life that is focused on my son, my family, working and carving out a future for my son and me.”

Today, Victoria has a full-time job as a recovery counselor at Swift River in Cummington. She works overnight shifts, ushering those inactive detox through the early process. She talks with those in withdrawals through long nights, encouraging them through the next day – and another. Because that is where recovery begins. She knows from experience. There is darkness, and illness, then hope — If you’re lucky and have supports.

Victoria now has her own car, a re-established license after a DUI when she was 20. She maintains her own car insurance. These are the brass rings she has captured in recovery.

“Today, I am so grateful for everything,” Victoria said.

But … her stepfather’s ring. It stayed with her.

“When I got clean, it just ate me alive,” she continued, adding that she spent this Black Friday searching for the very ring

So, late last year, she bought the same one for him, wrapped it up and gave it back.

Her mother and stepfather, factory workers, unwrapped the gift, accompanied by a note from Victoria:

“I’m slowly trying to right the wrongs,” it read.

The gesture was met with a big, silent hug.

Victoria visits Grace House as a graduate often. She keeps binders of her journals. She shares them with others and often revisits them herself.

“I don’t think I can save everyone. But if I can save one person …”

If you or a loved one would like to seek treatment for addiction, visit CHD.org to learn more about our spectrum of residential, outpatient and in-home services.

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