If you’re a teenager in Dayton, Ohio you do what most teenagers do, which is just about everything you know to fit in. Especially if you wear braces and are told you don’t look right, and your mother calls you names you don’t understand. Friends are vital at this stage and so if the older, “hot” girls you want to hang with go out and drink to excess, then you do that too. You don’t know at the time, that you have a propensity for addiction because both of your parents, who are children of alcoholics, are also alcoholics. You don’t know that the empty hole in your heart cannot be filled. Not with other people. And certainly not with drink. In Dayton Ohio, in 2002, people didn’t talk about those kinds of things, at least not with Charity.
Second oldest in a family of five children, Charity was sixteen when she started down the path to addiction. For most of her high school years she was an athlete, what she calls a little “weird,” and the drinking made her feel a part of something. She recalls thinking that it was under control. When she turned eighteen, the braces came off, her body changed and suddenly she was a bonified “hot” girl with an abundance of attention. Not only had her body changed, but her confidence had soared. With a scholarship to play volleyball at a nearby college, she was on her way out of town, leaving the past, and living the dream, when she learned that she was pregnant. Ditching the path to higher education, Charity married the child’s father at the age of nineteen. It was a mistake.
Charity ran; from her child, her job, her husband, her town. For the next several years she stumbled through bars and boyfriends and blackened eyes. She solemnly admits that “bad things happened.” So bad were the things that happened, that Charity was barely recognizable. Brutalized and abandoned, she turned more and more to alcohol. “It was the only thing that made it tolerable,” she says. Every time something bad happened, alcohol was there for her. When everyone else was keeping their distance, alcohol was close at hand.
By 2006, Charity was sleeping on the streets and prostituting, using every illicit drug she could get her hands on, except, she says, heroin. What she admits was a “very dark period of my life” landed her in the hospital on several occasions. This continued for the next six years when in 2012 she says, “God smashed me into a wall.” Almost literally. Another brutal episode with an angry man sent her face-first through a glass window. Seeing shards of glass strewn across the floor, she picked one up and began slicing at her wrists. “I just wanted to feel something,” she recalls. The man who had tossed her through the glass gathered his wits and called the authorities. She remembers thinking that she should run, but instead she just sat and waited. It was a decision that turned her life around. She had lost touch with her family, had no friends, and nowhere to go.
As she waited among the shards of glass, a probation officer with “big blonde hair” entered the room and knelt beside her, and softly explained, “You are going to jail for a short time, but you are not a bad person. You just need help.” Charity remembers that she had no idea what the officer was talking about.
The next 39 days were spent in jail and upon release, she was met outside by the probation officer with the big blonde hair, who promptly drove her to a women’s recovery center in a nearby town. It was the dead of winter, cold and gray. Before dropping Charity at the center, the probation officer pulled a white “bubble coat” from the trunk of her car and handed it to Charity, saying it looked like she needed some comfort. Charity graciously accepted the coat and spent the next three months in treatment, where she learned that she had a disease: that she was sick and that it was treatable.
That was ten years ago, and today Charity lives in Arizona. Upon arrival in Sierra Vista, her first thought was her mental well-being. “I wanted to be sure that I took care of my mental health first because I didn’t want things to sneak up on me.” She had been through dozens of counselors and psychiatrists, and she was seeking alternatives when she encountered HOPE, Inc. Sierra Vista. “It’s all about relationships. I learn so much from other people, not only about them but about myself.” She found the staff at HOPE to be “genuine,” providing the support and resources she needed to move forward in this new episode of her life.
For a long time, Charity carried the white “bubble coat” in the trunk of her car. On a cold gray day last February, Charity encountered a woman on the street who looked like she could use some comfort and she knew immediately what to do. The “bubble coat” now belongs to someone named Christina.