“Harris House helped me gain recovery and go from disability to full time law student.”
How things were before I came to Harris House: I was at the lowest point in my life. I had been through two other treatment facilities, and my insurance had run out for additional treatment. My father had died earlier in the year as a consequence of a long period of alcoholism. Then my older sister found Harris House.
Individualized program at Harris House: Harris House gave me a more individualized approach to sobriety than other programs I had gone through. Our groups were smaller, and I had more opportunities for one-on-one therapy. The family sessions on Tuesday nights were important for us – both of my sisters and my mom came weekly. My counselor was both understanding and encouraging.
Harris House aftercare, then a good job and law school: I would have moved into long term care at Harris House, but I had the opportunity for a safe and sober environment living with my mother. I also returned to Harris House routinely for aftercare, and just to be around others in recovery. This aftercare sets Harris House apart from other options, and I came to every follow up meeting. My friends and the counselors knew what it was like to have bad days and cravings, and they provided a support system. I continue to attend AA meetings, including one at Harris House.
I got off disability and went back to work after leaving 28-day treatment, but resigned soon after and then found a good position with Edward Jones. I entered St. Louis University law school part time, and now I am a full time law student there and expect to graduate in May.
“I was doing heroin, sleeping on a couch at work, and self-medicating my bipolar disorder by drinking. Now I am on medications, stable and working.”
How it was: I was physically, mentally and spiritually sick before coming to Harris House. I was doing heroin, the only place to sleep was on the couch at the vintage shop where I worked in Columbia, Mo, or sometimes in a friend’s basement. I had been diagnosed as bipolar at age 15, began drinking at 16, asked to leave home at 17. I got a high school diploma. Then at age 20, I went to rehab for the first time and relapsed. I had just been kicked out of another rehab and diagnosed with hepatitis C before I called Harris House.
At Harris House: I immediately felt comfortable. My mom drove me, and checking in was a positive experience. The staff here is dedicated, it is personal, and they all care about you. The food is much better. The focus is on all aspects of addiction – medical, psychological, spiritual. And the spiritual part is not pushy – you are guided through the process without requiring organized religion. Both of my parents drove in from Columbia on Tuesdays for family sessions, and through the counseling we learned to communicate better. It turns out that two of my grandparents on one side of my family were alcoholic, and the disease contributed to their early death.
Long-term and transitional programs: I moved next door to the long-term program for three months, went to four or five 12-step meetings a week, and unemployment gave me an opportunity to find a good job. I also went through the RAVEN anger management program, where I am now a mentor. I eventually moved in order to live with a lifelong friend.
How it is now: I knew that I was going to move next door, although I had been in Oxford Houses before and had not had good experiences. The women here support each other. I had some medical issues during the winter, and took a while to stabilize – but I kept working the program and it was good that I was at Harris House when that happened. Having Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings at Harris House is fantastic. I began working a waitress job. I am in the three-quarter transitional house now. Most months I am able to drive to Columbia to see my family. And I am planning to get back into painting and artwork soon.
“I was homeless in Los Angeles, drinking and doing lots of drugs, and nobody even knew where I was. Two years later, I am a home health nurse in St. Louis.”
How it was: I had been drinking since I was 13 years old, and smoked pot daily from the same age. After quitting work as a nurse, I had cashed out my 401(K) account and spent the money on crystal meth, GHB, ketamine – you name it. Finally I was homeless in an alley in Los Angeles, without a cell phone. I found a friend who was willing to call my family, who did an intervention. A therapist recommended Harris House to my family.
At Harris House: I don’t remember much of the first three weeks, except that I cried a lot and went through detox. People were encouraging, but I knew nothing about the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous or the disease of addiction. I did learn that this disease runs in families – I have a grandfather who died of alcoholism, two uncles in recovery, and a brother who has been through treatment a couple of times. The whole of Harris House is a great place to recover.
The Women’s House long-term residential program: After graduating from the 28-day program, I moved next door to the women’s house, and I don’t know that I would have stayed sober if I had not been pushed to do that. I was far removed from the real world, and the structure there kept me focused on recovery. I went to Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon meetings, got a sponsor, and worked the steps. I got a job as an office manager for a therapist. My family became involved and supportive,
How it is now: I am a home health nurse, which is much less stressful than being a nurse in the ER. I go to at least three meetings per week, and continue to work with my sponsor. The Harris House program is good for people who need to re-enter reality slowly. I felt safe there.
“I can tell you how lucky I was in coming to Harris House. I am in recovery and can deal with issues without becoming violent.”
How it was: I was desperate, miserable, and often out of control, and couldn’t even take kids to see Santa Claus without getting high first. I had failed an outpatient addition treatment program ten years before. My “bottom” came after I had been drinking all day. I was whacked out of my mind. I had pulled a knife on the woman I was living with, and then she called police who came in with tazers. I was arrested for a felony, and spent New Year’s in jail handcuffed to a bench, wearing a paper suit. My family would not come get me–I had been estranged from them for seven years. But a friend told them I really wanted help, and my sister got me to Harris House the day after I was released from jail.
At Harris House: I was scared and I cried all day the next day. But the staff was kind to me. Then I started to open up. Everybody is expected to be honest in group, and talk about what is driving their drinking. My sister came to family meetings, my mom came to visit.
How it is now: I actually have relationships with people, and they are not based on grams or fluid ounces. I found out in recovery what friends and family are. Being vulnerable helps you heal. Harris House was a golden opportunity that permanently changed how I think. If you are coming to Harris House, I can tell you how lucky you are about to be.