A Former Felicity Resident
A little over three and a half years ago I found myself at the bottom of a desperate hole that I couldn’t save myself from. I had spent the last twelve years of my life as a chronic drug addict and an alcoholic. In my addiction I was running from a life that was mired with trauma, dysfunction and disease. My addiction was not simply the formulation of too much partying gone wrong. Rather it was an attempt to self-medicate because of my families legacy of neglect, dysfunction and adversity.
I came to Felicity house with one notion in mind. I knew I needed to plant myself somewhere that would allow me to start living day-to-day in a way that would mirror regular, healthy, sober living. I knew I needed structure to put together those first few months of sobriety, and hopefully those months would grow into years. I was taking a leap of faith because I had no other options left, I had to trust that this thing would work, if not, my situation would only lead to homelessness, incarceration or possibly death.
When I tell people about my experience with Felicity House, I tell them the house saved my life, and forever I will be grateful. It wasn’t only the house, but it was also the beautiful community that surrounds the house. Because it has been up and running for so many years, there is a tribe of dedicated, loving people that make sure that they stay involved, volunteer, and give their time, energy and love in service. What I needed most of all as a chronically-ill drug addict was to be able to surrender. In order to surrender one must trust that they are safe, loved and taken care of. That is what Felicity House gave to me, and like I said earlier for that I will be forever grateful.
Throughout the years I spent as an addict I managed to string together enough college credit to transfer to a four year university. Immediately after getting sober I was faced with the dilemma of what to do with myself. I could go out and find some kind of work much to my sisters urging. Or I could do what I know I wanted to do all along, and that is finally complete my college education. I immediately threw myself back into school. Within two years I finished a bachelor’s degree, followed by the instant pursuit of a masters degree in social work, which I am currently working on. When people ask me why I have chosen the profession of social work, I reply because it is what I relate closest to because of my own experiences in life. In the dilemmas I tend to with my clients, I see myself. And if it weren’t for the kindness and care of other people reaching out and lending a hand, I don’t know if I would have made it. Muhammad Ali put it best when he said “service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” At this point in my life, I am simply paying the rent for my room here on earth.
— anonymous, 2013
On a very base level, my story is essentially like any other’s whose life has been seriously impacted by drug and alcohol addiction. In many ways the emotional or internal journey of my story can be likened to a tragically epic, love story of a girl too young, naive and unaware of herself to be tangled up with such an alluring, sophisticated partner. How easy it is to be seduced by feelings of new love: the flirting, the excitement, the quickened heartbeats, the sheer delight; feeling desired, wanted, loved, admired—so much so that I forget how I once despised life, people... and myself. I am distracted away from those unbearable feelings of isolation, loneliness, anger, fear. So I give myself completely over to this new love without question because why would I willingly choose despair when I can so easily feel on top of the world.
And for some, as it did with me, this essentially hedonistic relationship led to actual inspiration, passion, production, success. With my muse in hand, I gained confidence, fearlessness, ambition, vision. I took risks and I was rewarded for them. I broke rules and I was loved for it. Oh what a grand couple we were! The two of us were going to save the world! And how I loved my partner for uplifting me to such a selfless deed. And all the while, my sense of self-worth became tied to the amount of admiration and acclaim I received from the outside world. And then, as with all one-sided relationships where I am only taking, there came a day when I eventually deplete all the stimulation I can take from my beloved partner. I tried to take more but the fears wouldn’t disappear. Artistic production slowed and I became complacent as a way to combat my fears. I developed a complex fantasy world to compensate my further alienation from reality. My desperate need for outside validation and my overwhelming fear that I would never again achieve that need drove me to seek oblivion.
Many years past, precariously clinging to my partner, and finally even oblivion could not be reached. I found myself, in brief moments of clarity, unable to get out of bed, lying in my own filth, not showering for weeks, wondering in despair what had happened, who am I, and what is to become of me. My cherished partner who had once given me feelings of happiness, then inspiration, and finally oblivion had stopped given me anything at all. I was left alone and began hating my love for abandoning me—I blamed everything on my once-devoted partner. Twenty years of dependency on this ever-changing, ever-elusive and insidious partner had left me severely underdeveloped in the development of myself as a conscious being. And even with this realization, I still continued, chasing after my partner who is now running from me, trying to escape this fact, trying to escape me. And as with all sad sagas, it ends with a severe incident of insurmountable proportions, such as involuntary imprisonment, necessary to forcibly remove me out of my deep hole of despair and degradation and offer me a chance at a new way of life...
Parallel and in contrast to this love-story analogy of my internal and emotional ties to drugs and alcohol, the following is how this same story played out as perceived from the outside and to everyone else: drinking and using, fun, fun, fun, college, success, success, success, grad school, MFA, homeless, increased drinking and using, overdose, methadone maintenance (while still using), rapid detox, fancy rehab, relapse, back to fancy rehab to fancy sober living, relapse, inpatient medical detox to a very unfancy rehab and then off to women’s recovery home, relapse, head-on collision with parked semi, detox, outpatient treatment, relapse, homeless, criminal activity, first felony arrest and conviction, PC-1000 (state drug diversion program), detox, kicked out of detox, 72-hour psychiatric hold (which was manipulated into 48 hours) relapse, detox, rehab, sober living, relapse, homeless, multiple 28-day methadone detoxes (while still using), second felony conviction, drug court, kicked out of drug court, Prop-36, Suboxone maintenance, using, Suboxone, using, Suboxone while using, criminal activity, third felony arrest, detox in jail, overdose (current sobriety date), women’s recovery home, kicked out of women’s recovery home (not for using), sober living, sentenced to 18-months in state prison, served 9 months in prison, paroled back to same sober living, which is Felicity House...
Whether one approaches my relationship with drugs and alcohol as a pathetically dependent, love obsession or a series of absurdly excessive consequences, it is a journey that I have come to truly value and appreciate because it has brought me to the place I am today. Today I have two years clean and sober from drugs and alcohol. Within those two years, I have discovered the beauty of acceptance because I learned once I stop fighting with reality, I gain clarity on what actions I can take toward continuous expansion. I have learned to be honest with myself and identify—yet not identify with—what I think, feel, or do because that is not who I am. Who I am is simply awareness, consciousness, a constant state of becoming. I have come to love formlessness and the temporary, shifting nature of everything. I have learned to separate my ego from my awareness. I have a deep belief and faith in a higher power. I feel connected and one with the world. I have a joyful, adventurous approach to life. And I have learned the difference between knowing something and living something... The gifts I have received throughout my continued journey in sobriety are too numerous to list. And Felicity House has been and still is an indispensable and integral part of this great adventure.
One of my more deeply ingrained disempowering notions that I am learning to expand beyond is my complacency within institutions. Most of my life has been spent in one institution or another, whether it be school, university, grad school, multifarious rehabs, or prison. I know how to do institutions extremely well. In fact, I excel and thrive in these ready-made, microcosm communities that exist for very specific and directed purposes. They have proven to be ideal breeding grounds to create celebrated identities and icons (i.e., the art star, the amorphous drug addict, the revolutionary), which inadvertently functions to keep me separate—yet always highly visible (which creates the illusion of being a part of)—from everyone and from myself. I manipulated the strict structure of institutions to relinquish responsibility of self-management. So at 37 years of age, Felicity House is teaching me how to take responsibility for the orientation of my own life while the same time trusting and loving the process and having faith that I am being guided to exactly where I need to go.
In it’s most utilitarian respect, Felicity House is a sober living, a half-way house, a transitional home, which acts as a gateway into a world that I have had difficulty maneuvering in. It provides me with just the appropriate amount of structure as well as the freedom to find my own voice and my own path. Sherri, the director of Felicity House, is hugely inspirational and influential for me in this quest. She allows me the flexibility to move all my tentacles about, as wildly and distorted as I wish, yet within an elastic enclosure much like a womb that will automatically expand once I have proven to grow and expand myself through awareness and acceptance. I describe it this way because what Sherri does for each of the eight women who live in this house is very unique and tailored to each individual woman. It takes a great amount of compassion, empathy, understanding, love, insight, experience, awareness, and ego-loss to truly connect with women at different stages of their sobriety and gain their trust.
I remember when I first interviewed to come into Felicity House, Sherri said, with all sincerity, that there is magic in this house. It is this magic that makes Felicity House so incredibly potent in its ability to change the lives of women suffering from alcohol and drug addiction. This magic is found within the board members, the director, and it then trickles down to the senior resident, who is now me, to the other seven women in the house. It is this magic that bonds the women who live in this house together. It is this belief and trust in true magic that inspires me to reach for my dreams and turn them into reality. As Olivia Newton-John sings in one of my most beloved songs, "We have to believe we are magic!"
— Jennifer Moon, 2010
Me in the middle, in pink, being overly excited singing the chorus of a song performed by Slavin David & Loose Gravel during the Felicity House Annual Halloween Raffle.
My name is Lorraine Dillard and I am an alumni of Felicity House. My sobriety date is April 19, 2006. I will have 3 years sober coming up. After leaving a treatment program, I came to Felicity House in February of 2007 and was a resident through Feb 2009. Yes, that means I spent two years in this safe haven and my experience there has become a cornerstone of recovery journey.
For me it has taken twenty-five years, three different treatment programs and three previous residences at other sober living homes to get these three years. What happened was I just couldn’t stay sober. I could get sober but I just couldn’t stay that way consistently. I found out later that all along I had a reservation in the back of my mind that I could drink like a normal person. I now know that is not my truth. I will never be able to take a drink without consequences.
After a third relapse and returning to treatment again, this time at New Directions, a program for veteran women and dependents for veterans, I discovered some things about myself that I did not know earlier. One was that I always moved too fast. I always wanted to give the appearance that all was well on the outside-so I always had the plan that you get the things back (i.e. job, car, place to live, “him”, the child back) and I thought that meant your life was back on track. But as I discovered, uncovered and discarded old ideas about who I was and how my life should be, I listened to suggestions from others who were on this recovery path before me. One of the suggestions was from women who had gone through Felicity House sober and were staying sober and their lives were going to new levels.
So I saw the common denominator to be a safe, long-term structured environment that could shield me from the everyday stressors and triggers that were part of leaving treatment and beginning to live life on life’s terms. So I moved into sober living at Felicity House, (with a plan once again – to only be there 6 months). I began to change-thus, two years later my life has changed. Felicity house is the place where I learned to be myself, I learned that it was okay to not have to rush off into the world and make my place, I learned to value sisterhood in recovery and that is such an awesome gift to be given friends that care and are concerned about you. Felicity was the place where service part of recovery finally stuck in my psyche. I stayed there long enough to become the house senior and to be an example for other women who came in. It was there that I was able to share my whole self with other women, to not think of myself constantly and to provide unconditional love to another suffering alcoholic. I also was able to allow myself enough time to set realistic goals so that I could accomplish them without being overwhelmed.
I was able to walk through many things while living at Felicity House and I am so grateful that I was allowed to stay around that long. God knows, I needed those women and I needed that nurturing, loving, warm environment to grow in.
So you know I graduated from Felicity House just this March and I am now a proud Felicity Friend who supports the house-I sell raffle tickets, I attend the regular meeting at the house, I have a commitment and I stay connected to the women who are still coming through to be nurtured, loved and feel safe as they grow in recovery. I am no longer that person who could only get sober, I am the woman who is learning how to stay sober!
Peace and blessings to each of you.
I was 28 years old and my life was a “do over”. Maybe I was fried from years of drug addiction or maybe I was tired from my last relationship. I gave Brent, my X, everything including my sense of self. I was clueless and scared and living in a seedy motel in Culver City. I knew no one in LA except for the few people I recently met In AA. I couldn’t stay sober and I did not know how to live. I was unemployed, broke, emotionally volatile and hopeless. My sponsor suggested I check out The Felicity House. One week later I moved in.
For the first time in years I felt safe. It became apparent to me that my life was not the only “do over” and that my housemates were also trying to change and grow. I got a job and learned how to pay my bills. After a few months I learned to pay my bills on time. From my first night at Felicity I knew I was not alone. The laughter, love and support of the other residents filled me with hope and the possibilities of a new life.
At Felicity House I learned how to be accountable. And I learned how to communicate honestly. My first lesson was when Claire, the house senior, asked me, “Did you use the last of my coffee?” “Of course not!” I replied. Claire sighed and looked me in the eye and said, “Abby. Did you drink the last of my coffee?” “I did. I’m sorry.” I grunted while staring at my feet. I was embarrassed and…. a strange thing happened. Claire said, “Just let me know if you use the last of something so I can replace it.” Claire showed me that it was safe to be honest and it was safe to do something “wrong” Claire did not throw me away. In fact, we are still friends today.
The Felicity House taught me how to set goals and attain them. Once a month the residents had to meet with the director and discuss their goals. I started small. I learned how to make a budget. I learned to be on time and to always call if I was running late. I learned how to show up, no matter what, even if I did not feel like it. I learned how to do chores. And I learned the consequences of not doing my chore. Although I had attended NYU I had not held a real job in a several years. Felicity House taught me how to look for a job, show up for work and when the time came, how to get a better job. I learned how to be a resident in the house and how to be a friend. Most importantly, I learned how to identify my feelings and give them a name. I learned that it was Ok to feel angry and that this to shall pass. I learned how to write inventories. Through this process I began to have a relationship with myself. And I started to like me.
After I moved out of The Felicity House I continued to go the Wednesday night meeting and for a season I was the meeting secretary. And it was Felicity House and AA that taught me the truth about life the more I give the more I get to live. The Felicity House is where my new adventure began.
Today I am a graduate student at Antioch University. I work part time for my families business. I am a member of the board of directors at The Felicity House. It is a great gift to sit on the board with other women who were in the house with me and other successful women who lived in the house before me. These gifts are priceless. We are not the same people who walked into this recovery house a few years ago. We are responsible, beautiful women who recognize our own worth, each other and the importance of giving back I am forever grateful to The Felicity House for teaching me how to live and how to enjoy sobriety and life.
Abigail sitting on the Banyan tree in Bali ‘06