“My story is about me finding myself,” Renee said. “I’m not in survival mode anymore… Now I can relax and enjoy life.”
Renee’s addiction and lack of income led her to giving up custody of her oldest child, Annabelle, early on. This was not an easy decision, but it was what was best for her daughter at the time. When Renee became pregnant a few years later with her second child, Elijah, she initially denied the Mercy Center services, but when she could not financially support herself, she embraced the opportunity.
In the beginning, she was hesitant about the program due to the strict housing rules, but she found those rules are what kept her sober. Renee took this opportunity to focus on herself and her relationship with Elijah.
“I missed a lot of my daughter’s life when she was Elijah’s age because of my addiction,” she said. Being here and having the time to focus on me allowed me to spend all my time with Elijah. I’ve been able to create a strong bond with him – I never got that with Annabelle.”
A few months into the program, Renee had the opportunity to get back into Annabelle’s life. With the help of a lawyer financially supported by the Mercy Center, Renee was reunited with Annabelle. She went from not seeing her daughter at all, to supervised visits, to overnights with Annabelle at the Mercy Center. These visits meant everything to Renee because she was finally able to bond with both of her children while being sober.
Today, Renee has been sober for 22 months, recently moved into her new apartment with Elijah, and hopes to be reunified with Annabelle later this year. Now that Renee knows how to handle her finances, cope with her mental health, and maintain healthy relationships, she has time to put herself and her children first. Not being in survival mode has allowed her to spend time with friends, crochet, and, most importantly, bond with her children. Renee considers the Mercy Center to be the rock that she was able to build her home upon, and she thanks the center for teaching her how to enjoy her life.
What are you most proud of?
“I am most proud of my sobriety… Both of my kids spent a birthday here, and I consider my sobriety to be my greatest gift to them.”
What are your goals?
“My main goal was to have an income because I came here without one. I take classes online and get certifications through St. Benedict’s. I took a retail industry course and am proud to be educated again. I used to hate school, but now I want to go back and create more opportunities for myself.”
What has the Mercy Center taught you?
“I’m very thankful for the Mercy Center because sometimes you feel like you’re out of chances, but they taught me that I’m never out of chances. You don’t have to be defined by your past.”
In what way are you different now than when you first came to the Mercy Center?
“I’m not in survival mode anymore. I used to just survive to get through the week. I don’t have to do that anymore. And I found that happiness within myself.”
They are simple things.
Completing chores. Paying the bills. Scheduling a doctor appointment.
But when you’ve been ruled by the demons of drug addiction, they are herculean tasks.
“It was like being a baby and having to learn how to be an adult all over again,” Lori says.
Lori began her tenure at MCW when she was moved to Erie for rehab but didn’t have anywhere to go after completing the program.
She continues, “I lost everything [to drug addiction]. Everything. I was at rock bottom. I forgot how to do simple things.”
When she came to MCW Lori struggled with self-confidence issues, was just beginning her road to recovery from drug addiction and was unemployed. Of that time, she says, “I truly hated myself and blamed myself for so much. My caseworker recommended Mercy Center to me. I had my intake interview and a tour of the place. And I just fell in love. It was like something was in the air, telling me that everything was going to be okay. MCW has allowed me to let go of my self-hatred and begin to think, ‘maybe I’m not so bad after-all.’”
Lori embraced the spirituality, and the “24/7 family” atmosphere of MCW. She took all the programing that she could attend and accepted her first job in a long time.
“I felt like a member of society again. I felt accountable to something,” Lori said.
She reminisced on her first holiday season at MCW. Fondly rejoicing at the memory of the other women in the house reaching out to her and forcing her to come out of her room to celebrate with everyone, “I thought I would be all alone and lonely. But they did their best to make sure that we felt as ‘normal’ as possible.” The generosity of the community also lingers in her memories. “I was able to give my kids presents that year even though I didn’t have anything and that was all thanks to all the donations we received.”
Lori currently works as a home health aide, caring for elderly patients in home. She says her next step is to finally look for work using her college degree in Health and Physical Education. Lori has used the skills that she built here at MCW to rekindle relationships with her children and grandchildren.