Deana arrived at Women’s Fellowship in November of 2013 full of determination and the willingness to succeed in recovery. She began to work a 12-step program and take suggestions. She started setting smalls goals which she quickly achieved. In 2014, she was asked to be a housing manager at Women’s Fellowship, she became a role model and inspiration to the residents. Deana’s aspirations did not end there, she went back to school and received her CAP. In 2016, Deana moved out of Fellowship to pursue other opportunities. Although Deana moved out, she has stayed connected to the Fellowship Community, actively participating in outreach, recovery events, and continuing to share her story as a role model to our residents as a reminder of what they can achieve if they chase recovery.From the bottom of our hearts Deana, thank you for all you do for the recovery community and all your continued support of Fellowship. Here is Deana’s story in her own words, she is a living embodiment of the hope and positivity that can lead to a beautiful life in recovery.
I began experimenting with drugs and alcohol when I was in high school, around 16 years old. I was always an overachiever in every sense of the word, straight A’s, and an athlete. However, I remember feeling like I never fit in, that there was something wrong with me, and no one liked me. When I started using substances, the insecurities I once felt dissipated, and I thought I had found the answer to my problems. Little did I know that substances would be the problem for the next 20 years, which began the downward spiral known as my life.
I couldn’t get enough substances to escape the pain, and I continued to do more things to cause more guilt and shame. My parents intervened and sent me to South Florida for rehab, but I wasn’t ready. I proceeded to find ways and means of using drugs to continue escaping the pain of my life.
My substance use landed me in jail numerous times, strained all my relationships, and prevented me from doing anything productive with my life. I was not able to have a job, a home, or any responsibilities. In 2008 while in jail after being arrested for the 20 something time, I found out I was pregnant. I was in acute withdrawal from Heroin, and the last thing I wanted to hear was that I was having a baby. I couldn’t even take care of myself; how would I take care of a baby. I had lost my parental rights to my first daughter because I couldn’t stop using drugs. The guilt and shame of that fueled my drug use. Now all those feelings were flooding back to me. I was scared and alone. The judge wanted to help me, so he put me in a drug court program, which is the only reason why I didn’t continue to use drugs during my pregnancy. I was miserable the whole time.
Unfortunately, after having my daughter Mia I didn’t stay clean. I found it necessary to subject myself to more emotional pain. But then, one day, the pain had gotten great enough. The fear of staying the same, a hopeless junkie, became greater than the fear of taking action to change. I landed in jail for the last time on 8/8/2013, which is the beginning of the rest of my life. My recovery journey had begun.
I had been court-ordered to the county treatment center, and it was there that my case manager suggested I go to a halfway house. I didn’t know much about halfway houses or what to expect, but I knew I had to do things differently. It was then I was connected to Fellowship Recovery Community Organization. I had a friend who I knew during my active addiction that was now in recovery and the manager at Fellowship. When I arrived, I was welcomed by a group of women with open arms. They put me in a room with a bed, clean sheets, and towels. I felt like a real human being for the first time in years. I was ready to do whatever it took to stay clean and change my life.
I took all the suggestions and followed all the rules at Fellowship. I started going to 12 step recovery group meetings, got a sponsor, and started working the steps. I got a small job, which enabled me to start paying my own rent. This was a pivotal moment in my recovery. This simple act of getting a job and paying my own rent was so empowering. I began to believe in myself. After achieving one year clean, I was offered the job as house manager at Fellowship, at which time I was provided an apartment that had room for my daughter, Mia, to move in. How amazing!! I was so afraid to be a Mom. I was scared of all responsibilities. However, being able to live life on life’s terms while still being supported by the community at Fellowship RCO gave me the confidence I needed. I was able to make amends with my family and rebuild those relationships. I was also given the opportunity to go to school, which enabled me to get my Certified Addictions Professional Certification through the Florida Certification Board. This opened doors for me, and the opportunities presented. I lived at Fellowship from November 28, 2013, until I moved out in November 2016. I was so scared to leave because I felt so safe there, but I knew that I had to fly for me to continue to grow.
Since moving out of Fellowship, all areas of my life continue to improve when I choose recovery. I went back to school and got my master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. It was through my pain I found my purpose. I want to help people like myself who struggle with mental health and substance use issues. I bought my own home for my daughter and me. I continue to get better jobs and more financial security for my family. I stayed out of relationships during the early years of my recovery and focused on finding ways and means of improving our lives. I recently got engaged to the love of my life, and we are now planning a wedding.
Today, I continue to do what I did to get clean to stay clean. I work a recovery program, which includes going to meetings, working with my sponsor, doing service, and no matter what, I don’t use drugs. I had a brown paper bag with a pair of flip flops, shorts, and a T-shirt when I arrived at Fellowships doors. Today, I own a home filled with love, happy memories, and plans for the future. I am a mother, fiancé, soon to be wife, a daughter, sister, and a friend.
Rick and Susan Riccardi are like my family down here in South Florida. I will forever be grateful for their love and support. Still to this day, almost eight years later, they celebrate with me and encourage me. My clean date is August 8, 2013. I have over seven and half years clean. I am currently just finishing the first year of my doctoral program. I am getting my Ph.D. in Counseling Education and Supervision. This degree will allow me to affect change in the recovery community on a larger platform. If you think you have messed up your life so bad, you will never be able to fix it…I will have to argue with you, and I will win. With some guidance, support, love, surrender, willingness, and self-honesty, the possibilities are endless.