Before: Life for Monique revolved around her 40-year substance use disorder with alcohol and drugs. She started using at 19 and supported her habit with shoplifting, fraud, and identity theft, racking up more than 20 felonies and prison terms.
After: Monique has been sober since 12/17/18. She works as a state certified recovery coach, lives in transitional housing for women re-entering from the prison system, attends weekly church and bible study, and has rebuilt relationships with her grown children.
Compassionate people weave together a strong theme in Monique’s success story and healing: a judge giving her three chances with probation, a stranger on a train heading to a recovery meeting, as well as two recovery coaches from Houston Recovery Center. All of these people played a part in her life at just the right moment.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without Houston Recovery Center,” says Monique, “especially due to my coaches Sydrena and Kearn.”
The Beginning of the End of Jail
Monique’s life started to change when her first arrest for drug possession landed her in RIC specialty court in June 2017. Judge Brock Thomas evidently saw something in me, she says. He gave her a chance for treatment and didn’t send her to jail.
“I was in total shock because I’ve never had probation,” Monique says. “I’ve been going to jail since I was 19.”
This opportunity turned into a pattern of second chances, again and again. Monique would complete her treatment and immediately use again the same day she got out. She called Sydrena, her peer recovery support specialist, and told her. Monique admitted she was surprised Sydrena didn’t give up on her.
Monique caught a new case and was assigned to a different court. The judge gave her 25 years. Her lawyer asked to get Judge Thomas’ opinion. Judge Thomas didn’t agree with the 25-year term and gave her probation. She asked herself, “Who is this man?”
Monique said seeds were planted during her treatment, even though she kept using, and that was due to Houston Recovery Center.
“Once the seed of change is planted, you can never comfortably get high again,” she relates. “That’s because all the questions kicked in once I got high – why didn’t I call Miss Sydrena, why didn’t I find a meeting, why don’t I get a sponsor.”
Monique says Houston Recovery Center helped get her a place to live, get in the habit of going to meetings, and gave her support since she didn’t know many people.
Monique got a third chance at probation after failing a drug test. Monique admits she was disgusted with herself and fed up with the pattern. One day, she was determined not to use and rode the rail. The man next to her wore pins stamped 30 days and 60 days sober. She was envious. She told him she liked his pins. He was heading to a recovery meeting at ReCenter and invited her to go.
“I got another chance, and I’ve never looked back since,” Monique relates. She lived at the ReCenter, got a job and was promoted to case manager after six months.
Planning for the Future
Monique remembered when recovery coaches would come to the prison to visit her, and she thought “I could be good at that job.” When Steven Brinkman, CEO of ReCenter, asked about her goals one day, she shared her dream. He told her to find a recovery coach certification class, and he would pay for it. One again she got another chance.
“I wouldn’t have my sobriety or be the recovery coach that I am if it wasn’t for coaches Miss Sydrena and Miss Kearn working with me no matter what,” Monique says.
Kearn Ardoin is her coach now. She’s helped her get appropriate clothes through Dress for Success and learn to set boundaries with her grown children.
“Houston Recovery Center is still working in my life,” Monique relates. “Kearn still comes to see me every week, no matter where I am.”
Today, Monique lives in Brigid’s Hope, a housing program for women coming out of prison that teaches them how to live a sober life. They attend housing meetings, meet with a trauma therapist, and do activities such as attend retreats, make a vision board, and run a 5K.
“The goal of Brigid’s Hope is to help me see what Monique likes, because I don’t know this person,” she relates. “I’m just meeting her, because for so long I was someone else.”
Her advice for others struggling? Get some help. “Find somebody working this program and latch on to them,” Monique says. “It was impossible for me to do this alone.”
Monique’s former partner-in-crime came to her recently and asked for help since she is the only person she knows who has stayed sober. “I knew you in your addiction, and I’ve seen who you’ve become, and I want to be like you,” Monique says. “If I can help one person out of this whole journey, then I’ve done my job.”