From Homeless to Hope
I’ve come through a lot in my life. I was a crack addict. I spent years in abusive relationships. I was homeless for a time, and at other times lived in the shell of a building where murders and rapes were happening. But today, I’m living a different life now. I’m in a whole different place.
What brings me the most joy today is being able to give back to the people in those places. I am a dedicated volunteer at Hope For New York, and I help at the MAPC / St. James shelter on a weekly basis. I also recently became a shelter monitor for the Coalition For The Homeless in NYC. Hearing the gratitude from those I serve, who are down themselves, feels so special.
My name is Sharon, and I am a real estate agent in New York City. Along with the other nonprofit organizations, I also serve at the Recovery House of Worship. I’ve re-found my passion for writing, and I’m in the process of writing a book now, and I love to give back my time to help those in need.
Swept Up in the Party Lifestyle
When I volunteer, people don’t believe me when I tell them of my past. I grew up in a religious family in Georgia, and always dreamed of doing something with entertainment. After high school, I moved to Brooklyn in order to pursue my dreams, figuring they were more likely to happen in the city that never sleeps. Seeing all of the bright lights motivated me even more. I got a job and also took a finance class as I pursued my dreams. But I got swept up in the crack cocaine epidemic. This was in the 1980s.
I found work and met people who had a lot of money. I always wanted to fit in and ended up getting sucked into an unhealthy scene. A guy with whom I was living introduced me to crack cocaine. He had a good-paying job, and bought me jewelry and nice clothes. We would go clubbing five nights a week. It was fun at first, but things soon started to fall apart as I began to get deeper and deeper into drugs.
For the next twelve years, my life revolved around getting high. I managed to keep my appearance together, and I had two kids, but I was living in abusive relationships. I stopped going out because I just wanted to stay home and get high. The drug took so many of us out of who we were and turned us into people we no longer recognized. People disrespected us as we disrespected ourselves; it was especially hard as an African-American woman.
Faith and Family Brought Me Back
Eventually, I ran away from this situation and ended up homeless, living in one of the most notorious welfare hotels in New York City. Throughout this time, and my addiction, I would continue to pray, while I was still getting high all the time. A door opened up for a new place to live, but it was still tough to find a community that was making healthy choices.
After being in the new place for a few years, I sat down one night and took a good long hard look at my kids and said to myself, “I want better for them. I don’t want anyone to have to tell my kids I overdosed or lost my life to drugs.” Around this time I also noticed that I would get aching pain in my arm when I got high. That also scared me, and I started being able to cut back some. Prayer, community, and reconnecting with my faith helped me move in a healthier direction. Life really began to change. God helped bring me back. The last time I got high was in 1994.
What You Believe About Your Process Matters
Finding sobriety through the renewal of my connection with God actually helped me navigate some hard things in life. Six years after getting sober, my daughter, Ashley, passed away in a fire. It devastated me. I don’t know if I’d be here without God’s presence. I don’t know what I would have done without my faith, which is the reason I didn’t relapse in the midst of the pain.
As I walk with people in recovery, I always encourage them to find what works for them. Faith worked for me. What you believe about your process matters. And the journey continues. A couple years ago, after being clean and sober for more than twenty years, a friend recommended that I start seeing a specific therapist, Shirleen Roeback, for some additional mental health issues. It has been a perfect fit; she is now one of my close friends and mentors.
Rekindling Relationships and Dreams
I never knew how alive I could actually be until after I started recovery. Recently, I rekindled a friendship with a woman I knew three decades ago. We used to party together, and somehow got separated through the years, but she found and got sober through a twelve step program and now we attend the same church. We recently took a picture and I wrote in the headline, “30 years ago we were addicted together on crack cocaine, and look at us today!”
I have a profound appreciation for family, which is something that I didn’t use to value. I am currently working on a book and am excited to continue to deepen my relationships with family and friends. I get so much out of encouraging people who are struggling to know they can be completely transformed. In fact, I have the opportunity to share my journey next month in front of the entire congregation at my church and show there’s nothing to be ashamed of, but if I can come alive again after recovery, anyone can.