During the nearly 30 years she spent as an alcoholic and crack cocaine addict, Jennifar T. abandoned her two youngest kids. She saw a man she’d been with only minutes earlier gunned down 10 feet from her. She contracted HIV. Finally, one day a few years ago she could hardly stay awake to watch her one-month-old granddaughter.
“All I wanted was drugs and drugs. That was just devastating to me,” Jennifar says. “That’s what did it.”
She went to the health clinic for her HIV medication and confessed how sick and disappointed she was with herself for not being able to care for her granddaughter. “They said that was my sign.” After going home to pack some clothes, she went straight into treatment. She completed an initial phase then moved into Bonaventure House for 18 months, graduating last spring.
“Here they make you do the right thing,” she says. “And I just really appreciate them—you just don’t know. They saved my life.”
Jennifar raves about Bonaventure House, from the spiritual care she received to the healthcare, learning such skills as keeping appointments, maintaining hygiene and taking medications; and looking inside herself for the reasons she made past choices, talking about those choices and moving forward. She earned her certified nursing assistant certificate while a resident. Since drugs had ruined her teeth, she went to the dentist and received a new set of teeth, which she proudly brushes every day.
“The health system here is magnificent,” she says. “They help us so much.”
She learned that drugs and alcohol had been masking an underlying depression, and how to manage it through medication and therapy. But now, Jennifar says, “I use life as a medicine. It treats me. It makes me stronger. It makes me not want to do drugs.
“I feel good about myself right now. I have no reason to be depressed. I have no reason to pop a pill to try to sedate it. I have reasons now to be happy.”
Jennifar lives in her own apartment now, just three stops from Bonaventure House, where she volunteers once a week. She babysits her grandchildren, stays sober and plans to go back to school. When people ask how she turned her life around, she says, “If you want it, you can achieve it. You have to want it.”
Gratitude centers her. “Anytime someone’s trying to help you, I think you should try to put some help back into it,” she says. “And be thankful, first of all. Be thankful. Because I am so appreciative for what Alexian Brothers has done for me. I can honestly say I’m a proud grandmother now. And my kids, my mother, my cousins, my nieces—everyone is proud. They’re happy. And they all send their thanks for what you’ve done for me.”
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