As the third child and only girl, Lisa longed to be daddy’s little girl. Too young at the time to understand that her father had a problem with drugs and alcohol, Lisa resented her mom for leaving her dad. Her early childhood wasn’t easy. Lisa was sexually abused in and out of her home and church, which diminished her trust in people. At 15, she began dating a young man and dropped out of school. By 18, Lisa was a mother to a baby girl and working two jobs. She didn’t socialize, go out, or party until she turned 21 and her relationship with her daughter’s father ended.
At age 22, Lisa was in a new, serious relationship. He introduced her to alcohol, encouraging her to take a drink to loosen up. She didn’t like the taste or smell, but she noticed that the drink changed her. She was engaging, laughing and singing. But alcohol had not taken over her life yet.
By 24, Lisa was no longer in a relationship and started drinking more. The drinks allowed her to forget about her ex-boyfriend and feel free of any thoughts that would bring her down. It was at that point that she committed to a relationship with alcohol. Not long after, she was introduced to crack. Her mom, whom she was living with at the time, saw that Lisa had a problem and suggested a detox program.
1993 was when Lisa entered her first recovery program and was introduced to Samaritan Inns, a D.C.-based nonprofit combating homelessness and addiction. She recalls entering the beautiful home with wooden floors and big chandeliers as everything a young lady would need in life. Of course, Lisa wanted to do the right thing and build the right relationships, but she knew deep inside that she wasn’t being true and honest with her counselor or herself to succeed with the program.
For years Lisa struggled with her addiction. It wasn’t until January 2004 that she hit rock bottom. Her family cut off ties. She was homeless and afraid of her own shadow. The fact that she was coughing up blood didn’t prevent her from continuing to drink, even though she wanted to stop. By February, she cried and prayed for God to help her. And by His will, she found herself back at Samaritan Inns and wrapped in the embrace of her Samaritan Inns roommate from seven years prior, who had now become an intake counselor.
April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and with nearly 15 million people ages 12 and older struggling with alcoholism, it’s important to share stories like Lisa’s to illustrate the journey and the potential of success.
Lisa’s story reminds us that recovering from addiction is a life-long journey. Each person who comes to Samaritan Inns — be it the first time or countless efforts — will have the wraparound services to get them to live a healthy and meaningful life. Its mission is to provide structured housing and recovery services in an environment of support and accountability to give men, women, and families at risk of or experiencing homelessness and who suffer from drug and alcohol addictions the opportunity to rebuild their lives.
Lisa is now living a great life. With the confidence she gained from Samaritan Inns, she went back to school to earn her GED and a degree from the University of the District of Columbia. Lisa is married and enjoying a loving relationship with her daughter and grandchildren. She is committed to her relationship with God and as a sponsor for those who reach out to her for support. Lisa does what the good people and support networks of Samaritan Inns have done for her.
Lauren C. Vaughan is president and CEO of Samaritan Inns, a D.C. nonprofit dedicated to combating homelessness and addictions.