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We sat down with Andrea, Weld Seattle’s new Office Manager and a trusted House Manager, to give us the skinny on what it was like to get involved with Weld. Her story is a powerful example of how one person getting free can open the door for those behind them. Read on for more of Andrea’s journey and how things have turned out…
Tell us a little about life before Weld Seattle
“I have been a member of the Weld program for a year now. I am somebody with experience. I went to jail a couple of times and came to Weld out of drug and alcohol treatment.
When I went into drug and alcohol treatment this last time, I had completely exhausted all of my resources, all of my relationships, and all of my options. I literally owned nothing. I had nothing at all except the suggestions of others and what worked for them. Those suggestions were absolutely my only option to move forward and try to get this thing.
Substance abuse was something that I struggled with on and off my whole adult life. At one point, I had 12 years of sobriety. I had had long stints of sobriety, but whenever I would relapse, I would burn everything to the ground.
In my last relapse, I added heroin to the list of drugs that I was using. Within two months, I overdosed and was technically dead. Thank God I was found in time and my life was saved.
Two months before that relapse, I was in a waterfront apartment with a great job. I was dating. I was taking care of myself in a normal way.
But what I believe I hadn't done was take the time to put a good recovery routine in place, so I would be able to handle stressful things, and set boundaries around people that I didn't need to hang around—people that weren't doing the right thing and weren't taking care of themselves.
So that was what I learned this last relapse. I also learned that just because I'm a drug addict does not mean that I'm not an alcoholic. My experience with alcohol in my last relapse showed me that I am definitely an alcoholic.
When I was in the hospital, recovering from that heroin overdose, I didn't have a phone. I had basically come back from death and I didn't have anything. I didn't have any phone numbers, nothing. But I remembered the phone number of a guy I knew from the drug scene who had four years sober. I called him and he said, ‘Hey, I work a couple of blocks away. I’ll be right there.’
He told me he was working for Weld and that he was coming to visit me. So he came to the hospital, scooped me up, gave me a big ol’ hug. And he said ‘We're going to get through this.’ I went straight to treatment from there. He talked to Carolyn, who is a Weld house manager. I did a phone interview with her, and after that my family applied for me to get into Weld.
The only thing I did was be willing to do whatever anyone said. I took whatever opportunity presented itself and said yes.”
On the lifesaving power of community….
“Before I came into recovery, I believed it meant I was going to have a boring life. I thought I wasn’t going to have fun or be social anymore. All those fears were there.
One of my biggest wishes and prayers coming into recovery was ‘Dear God, let me please make friends. Dear God, let me please be connected to people.’ And I meant connected to people in ways that are not just about ego, you know? Which is unfamiliar territory for a drug addict.
It was scary, but I feel such a sense of usefulness now that it brings me to tears. I'm just so grateful to help others because what I get to do every day here keeps me sober and I couldn't have written a recipe for that myself.
It's been a year now. Now I am the Office Manager for Weld, as well as a House Manager. I have a 20-year background as a paralegal, so my work skills transferred over really well into Weld.
I handle many different things in the office capacity. I work closely with the housing department and Weld Works in various capacities. I communicate with members constantly about where they're at with their rent payments. I communicate with utility companies about getting utilities set up for the houses, things like that. I also train women that want to be House Managers in the Weld program.
On the gifts of being a House Manager
I make sure that the house is a community setting where people can trust each other, and make sure that recovery life is really evident in the houses. We do that by doing daily meetings and making sure that people are comfortable in saying - “Hey, this is uncomfortable. Every day, I feel completely uncomfortable as a sober person, and I feel like a weirdo.” That's how I felt! And I want people to be able to express that, because being comfortable with us and having enough trust to express that is literally what saved my life.
So I want people to be able to experience that move forward. I want them to be able to work through their steps, and then be able to be house managers themselves and know that they're ready to do it.
When I have said to someone, “Hey, I think you're ready to be a house manager.’ They usually say ‘Who, me?!’ Because they can't see themselves and see how impactful they are in their community. But the most inspiring gift I get to give is to say ‘Yeah, you're ready. Please help others.’
And there it goes, and it's passed on again and again and again.”
On how the past year has changed her life…
In the past year, I have been able to take steps in my spiritual life and put others first instead of myself.
Through Weld and various 12 step programs, I've been able to be comfortable doing whatever inconvenient stuff I've had to do to help others, to be a part of a team or a friend or a family member. To be able to be happy being all of those things was my biggest prayer. That was the feeling that I was chasing with drugs and alcohol.”
On reconnecting with family…
“Through doing 12 step work, I've been able to make amends with my family. We're still in the building trust phase. I lost a couple of marriages because of my inability to be a partner because of this disease. I've been working on my ability to be a parent. The father of my children is supportive of my recovery and I can see my kids whenever I want. They live in another state, I speak to them on FaceTime every day now. I can go visit whenever I want, which is huge.
My only roadblock with my family and with being a mother was me all along. It’s like an eighties movie—you go on this big adventure and you think everybody's against you. Turns out it was really me all along—in all the great ways and all the bad ways.
I want people to know that if they are the kind of addict or alcoholic that cannot stay sober, no matter how hard they try, no matter what they do, there is an answer here. If they are willing to be part of a recovery community, willing to do things that they might not want to do every day—recovery-based things; if they're ready and willing to help others and help themselves, then there is a family and community waiting for them at Weld.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves Andrea. Weld Seattle is comprised of people helping people. Our community-based model of empowerment means that individuals here get a hand-up, not a handout, and walk shoulder to shoulder with people who have been there themselves. There is nothing more powerful than using your experience to elevate those who have had the same kind of trouble. We have all got skin in the game, and an eagerness to see our brothers and sisters find a better way to live.
If you or someone you know is ready for a fresh start, reach out today.
Matthew Chapman works hard to make your home buying or selling experience enjoyable and gives part of every commission to help a person in need.