Luminating Letter to Girls Entering High School

Luminating Letter to Girls Entering High School

Luminating Letter to Girls Entering High School

Written by Ingrid N.

Dear Rising Senior High Girls,

scientistGoing into high school was one of the biggest milestones I and any other 8th grader could ever face. With puberty came a sense of maturity and intellectual curiosity that stemmed from my passion for the physical sciences. Already well past my peers in terms of academia, my next sight was set on gaining admission at a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) magnet high school not twenty miles from where I lived, in Greenbelt, MD. The opportunity meant a chance at a better education and academic environment. But it also sowed seeds of doubt in my mind. What if I failed the entrance exam? Or worse, what if I wasn’t shaped to be in the STEM program? Panic mixed with fear flooded my stream of consciousness, as I scribbled away at my answer sheet for a spot that hundreds of 8th grade girls and boys from across the county were competing for. Nearly four hours later, I left the silent halls sullen, sore-eyed, and seething with regret and anger. Regretful of the fact that I had left nearly three pages of problems unanswered. And angry for flustering myself at the least opportune moment. I was sure I had blown it.

Or, at least I thought I had.

It was that nagging voice in my head that day that had let my doubts and insecurities avalanche into what they really were: fear. Like many of you reading this, I was intimidated by going into high school altogether, but moreso, I was intimidated by chasing after my career choice at so young an age. Compounded with the social stigma surrounding female STEM workers in a traditionally male-dominated field, and it was just a matter of time before my worries for my future reached their tipping point. As young girls, we are molded to strive for what society lets us strive for. We are told that we can have ambition and the motivation to succeed, but only in fields that are already overwhelmingly occupied by women, specifically those many perceive as the “soft” sciences. But here I–and possibly you—was, ready to tap into the field of the “hard” sciences. Enamored by algebraic concepts, Newton’s laws, and computer programming, branches of science that many girls in my school had brushed off with a insouciant shrug by the 6th grade. The sense of achievement I felt while excelling in these subjects at school was quickly left by the realization that each step toward my dream distanced me from the others. Each step towards being a competitive candidate for the STEM program gravitated me away from my peers, and further into the hands of my unknown Destiny.

But later that May, and the months that followed, I gradually learned to flush those toxic fears away. I gripped my big, bold-capped acceptance letter in my hand with a radiance and confidence I never knew I could possess, and like any other middle school graduate, I reminisced the past and embraced what would come to be my future: pre-majoring in Computer Science at the school’s prestigious magnet program. I acknowledged that through it all, I couldn’t give in to fear or let anything come between what I wanted to do. And being one of the few teen girls in my trade, I learned that I had to be my biggest supporter, in order to overcome the adversity that would linger my way. And that now more than ever, a strong work ethic was the defining factor in one’s aptitude to succeed.

For those in my shoes, who are still determined to pursue their academic focus in the sciences, or whatever daunting field that may be, never let society, your peers, or your conscience let you believe that your dreams aren’t worth chasing after. There’s no doubt that the future is scary to think about in your young teenage lives, but the sooner you navigate your interests and build your skillsets, the easier the road to your future career will be . Sometimes, you might veer off that road to self-discovery, and other times, you might have moments where you question the validity of your dream, but no journey comes without its bumps and potholes. It’s okay to be uncertain of life’s uncertainties. But just know that anything that you set your mind to, especially the sciences, can be achieved, and only you can define the standards you set for yourself. A strong work ethic and eagerness to learn can catapult you into fields you would never dream of crossing. All you have to do is open your mind—and your heart–to start your journey.

Hope in a Passport

Hope in a Passport

Hope in a Passport

Written by Christopher V.

passportThis is my passport. Although worn, it is what proves that I am an American. Although torn, it shows that not only was I born in this country but this country is also my home. Many American children whose parents are undocumented are left with just a birth certificate. They are left with the uncertainty of “will my family be able to stay in this country, or will we be forced to leave.” If their family gets deported, they’d be seen as an alien in their parent’s country.

I started raising money on Friday, December 9, and given the generosity of friends, family, and people I don’t even know, I’ve been able to raise enough money for 15 Passports ($1250 to be exact). And that’s awesome! But there’s still a need, go to Christopher’s Facebook page and see how you can help.


Why is this more important today than ever before?

In 2015,Texas wanted to deny Birth Certificates to U.S.-born children of immigrants. Although Texas ended their attempt in July of this year, given the new administration coming in 2017, new policies remain uncertain.


Why is a US passport better than a birth certificate?

A passport is the most legal document to prove one’s citizenship. It also makes dual citizenship easier should an individuals family get deported. Without it, a child risks becoming an alien within their parent’s home country.


How will the money I give result in a passport for a child in need?

I am working with churches who hold Spanish masses. To me, this is the easiest way to get the message out that help is available. The first round of passports will be ordered this week.


How much does a passport cost?

For a child, it cost $80. All donations help though, and I’ll round up the final amount so know your money will result in a passport.

Luminating Letter from Kyle Mitchell

Luminating Letter from Kyle Mitchell

Kyle Mitchell

Luminating Letter—Inspiring Hopes and Dreams

Kyle knows the frustration being felt by youth today.  Kyle’s Luminating Letter is written to inspire middle and high school students to focus on what is important as they make their decisions regarding life after high school and going to college.

My name is Kyle Mitchell and I am a recent grad from Indiana University Southeast.  In high school and through college, my goal in life was to make a lot of money.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to make a lot of money and I am still striving to make money but my number one goal in life is to inspire others.  I realized that the feeling I get from inspiring is far greater than the feeling of receiving money.  With all this being said, I hope I can inspire kids in high school who are about to go to college with this letter.

do-your-bestThe most important thing you need in college to be successful is effort.  I have friends and colleagues that tell me all the time, “I want to go to college but I am not smart enough.”  There could not be a more false statement about college.  If you put in the effort, you will see the results.  Let me tell you what college is really like.

A lot of high school students experience fear, anxiety, and apprehension when starting college.  This is normal and happens to most (including me) but really there is nothing to worry about.  As long as you can commit yourself to putting in the effort, you will be fine.  A great speaker that I highly recommend to any student to listen to is Eric Thomas.  Even out of school, I still listen to him every day.  One of Eric’s biggest things he “encourages” having phenomenal will is greater than having phenomenal skill.

If you can work on your will power and get that to a phenomenal level then you will undoubtedly succeed not just in school but in life.  You will realize in college that you have a lot less time in the classroom and that most of your learning comes outside of the classroom.  This is where that will power has to kick in for you.

Most high school students are not used to all the freedom and a majority do not know how to handle it.  It takes practice and a mindset to control your will power.  You have to know why you are doing what you are doing.

what-motivates-youWhat is your motivator?  You need to have a reason for why you are going to school.  Going to school because your parents want you to is going to make it hard to control your will power.  You need to have a deep reason that can drive you every day to get up and put everything you have into that day because only then will you feel truly successful.  There is one more element that is important to have in college/life.

The last thing I would like to touch on is having a sense of pride and passion for what you are doing.  Whether it is school, work, sports, etc., make sure you are passionate and have pride in what you are doing.  You should be able look at yourself at the end of the day and feel proud of what you did because you know that really gave it your all that day.

live-lifeTo leave off, make sure you have that effort and phenomenal will power because you only live this life once.  Don’t go to college and waste your time.  Second, develop a sense of pride in what you are doing.  If you don’t feel that pride or you don’t have a passion for what you are doing then switch to something else.  You are at the beginning of your life and it is time to take advantage of it.

Hope during the Holidays

Hope during the Holidays

treeHope during the Holidays

Written by Todd S. 

“I was just doing some shopping last night looking for this Christmas tree that I really liked and I found it. It was left on the shelf. As I placed the tree in my cart, I found the ornaments that I wanted and was ready to check out. While I was moseying along through the aisle, I heard this little girl and her mother talking:

Little Girl: Mommy, I love this tree, can we get this one, we never had a big tree before.

Mommy: I’m sorry baby, we can’t afford that tree, how about this tree right here; it’s really pretty.

Little Girl: That is too small mommy; Santa Claus will not come see me.

Mommy: Sweetie, Santa will come see you; you’ve been a really good girl.

Little Girl: Dang mommy, we’ve never had a big tree before and I really wanted one but I understand.

As I looked on at the two standing there, the little girl was on the verge of tears and I could see the Mother standing there in sadness that she couldn’t fulfill her daughters wish. I walked away feeling overwhelmed with emotions…I don’t have kids so I couldn’t imagine what she felt like inside. But I knew in my heart what I needed to do…I went to the checkout, paid for the tree and the ornaments; I explained to the checkout lady, can you check this lady out behind me, as the lady approached, she was about to put her tree on the counter and I told her, excuse me ma’am, you won’t need that tree, this tree is for you and your daughter. NO CHARGE; MERRY CHRISTMAS. Watching the little girl smiling and feeling her hug, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I gave her and her daughter the best Christmas ever!”

Confronting Conflict with Purpose

Confronting Conflict with Purpose

Confronting Conflict with Purpose

Written by Sharon Cecil

Our youth are creative strategists.  They want their world to be a safer place to live.  The frightening statistics  affecting them today regarding vulnerability to poverty, hunger, homelessness and violence are NOT acceptable.

The answer is not easy but together we can find the right pieces.

There are no simple or easy solutions to the anguish being seen around the world. Yet, young people are eager to help bring about change by confronting conflict through art.

When working with young people, it  is imperative they are in an environment where they can feel safe.  The youth open up and are extremely honest with their feelings in a relaxed, safe, informal setting.

Recently, discussions have been geared toward how youth feel about attitudes in their world.  They are seeing a shift to a culture of violence and hatred and want to offer young people options to express their discontent, anger and fear.

Artistic outlet for health and healing

There are definite benefits between health, healing and art. James W. Pennebaker, PhD is a professor of Psychology at the University of Texas, Austin.  Dr. Pennebaker has done extensive research on Writing to Heal.  In his book Writing to Heal–A guided Journal for Recovering from Trauma & Emotional Upheaval Dr. Pennebaker states, “the simple act of expressing your thoughts and feelings about emotionally challenging experiences on paper is proven to speed your recovery and improve your mental and physical health.”

We Survive designs programming that concentrate on health and wellness from all disciplines. With the Creative Expression program, “There are so many different approaches to mental and physical healing. Writing and the arts offer many choices for you to express yourself.  By releasing your emotions through some form of medium, you can improve your health.”

Hope through creative healing, Courier Journal 12-9-2014,  “We all benefit when dreams take precedence over fears. When possibilities take precedence over probabilities. When we choose love over fear.”—Nikki Giovanni, one of the best known African American poets

All forms of art have been used throughout history.  Researchers continue to explore the benefits to health and healing. The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature—US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.  “This review explores the relationship between engagement with the creative arts and health outcomes, specifically the health effects of music engagement, visual arts therapy, movement-based creative expression, and expressive writing.”

We Survive’s Portrayal of Hope provides a platform for voices to be heard through artistic talent.  It is an opportunity to take action NOW to show the world there is HOPE for the Future.

EDUCATION is the KEY to Understanding

Sunshine Joe Mallard – one of American’s premier Creative Embroidery craftsmen for more than 40 years

We may not comprehend that poverty can be an entanglement of multiple circumstances. As we send messages of inspiration and hope around the world, We Survive and “Sunshine” Joe Mallard (one of American’s premier Creative Embroidery craftsmen) would like to see you incorporate HOPE into your daily lives and reach out to your community, city and the world at large bringing awareness on the issues of poverty.

If you need help in developing ideas and or need support for your Portrayal of Hope project, please contact

Together we will change lives!

Portrayal of Hope

Portrayal of Hope

LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited 2016

LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited 2016

an Ultimate Day of Hope


On November 5, LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited once again brought education and awareness to the communities regarding issues faced by those vulnerable to poverty, hunger and homelessness.

Thanks to Matthew Simons and Simons Electronics, we were able to see the impact LIGHTFEST had made worldwide on November 5, as he displayed the 2016 Locator Map on a large screen for all to view at the LIGHTFEST Station held at St. Augustine.  Matthew also displayed pictures of activities on the LIGHTFEST Facebook page  during the event.

There was a group of little ones (looked to be 3 to about 6 years old) standing about half way into the activity area.  They were so excited about being on TV.  Listening to them had me excited for them.  They kept pointing to the screen with their sweet giggles of excitement repeatedly saying, “Did you see that? We are on TV!”

Nurturance in Nature is a cornerstone of We Survive programming.  Courtney Ellis brought a nurturing nature lesson to LIGHTFEST as she had participants planting in a small cup and talking about how useful plants are and what they do to give us a healthy life.

One little boy held onto his freshly planted seed with two Popsicle sticks saying, “I will cherish this.”  You would have thought that he was holding a pot of gold rather than a cup full of dirt.

Along with educational information from health providers, there were health screenings, chess and checker challenges, a cakewalk, face painting, jewelry making, quilling, lanterns, lighthouses, a embroidered commemorative tapestry and other crafts.

Concluding with the Light of Hope Walk

 There was a diverse group of participants including those within the homeless community.

Katrina Bailey, LIGHTFEST Re-Ignited Volunteer stated, “When we lit up our lights for the walk/observation, the happiness, willingness, enthusiasm and vigor the children had in participating was overwhelmingly speechless.  They wanted to walk, although they themselves were facing and LIVING in the very circumstance in which we were holding the vigil for: the homeless, hungry and poverty stricken.  That was, to me was the ULTIMATE show of love and sacrifice.  Deeply touching and humbling.”

A special thanks to all our sponsors and volunteers for making this a very special day for all!

Sponsor-Passport Health Plans
Host—St. Augustine Catholic Church


ATA College-Nursing Students
Burnett Ave. Baptist Church Youth Group
Courtney Ellis from the Louisville Nature Center

Girl Scout Troop 476
Jacqueline Browning
Jacqueline McMillian-Bohler

Katrina Bailey
Kentucky One Health—Our Lady of Peace
Linda Young

Louisville KY Bikers Guild
Matthew Simons Simons Electric
Marji Pilato
Michelle Dollar

Miguel Walker-The Best Bite
We Survive
Youth Checker/Chess Challengers
Zeta Amica of Louisville Ky

In case we have missed anyone, please know we appreciate your help. To read more about the event and to see pictures go here.

learning-station joe-with-child chess-time quilling making-light-holders


rsz_img_7345VLUU L110 / Samsung L110 20161105_172056

Journey Begins with a Journal

Journey Begins with a Journal

Journey Begins with a Journal

Written by Sharon Cecil

A Reflection of Let Hope Win

bookWe Survive, nestled on gentle rolling woodland, is a perfect setting to take a “Journey Through a Forest of Feelings.”   Although, you can journal any place.

A pen and paper will be important tools as you begin your journey through your feelings.  You don’t need a fancy journal.  It can be a notebook or composition book.  Like a painter’s paintbrush to a canvas, your pen will reflect your feelings on a canvas made of paper to learn more about the amazingly complex and fascinating person you see in the mirror.

How many of us were given diaries as children?  A diary is a form of journaling. Writing is a way to process thoughts as you pour out you feelings. Paper is sometimes the only thing that that will be at your disposal 24/7 and you get undivided attention.

Keep in mind that some people may prefer the use of their computer.  You can call me old school, but I feel that you can be more reflective with paper and pen.

It has been said that the hardest thing any person will ever have to do is be honest with him or her self.

As you write in a journal, your own inner truth will emerge.  Writing both hurtful and happy thoughts. Those free thoughts may feel uncomfortable at first.  Once you finally reach that inner truth, denial isn’t an option. This is when healing begins.  Letting go of the pain and moving towards a mental and physical release.

Writing helps with organizing your thoughts and your life. It should be a safe place to express your feelings. Remember, there aren’t any rights or wrongs in keeping a journal.

Some people may say that there isn’t enough time in a day.  But the truth is, time is all you do have.  How you spend it is up to you.

As I said in Let Hope Win, “Where and how we spend our time is the story of our life.”  Once you discover the real you.  Once you decide you need to make a few changes to improve on the already amazing story, “Only you can change the script of the story by ending the old script and creating a hopeful script for your future…Don’t miss out on your story.  Only you can change the script of the story by ending the old script and creating a hopeful script for your future.”

Tap into your strengths and explore…

A Heart that Hears Gives

A Heart that Hears Gives

A Heart that Hears Gives

Written by Sharon Cecil

Having a Heart that Hears

Having a Heart that Hears

Life is about talking and listening.  When talking with a group, many times you tend to be giving information that to some may seem like a lecture.

Working with youth programming for over 40 years, I must say that I have learned a lot about the younger generation and about the diversity in their ways of thoughts and reactions.

Doing a workshop for teens many years ago, a young man (the leader of the group) said to me, “Sharon, you are a wonderful educator, but you need to learn to shut-up and listen.”

My first thought was, “who does he think he is to disrespect an adult in this way.”  But, I didn’t say anything to him at the time.  As, his comment ran through my head repeatedly, I reflected on my style of communication as an educator and a youth provider.

Because of that young man, I truly learned the importance of listening.  I changed my style of teaching, speaking to groups and workshop formats.  By doing more listening, the session become more interactive, the audience was more receptive and we were all able to take away something from the experience.

You will find that by using silence you are doing much more than being silent.  You become an active listener, which means you are giving your audience your undivided attention which allows for more open discussion within the group you are addressing.

Once the participant feels heard, he or she feels more comfortable and gives you a much better position for using your teaching and problem solving techniques.  If you are with a group on a regular basis, you begin to build trust and make goals.

Silent Communication and Body Language

Let’s not forget that there is silent communication through body (non-verbal) language.   In other words, your body can speak!

In my opinion, one of the best non-verbal communicators is a smile.  It shows up on your face and in your eyes.  A reassuring pat on the back to let someone know that you approve doesn’t hurt either.

You may want to ask yourself the following questions when apply the principle of listening.

How does active listening:

  • convey caring
  • provide a comfortable environment
  • create a positive impression?

Because of that young man so many years ago, I learned that when you are an active listener, the lines of communication become more open and trusting.


Let Hope Win

Let Hope Win

Let Hope Win

Written by Sharon Cecil

Growing up in a dysfunctional environment, I would read or write when I had alone time.  Reading would take me into someone else’s reality.  By writing, I was creating my own scenarios.

Once TV became popular, I could watch the kind of show that I once read about—mostly love stories or mysteries.  Who didn’t love Perry Mason!

As an adult, painful memories became a pathway on a search for ways to heal the pain from childhood.  Writing/journaling became a healing tool.  Then, art became part of the mix.

hopepositiveexpecatationForty plus years ago, teaching an arts and crafts class became a healing avenue on which I began a very exciting journey. This is when I first realized that I could write my own life script.

Everyone has a story and he or she is the star.  Not some actor who is playing a scripted part in some imaginary scene.

How does your story read and how can it inspire others?

When you begin to write your story, there can be a connection to your inner self whereby you learn what has been a bad play, which can inspire the creation of a new script.

You may remember that dream you had as a child, or an experience that turned out to be more helpful instead of being as harmful as you thought.

Time is the most precious gift we have to give and the most valuable asset in our lives.  Where and how we spend our time is the story of our life.

Don’t miss out on your story.  Only you can change the script of the story by ending the old script and creating a hopeful script for your future.

HOPE Wins.  hopewins




by: Annie T.

Recently I wrote a blog entry about how people get on my nerves. They don’t just get on my nerves; they get on every single nerve and do the cha-cha barefoot!

My frustration and impatience leaked over into the realm of addiction, and I got some flak for that. I got one message which stated that unless I had ever been there, I had no idea how hard it is to overcome addiction and etcetera, et cetera…

I want to tell you why my perception is what it is.

In 1996, there was this girl living on the streets. She had gotten there through a series of bad choices. She had been through physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse, and she lost her mind. This is not a made-up story. This is not “based on true events” or “inspired by actual events.” This really happened. Let’s call her Jane Doe, and let’s remember that she is a real person that really exists.

Jane Doe was not a drug addict. She smoked cigarettes and she drank sometimes, but early schooling had drilled it into her brain for years that “CRACK KILLS” and “JUST SAY NO” and all of those and other early campaigns actually worked on her. She never really thought about doing drugs. So, she didn’t.

Through a series of choices, Jane Doe found herself homeless and roaming the streets of a mid-size city. She was 132 pounds, her head was shaved, and she had lost her glasses, so she couldn’t really see very well.

close-up-bare-feet-dirty-foot-to-illustrate-hazardous-area-unsafe-44637197It was December, and it was extremely cold. Jane Doe was out in this cold and her days were spent migrating with other vagrants from one soup kitchen to the next. Her mind was gone. She eventually tried to go to a hospital and tell them she was going to kill herself. While she had no intention of actually doing this, her logic was that if she was suicidal, they would lock her in the hospital for a week or so and she wouldn’t be out in the cold for a little while. It was sound logic, but it didn’t work. The hospital wasn’t interested in keeping her. They held her for 12 hours, took her shoes, then released her, apathetic to the fact that now she was free to leave but had no shoes on her feet.

Jane Doe wandered into the projects, her feet covered in two pairs of socks and a set of blue hospital booties. At this point you could have told her the moon was made of cheese and she would have asked you for a slice on crackers.

A woman stood looking out the doorway of her apartment, there, in the projects, and saw Jane Doe shuffling past.

“White girl! Hey, what the heck you doin’?”

Jane Doe looked in the woman’s direction, stopped and shrugged.

“I don’t know.”

“Get in here, you gon’ lose your feet out in this weather!”

Jane Doe complied.

The apartment was warm, filled with the smell of frying pork chops, and Jane Doe was very hungry, but the woman pointed at the overstuffed fake-leather sofa and simply said,


Jane Doe complied.

She slept for several hours, and at some point someone threw a blanket over her, and she burrowed down into the sofa and slept another few hours. When she finally opened her eyes, there were more people in the apartment, in the next room, talking and laughing and eating.

They offered her no food. She stayed on the sofa and waited. The woman eventually came back to her with a pair of black lace up shoes and directed her to try them on. She did. They were a little big but they stayed on her feet.

Jane Doe found herself seated at the kitchen table, long after the meal was over, looking across the table at a young man who was smoking crack. She didn’t know it was crack, only that the sweet chemical smell was disturbing. She watched his transition from twitchy to calm and glassy-eyed. She finally asked him,

“Why do you smoke that? What does it make you feel?”

And he replied,

“I like it…because for just a few minutes, everything is okay.”

She thought about that. For a few minutes, everything is okay. That seemed like a huge trade-off. The young man did not offer her any of the drugs, and she did not ask for any.

Soon after she left the warmth of the apartment, clad in her ragged oversized pants, wearing two tshirts and an old blue patterned winter-themed fleece, with an army fatigue coat over that. Her slightly too-large shoes were preferable to no shoes at all, as the snow had started in earnest.

Jane Doe had several other adventures that winter, including two trips to jail for no reason at all. Sure, you might be thinking that she had to have done *something* to wind up in jail, but no. Once she got smart with a police officer who promptly arrested her for “resisting arrest” and that weekend was a warm one, spent in a largish cell with 7 other women because the courts were closed. Another time, she wandered into an extremely classy building downtown to ask for directions, and the smartly dressed, perfectly coiffed woman behind the desk summoned the police before Jane Doe had even reached the counter. She was arrested for criminal trespassing, and another warm weekend happened that winter.

Finally, in mid-January of 1997, Jane Doe stood outside the double doors of the Early Dawn Ministry Shelter. She was tired of walking every day with no destination. She had just recently healed from a severe case of boot rot (for those of you who don’t know what this is, it is a condition where your feet have been damp inside your shoes for too long, and the soles of your feet begin to “rot” and you could lose both feet or die of blood poisoning if not treated.) She had shown up to the homeless health clinic every day where a gorgeous young black man named Roger dressed in pristine blue scrubs had removed her shoes and socks, removed the bandages from her feet, cleaning the deep injuries. He applied ointment and fresh bandages, and replaced her socks with a new pair – every day he did this for two weeks and every day she said to him, “Thank you,” very quietly before leaving, because when you are to the point where you cannot even remove your own socks without experiencing pain, you had better find the humility to allow another human being to help you.

So, after all of that she stood – squinting up at the homeless shelter sign and wondering if they would let her stay here – and finally she went in.

It was loud, and chaotic, with crazy old ladies mumbling in the corner and a couple of girls over in the far end of the day room styling each other’s hair and laughing hysterically at something.

The shelter let her stay there. The counselors there didn’t know what to make of Jane Doe. They knew she had lost her mind, but the hospitals were inundated with a heavier than usual winter indigent population, not able to handle any more people, and Jane Doe wasn’t a threat. She had been exposed to the elements for a long time and it had rattled her brain.

The shelter did not have a program for crazy people. They had outreach programs that would show up once a week and chat up the loony old ladies in the corner, but somehow the counselors didn’t think this would do much for
Jane Doe.

They decided to put her in The Program.  It was an alcohol and drug recovery program and the majority of the people living in this shelter were in it already.

The counselors knew Jane Doe did not have a drug problem. They knew she didn’t have a drinking issue. What they didn’t know was what exactly to do with her, because Jane Doe need a heavily structured environment in order for her to come back down to Planet Earth and join the rest of us. I’m pretty sure the counselors thought the crazy would wash off after a while.

They were right. The crazy washed off because they did the exact thing they were supposed to do. Jane Doe joined the drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, the most heavily structured program in the city, and she attended hundreds of AA meetings and hundreds of NA meetings. She read the Big Book, and she got a sponsor, and she went through hell doing a Fourth Step, where she made a searching and fearless moral inventory of herself, of all the people who had ever hurt her and all the people she had ever hurt and then she sat down with her sponsor and told her every single bit of it and it was, according to Jane Doe, like tearing a gigantic band-aid from the length of her body, a raw pain that was soon over.

Jane Doe spent hours and days and weeks and months joined at the hip with women from all walks of life: farm girls and strippers, nurses and computer technicians, waitresses and hustlers. She learned exactly what drugs and the overuse of alcohol can make a person do. She attended funerals of people who were never ready to stop using and never stopped using and let the dope kill them. She cried a lot.

Jane Doe found her mind.  It had been buried under the layers of exposure to cold weather and colder people. The fog lifted and she was able to become her version of sane again.  She let her hair grow out, allowed her sense of humor to return, and finally went to the ophthalmologist.

She took a friend from the shelter with her when she picked up her glasses. Her vision was bad enough that everything and everyone was blurry. Her friend Bea sat beside Jane Doe when she slid her glasses on her face. Jane Doe looked over at Bea and gasped.
“What?” Bea asked.

“Bea!! I didn’t know you were black!!” They both dissolved in laughter while the ophthalmologist looked on disapprovingly.

A few months later, Jane Doe moved out of the shelter and into her own apartment. She had been homeless for just over eighteen months and she never wanted to return to being homeless again.

This is how I know about addiction. This is why I hate it. This is why people who get addicted make me angry. I know because I am Jane Doe, and I lived through hell – and I didn’t even use drugs. I didn’t need to use drugs in order to make crappy decisions.

We are the sum total of our experiences. We will experience more, therefore we will become more.  This is my mantra, my sole reason for existing. I exist to experience, and those experiences will continue to change me, and make me happy, and sad, and those experiences will make me angry.

I wrote this so that you can see how I put a funny little spin on life. If we don’t laugh, we don’t live.