Each woman facing addiction has her own story to tell. No two are alike, but they all have something in common: No one can manage recovery alone.

For 50 years, St. Monica’s has been helping women overcome addiction, trauma and mental illness. As part of our yearlong celebration, we are sharing 50 stories of success and inspiration from women who have achieved lasting recovery. We’ll share a new story every week, so check back often.

Want to see more women like these achieve recovery? Your gift right now helps women in need today and for the next 50 years!

Are you a St. Monica's success story? We'd love to hear from you! 

Note: All names are pseudonyms to protect client confidentiality. 

 

Lindsay: ‘My fears lost their strength’

“When I arrived at St. Monica’s I didn’t know what to expect. But after being there for a week, surrounded by women who had similar stories as mine, and had no other choice but to open communication with them because they were now part of my life whether I wanted it to be that way or not, I was finally able to admit I had a problem and accept help.

As the days and weeks went by, I began to hear my story through the lives of other women. I saw that I wasn’t alone, and my fears lost their strength. The principles I learned helped me maintain a balanced lifestyle, get a job, cook, clean, communicate with others and be accountable to my actions.

Today, I mentor young women in my community, and it sometimes surprises me that parents trust me with their kids today. St. Monica’s did not give me the life I have made for myself, but it offered me the tools to create and sustain this life I have.”
 

Ericka: ‘One day at a time, I have a chance’ 

“Try to imagine the darkest, coldest, dirtiest and scariest place you could go. Neglecting your children emotionally and physically. Shame and guilt so deep and painful that the only thing to do is another “bump” (term for IV drug users). The depths an active addict will go to … I went.  Moving from couch to couch of whoever would let me stay (this is only when I slept, which truly wasn’t often).  Eventually going to the city mission because I was desperate and my family was done with me ~ rightfully so, I might add!

It wasn’t always this way. I was 11 years old, at my “boyfriend’s” house babysitting his nieces. (Yes, 11 years old!) He came home and offered to smoke a joint with me. Time went on and more drugs were introduced. Being in the medical field now, I know that after so long, something physically happens in the brain ~ you cross over that “choosing” point and become addicted and there is no going back. As many times as I tried to stop, I couldn’t. The cravings were too strong.

Then I was indicted and facing 7 ½ years in federal prison. I remember the feeling the night I was arrested. I was so relieved it was over and so very scared at the same time. I had been in jail many times ~ but this time there was no bond. But something changed my heart this time; I totally surrendered. 

Thankfully St. Monica’s accepted me. One day at a time, one session at a time, my counselors and I worked on some really hard, deep stuff. Sexual abuse as a child, abandonment issues, codependence, setting healthy boundaries, forgiveness, empowerment, relapse prevention and parenting. They counseled my children very well in the months approaching my prison date and for several months after. They gave me the tools I needed to be successful out here in the real world. 

I have been out of prison for 12 years now. I have my family back. We are not perfect, but we are happy. I went back to school to earn a nursing degree and have an amazing career ~ only by the grace of God and the help of St. Monica’s. My church, AA, family, my children, a great sponsor, working a 12 step program, surrendering everything to God on a daily basis … one day at a time, I have a chance.”
 

May: ‘The tools to create an even greater life’

“I was exposed to the devastating effects of alcoholism and drug addiction as a young child. I saw my father lose jobs, go in and out of jail and abandon our family. I made a vow to never consume a drop of liquor, as I didn’t want to become as ignorant and coldhearted as my father became when he was using.

But in my first year of university, being the emotionally unstable young woman with no support I had developed into, I was easily persuaded by the college lifestyle and began partying to feel comfortable and attempt to fit in.

As the years progressed, so did my consumption, and during my final quarter at the university, I was arrested for DUI ~ while I was driving to get drugs in hopes of coping with the stress I was facing. I dropped out of school, convinced that terminating my studies would alleviate my stress and I would not have to rely so heavily on drugs and alcohol to cope.

A year later I kept finding myself in and out of detox. I couldn’t take care of myself, I was unemployed and was isolating from everyone I knew. I stayed clean for about two months, but soon enough found myself living in my car after taking that first drink once again.

A counselor helped me get a bed at St. Monica’s. I didn’t want to go, but I knew that the life I was living, being on the streets and resorting to mouthwash to treat my morning shakes, wouldn’t last long. I had hit my bottom.

When I was accepted into St Monica’s, I didn’t know it at the time, but I would not only return to the life I was creating for myself prior to losing it all through my addiction,  but would in fact be offered the tools to create and sustain an even greater one.

I am currently living on my own and recently returned to school to finish my final courses. I have a relationship with my family, I live a healthy lifestyle, and I have a multitude of friends in the 12 step program I attend.”

Julie: ‘St. Monica’s puts families back together’

You may have seen the wonderful public service announcement KOLN/KGIN produced for St. Monica’s. This is the text of that message, straight from the mouth of Julie, a mom who lived with her children at our Project Mother & Child home while overcoming her addiction and depression:

“I thought of myself as a functioning addict. Every day was the same. You wake up, you get high, you get your kids dressed. St. Monica’s taught me to be a parent; they helped me to figure out who I was. Having my kids in here with me, and going through treatment with me, I was able to be a mom. They gave me that hope, ’til I had hope for myself. I had to do the work, but they guided me. St. Monica’s puts families back together.”

Today, Julie is not only still sober and watching her children thrive, she is remarried and is a successful drug and alcohol counselor, paying forward the tools she learned while at St. Monica’s.
 

Samantha: ‘I was encouraged to embrace my differences’

“One word to describe St. Monica’s would be ‘zealous.’ My program aimed to cover every area of my life that has been affected by my addiction in order to make sure I get to the core of my struggle. I still use what I learned for my daily recovery and that of others. St. Monica’s was respectful of my Central American heritage and my religious views, which is Buddhism. I was encouraged to speak about my diversity and not be ashamed to openly discuss and embrace my differences."
 

Aisha: ‘I am still a woman of value’

“The most important lesson I learned in St. Monica’s is that I am an alcoholic; that will never change. I will always suffer from the disease of addiction, but I don’t have to surrender to my disease. There are tools I can use, and I don’t have to attempt to do it on my own. Most important, I was taught that I am also very important to the recovery of others, and that I am still a woman of value who could contribute positively to the stream of life.”
 

Sara: ‘No one is going to hurt me here’

From a St. Monica’s counselor to the entire staff: 

“A new client just stopped by my office to say hi this morning. I asked her how she is doing as it is only her third day. Her very genuine response made my day. She told me that everyone has been very welcoming. She said everyone is compassionate and seems to really care. She said that she wakes up happy because she knows she is safe and nobody is going to hurt her here! Way to go, everyone!”
 

Nicole: The gift of her son this Christmas

Nicole, who has been living at Project Mother & Child and working hard to be reunited with her son as part of her recovery, wrote this note to her counselor in the days before Christmas:

“Thanks to the strength, hope and joy in myself and this program, I was rewarded with my son returning to my care by Christmas. I could not have done this without St. Monica’s and my faith.

The day I was in court with so much support and confidence, my pastor (whose church I also found during my program) left a message of prayer for me, not knowing what I was doing that day. He said these words: ‘I pray for strength, hope and joy.’

Strength: I did it myself.

Hope: I was hopeful for the outcome.

Joy: I was joyous in the outcome.

My feelings as I write this are of elated emotions, healthy happiness, joy and blessings. Thank you!”

 

Amber: From out of control to a full life

“My life was out of control. I was drinking a lot and using a lot of pills. I had been through St. Monica’s once before and didn’t think it would do anything for me, so I quit. But a friend convinced me to come back. I was ready. I stayed for about 6 months, and it was life changing. I became so strong. Now it’s 2 years later and I am in my own apartment and am completely sober. My life is full, and I have St. Monica’s to thank for that.”
 

Renata: 'I don't need drugs to define me'

"I came to St. Monica’s because of addiction to meth and a reckless lifestyle. The services at St. Monica’s enriched my life, retrained my focus, and restored my self-esteem. I received the help and support I needed. I learned that I am important and I don’t need drugs to define me.  Now that I’m in recovery, I am living in my very own apartment, working, repairing family relationships and growing new healthy friendships. St. Monica’s is awesome!"


Jane: ‘This is what I want for myself and my son’

This is an actual letter we received this week from a woman with the courage to seek help overcoming her addiction ~ the first step in her success story. Only her name has been changed.

“Hello, my name is Jane Smith. I am 25 years old and I’m requesting to be put on your waiting list for inpatient treatment as soon as possible. I am incarcerated in Lancaster County Corrections for possession of a controlled substance ~ meth. I’m desperately seeking recovery and I know it’s my choice to participate in an inpatient program. And it would benefit me and my current circumstances because this is what I want deeply for myself and my son. I’m looking forward to hearing from you very soon and I appreciate your time. I hope to be considered and I hope to qualify.

Respectfully yours,

Jane Smith”

 

Melinda: 'I feel I have been set free'

“I came to St. Monica’s the summer of 2011. The first day there I didn't do much more than sleep. I remember feeling safe for the first time in a long time. I was greeted with friendly smiles and encouraging words.

I decided to make the time I would spend here worthwhile. As the drugs slowly left my mind and body, I could think more and more clearly. The negative thoughts and cravings were being replaced with small glimmers of hope that I might actually have a chance at a "normal" life.

I thank God every day that I wake up and have a chance to live life to its fullest capacity. I can honestly say I have never been this happy – ever! I have learned the true meaning of humility and faith, and I feel that I have been set free.  

Now I can be a positive role model in my children's lives as well. Words cannot describe what that means to me. I have a granddaughter now, and I want to be there for her as she grows up, too.

To take an active part in society and be a good person are important to me. St. Monica's gave me the opportunity and the tools to jump start a new life. Now all I have to do is make sure that I keep these tools close to me and use them. 

The most important lesson that I learned at St. Monica's is that I never have to feel alone again.”

 

April: 'The tools to get back on my feet'

“I sat in the back of the cop car with my hands in cuffs. The life I had been merely drifting through had abruptly come to a stop. I was charged with possession of a controlled substance, a felony offense with a prison sentence of up to five years. I had never been so frightened in my life.

I have been a drug addict since my early teens and found meth in my mid-30s. When I took speed, I didn't have to eat. I lost a lot of weight, and I loved it. I could tell the drugs were causing great harm to my body inside, but I couldn't stand the thought of being fat again. So I used meth for about 12 years before I finally got caught.

Since this was my first felony charge, I qualified to go through a Diversion Program that included treatment, community service and fines. If I completed the program successfully, my charge would be dismissed. 

I had no health insurance and no way to pay for treatment, but St. Monica’s took me in anyway. I am so grateful for everyone there, who treated me with respect and genuine concern for my well-being. Those 6 weeks gave me the tools and the self‑confidence to get back on my feet and rejoin society.

It has been 18 months since I graduated from St. Monica's. Since then, I have received an abundance of help from the Community Support program. It is taking me a little while to get back on my feet, but with all of the support I have been blessed with, I know it will happen. I have just started a new job that I really like. I maintain my recovery by going to NA meetings, praying and working my 12-step program, and surrounding myself with other positive people who give me the support I need to stay healthy and strong.”

 

Kelly: 'As long as I stay sober I have a chance'

“In 1998 I moved into St. Monica’s as a wife, nurse and stepmother, but mostly as an alcoholic and addict.  I had been fired from my nursing job of 17 years and reported to the Board of Nursing. My husband had kicked me out and divorced me.  He was brokenhearted but said, “I don’t know what you are going to do next in your addiction.”

Five months into treatment and with a solid base of recovery, I was ready to face all the consequences of my addiction. My nursing license was placed on probation for five years.  I fulfilled a strict protocol of random urine tests and monitoring.

I was hired by a subspecialty medical office that knew everything about my past.  I will always be grateful to the doctors who were willing to give me a chance.  I worked in the daytime and went to treatment and AA at night while living at St. Monica’s.  I was devoted to staying sober.

Thank goodness for the mandatory reporting of nurses for substance abuse.  I am still in contact with the Board of Nursing; I think it is important to show the results of successful monitoring of health-care professionals with substance abuse problems.

My ex-husband welcomed me home when I graduated from St. Monica’s, and we remarried when I had three years of sobriety.  Our relationship today is built on love, trust and respect.   I have a wealth of friends and family in my sobriety, including two priceless grandchildren who are a joy to me.  I would have missed them if I wouldn’t have sobered up.

My coworkers today love and respect me and can’t believe when I tell them stories of my addiction years ago. I stay connected with St. Monica’s Alumni Association and am active in a 12-step group.  I have had the same sponsor for 16 years, and I try to pass on what she teaches me to my sponsees.

I am proud to say I have 16 years of sobriety.  I have a wonderful life ~ not perfect, but as long as I stay sober I have a chance. It is with extreme gratitude that I thank St. Monica’s for taking an addicted girl and helping transform her into the happy, healthy sober women that I am today.“
 

Andrea: 'Realize that you can have another chance'

“I lost my mother when I was 7. She fought a lifelong battle with men and abuse, finding comfort only with alcohol ~ and it eventually became her death at 29. I remember always wondering why she gave up and left my sister and me behind. 

Men and meth were a way to hide and escape the pain. At 15 I became pregnant with a daughter who I thought would change me, but I found myself running. I wasn’t a good mother. I walked out before she turned 1. I had broken my own promise, to never do to her what I went through.

I met a man who made my life a constant game of truth or dare. I spent years in and out of that relationship, always going back to the abuse. Meth to us was a life that was normal, and my addiction was another way for him to control me. To see why my mother lost hope was becoming clear. How much can I do until I die became my goal.

One night I cut my wrists to the tendons. I called my father from the ambulance. Suddenly I didn’t want to die. I had a reason to live, a broken promise to heal.

That’s how I came to St. Monica’s. I am now 31 years old and working on getting my daughter back. If you take something from my story, realize that you can have another chance. It’s up to you to take a hold of it.”  
 

Diane: 'My mental health was affected by my addiction'

“St. Monica's is a dual diagnosis treatment program, which is what I believe sets it apart. Mental disorder issues are treated along with the addiction. My mental health was directly affected by my addiction, and visa versa. It makes the most sense to treat both my disease and the symptoms that caused my addiction in the first place.

The fact that St. Monica's focus is on empowering women also made this program all the more effective. Every day that I spent at St. Monica's, I learned so much about myself and about addiction. I would be so mentally drained by the end of the day, that I would be asleep the minute my head hit the pillow. But to my surprise, every morning I would get up ready to start another day of self-reflection and self‑discovery.  

If I could use one word to describe St. Monica's, the one that keeps coming to mind is Hope. Whether we come to treatment on our own free will or it is strongly suggested by the courts, most of us are in a desperate place in our lives. I know in my case, I was emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. All of the strong women at St. Monica's played a part in helping me start on my path to recovery. I will forever be grateful to them.”  

Cheryl: 'A bad day sober is better than a good day drunk'

"When I was 10, my 16-year-old neighbor molested me. I’m not sure what all happened, but by age 13 I had become extremely promiscuous; I drank and smoked pot and did whatever else was offered. I was like two people in one body: The good girl went to school every day, got good grades, never caused trouble. The other girl would have sex with anyone, drank ’til she passed out, and tried a lot of other drugs.

In a hurry to grow up, I married a man 10 years older than myself when I was 18. We both had drinking issues. One night I was so angry and drunk I got in my truck with a bunch of beer by my side and just started driving. I don’t remember where I went, how I tore up the side of my truck, or how I ended up back at home. I could have killed someone, and at that point I don’t think I cared; I may have been trying to kill myself.

What I do remember the next day was the feeling ~ total and utter despair. My marriage was over. I didn’t know how to live. I didn’t want to live. I just wanted to lie down and never get up again. I called my mom, who had gone through recovery when I was 16. She took me to a 30-day treatment program where I got clean and sober, but I was scared. I didn’t know how to function.

That’s when I came to St. Monica’s. They gave me the skills I needed to succeed, from simple things like getting up and keeping the house clean … daily activities that most people take for granted. These were not habits I had developed; even personal hygiene wasn’t something I hadn’t cared a whole lot about. More important, they helped me learn to care for and respect myself and even to love myself.

While at St. Monica’s I found a job and gradually moved back into society, having had the time and help to build a healthy support system. Now, 26 years later, I know in my heart that if not for my time at St. Monica’s I would not be sober today. My life is not perfect, but even a bad day sober is better than a good day drunk. I will always be grateful to St. Monica’s."

Brooke: 'A haven for women who want to heal'

It has been nearly 35 years since Brooke lived at St. Monica’s. Today she is a psychologist who specializes in addiction among women and veterans with PTSD. She has spent a lifetime paying forward the gift of recovery.

"I was sober for three years, then came back for additional treatment for depression. St. Monica’s helped me get my life back on the road to recovery by giving me extra counseling, support and guidance in my early years of sobriety. Ellen, Pat and Bess were very committed to helping women in recovery. St. Monica’s is simply a haven for women who want to heal and change their lives."
 

Paula: 'Proud to be a St. Monica's girl'

It has been decades since Paula lived at St. Monica’s, but she remembers it well:

“I will always be proud to be a ‘St. Monica’s girl.’

St. Monica’s opened their doors to me and saved my life. My life was in shambles. I had lost everything – job, home, family. I felt so fragile, so unworthy of being treated with respect and love.

During my stay at St. Monica’s, I learned about personal discipline. I learned that discipline meant freedom. I began to respect myself and to set healthy boundaries.  I learned how to live a life free of alcohol and drugs.

The love, support and caring I received at St. Monica’s was an awesome gift.

The doctor who examined me when I was admitted to the treatment center was present when I graduated. He said that when he first examined me that he didn’t think there was anything left. Talk about miracles!

Thank you to St. Monica’s for helping so many women and their children over so many years. Thank you for helping me to change my life.”

Leigh: A journey to safety in recovery

Leigh’s journey to recovery from substance abuse and domestic violence began when she and her two sons escaped from her abusive husband. The local domestic violence shelter referred her for a drug/alcohol evaluation, and she came to St. Monica’s for treatment with her two sons.

Leigh was terrified of her husband’s reaction to her leaving and taking the children. She was also concerned about having contact with him since he is the father of her youngest son. At St. Monica’s she developed a safety plan that included a strategy to allow her husband contact with their son without placing her safety at risk. Every week Leigh attended domestic violence education and support groups and met with a domestic violence specialist. She also met weekly with a parenting specialist and learned new skills for parenting her children.

While in treatment, Leigh addressed her anxiety issues and learned how to calm herself in weekly sessions with her mental health/substance-abuse counselor. She addressed her childhood trauma and her abusive relationship with her husband. She learned how to utilize her strengths to help herself resolve the trauma had experienced. She developed a relapse prevention plan and learned to deal with triggers she would experience.

Leigh completed one year of residential treatment at St. Monica's, developing a regular daily routine and practicing the coping skills she had learned. She secured a part-time job and an apartment before leaving the program. She attended AA/NA groups weekly and found a sponsor. She continues to meet with a counselor weekly and uses the community support program at St. Monica's. She has divorced her husband and remains sober today.

JoAnne: 'St. Monica's gave me a new way of living'

"I’d been in treatment before but didn’t take it seriously. When I was incarcerated I finally realized my way wasn’t working, and St. Monica’s let me come back. I decided I needed to really listen to the pros and let them guide me.  I’ve been sober now for 5½ years.

My counselor helped me with all kinds of relationships, mostly family. I still see her once and awhile and it gives me a lift.  She also introduced me to my AA sponsor.

I had always been somewhat of a loner, so living in a house with others was hard at first but I will never regret it.  St. Monica’s really helped me come out of isolation. St. Monica’s gave me a new way of living."

Amy: 'Clean and sober, happy and hopeful'

“I was an IV drug user. If I wouldn’t have entered the arms of St. Monica’s, I surely would have continued on a road to destruction. You taught me that there are many ways to express myself without hurting myself or others.

 My greatest memory from St. Monica’s is of being reunited with my mother. She is now part of my life again and one of my biggest supporters. I now have a relationship with family and friends who at one time did not trust me. I am clean and sober, happy and hopeful. And I am now a productive member of society. I want to tell you that I appreciate all you did for me throughout my stay at St. Monica’s.” 

Judy: 'St. Monica's showed me a new way of life'

“My life was completely unmanageable. I had no job, I was addicted to meth, I was in an abusive relationship, my child was out of control and needed professional help with his mental illness, my family could barely stand being around me, and we became homeless because I wasn’t paying my bills. With the help of St. Monica’s caring staff, I was able to feel safe, build self confidence, learn new parenting techniques, get away from my abuser, and start my life over.

St. Monica’s showed me a new way of life. I made a lot of new friends, and we all found that we could spend countless hours together having fun while being clean and sober. Still to this day, we talk and spend time together. I became employed, learned the signs for whether or not a relationship is healthy, and practiced plenty of coping skills that I carry to this day.

I am sincerely grateful for the programs available at St. Monica’s. Without you, I probably would not be alive today. Thank you!” 
 

Maria: 'You gave me hope'

Maria’s life was out of control. She’d dropped out of school to spend all her time getting high with her friends in a small Nebraska town. She’d already lost custody of a baby girl when both mom and daughter tested positive for meth at birth. When she became pregnant a second time, she came to St. Monica’s.

After a few days she returned home to her circle of friends who use. That, she said, was an eye-opener. “I didn’t want that anymore,” she says. “I wanted to have my son, try harder, and just not be high all the time.”

She came back to treatment and spent two months in intensive primary care, then moved to St. Monica’s Project Mother & Child to continue her recovery while learning the parenting and life skills to succeed on her own. Her son, Jared, was born healthy and drug free, in an atmosphere of love and support.

Today, Maria is 2 years sober and is taking classes at community college with plans to work in radiology. Jared is thriving and loves to sit on her lap and read board books. She is grateful for a second chance for herself and her son.

“Without St. Monica’s, I would not be where I am now,” Maria says. “You gave me hope.”

Sharon: Building life skills and stronger bonds

Sharon was a 34-year-old mother of two when she came to St. Monica's. Her addiction to methamphetamine turned her life upside down. Sharon lost her job as a registered nurse, and her 10-year marriage was shattered. Her days were filled with trying to figure out where she was going to get money for her next fix. She lied to her family about everything, including how their $45,000 life savings had vanished. Her weight was down to 95 pounds, and the drugs were wearing on her young body and mind.

A physician referred Sharon to St. Monica's Project Mother & Child residential treatment program. She and her children entered St. Monica's with just the clothing on their backs. Over a period of time and hard work, Sharon learned how to overcome her addiction. She also learned important life skills, which helped her as she entered back into the community. Sharon gained valuable experience on preparing meals, managing her finances, parenting skills and job training.

Twenty years later, Sharon is drug free and working as a specialty nurse in the medical community. Her children are healthy and proud of her recovery, and she and her husband have remarried and have a stronger bond than ever before. 

Debra: 'Today I have hope'

Debra completed treatment in St. Monica’s Project Mother and Child program. She has a family and holds a full-time middle management position. She has been sober for five years.

“My life was centered around drugs. The getting and using consumed every waking moment. I was abused daily, and I didn’t believe that this world had anything positive to offer. I was beyond hopeless. I was scared, angry and alone. I didn’t come to St. Monica’s by choice, but it was the best thing that has ever happened to me.

“At St. Monica’s, I learned that it was okay to be me, that I was a good person making poor choices, and that I had the power to change. I worked on my parenting, I became financially responsible, and I listened. I listened to the women who had come before me and were making it.

“Today, I have hope. Life is not about drugs, it’s about doing the next right thing. St. Monica’s was exactly what I needed when I needed it. I am now enjoying life with my daughter, who is doing great!”

Sandra: 'I see my progress every day in my kids'

Sandra grew up surrounded by drug abuse and trauma. Both of her parents were addicts, and her father was never in the family. Alone, Sandra and her mom often found themselves homeless, and Sandra followed her mother’s lead, drinking and using meth from an early age. Every relationship she had revolved around drugs or getting money for drugs.

Sandra was pregnant and still using when she came to St. Monica’s through Family Drug Court, where a diversion program gave her the opportunity to avoid prison time for drug charges by getting clean and becoming a better parent. She had lost custody of her 6-year-old daughter and was at risk of losing her 5-year-old and 4-year-old sons.

Living at Project Mother & Child helped Sandra create a healthy, stable daily lifestyle for herself and her boys, learning the basics of caring for a household and bonding through kid-friendly family activities. She formed a family-like relationships with the other women at Project Mother & Child: “I’d never had close women friendships before,” she says. Her sons have learned to express their emotions and trust that Mom will take care of their needs. And their baby brother was born into a drug-free household.

Sandra is on her own now but continues to receive support from St. Monica’s as she begins her new life as a sober, caring mother. “I’ve learned that what you’ve done doesn’t have to define who you are,” she says. “And I get to see my progress every day in my kids.”

Michaela: 'I've cleared the wreckage of my past'

Michaela was 11 when she started getting stoned with her babysitter. By 14 she was drinking every weekend, even as a cheerleader earning straight As. The partying continued through college and into her career. During the week she worked hard, long hours, but weekends were devoted to drinking.

Then Michaela married a man with two young children, and what was a weekend pastime became a daily routine. She went from drinking every other night, to drinking right after work every night, to drinking on break at work, to drinking in the morning and then being continuously drunk. She argued with her husband, the kids, her parents, her neighbors and her coworkers. She was blacking out. She wasn’t functioning.

It all came down to one afternoon at work, Michaela says. “I typically would go out to my car at lunch and drive around so that I could drink. That day, I was going over the O Street viaduct and had one thought in my mind: ‘Get a bottle of vodka or go back to work.’

“For me to consciously think about choosing a drink over work ~ that was it,” Michaela says today. She came to St. Monica’s and put her penchant for hard work to a new purpose. Five years later, a sober Michaela has returned to the career she loves, and she and her family have welcomed a new, healthy baby girl.

“I was able to mend the relationships and financial ruins that I left in my wake,” Michaela says. “I feel that I have finally cleared the wreckage of my past and can more clearly see the blessings that are to come. There has been so much more joy in the last three years than could have ever been felt in an entire lifetime on the road I was traveling.”

Renee: 'You saved me from myself''

“My last day in residential treatment was Easter Sunday. My peers and I had a very special dinner that night, shared with two very special staff members.

You guys have become a part of my family. You saved me from myself. I sure had my ups and downs, but I was encouraged to grow.  

To all who suffer from this addiction, I ask you to have the willingness to change, have trust and faith. You are right where you should be – so relax! It will change your life, as it did for me.”

Lupe: 'I learned to trust those who reached out'

“I spent three-quarters of my life in and out of recovery, mostly in active addiction. I’m now 43.  When I was given the chance to come to treatment at St. Monica’s, I was sitting in jail wondering how anyone could ever help me. I knew all there was to know. In fact, I really just wanted a smoke. I cussed, kicked and yelled.

I am truly grateful that I received compassion and support from the staff at St. Monica’s. My walls were 6 feet tall, but I learned to trust those who reached out and truly helped me in my time of need.  I have a foundation today thanks to those ladies. I can finally breathe.”


Heather: 'I did not know how to be a mother to my son'

"The first time I went to Project Mother and Child was under a court order to obtain custody of my son. I was not ready to fully grasp recovery at the time, I just wanted to get my son back.

The day we arrived at St. Monica’s was the first time I had ever had my son for the entire day by myself, and it was extremely overwhelming. My son was just 13 months old. It was embarrassing to admit that I did not know how to be a mother to my son ~ how he liked to fall asleep, what he ate or how much, or anything of basic parenting. When I put him to bed that first night he just cried, and I just laid there with him and cried too.

The best part of Project Mother and Child was the parenting teacher who knew everything there is to know about soothing and guiding children and showed us how to use them. There was a daycare that promoted learning and play while the mothers were in treatment during the day. All of the staff and the other clients offered support throughout our stay.

I graduated from PMC and stayed with my mom until my son and I could rent our own apartment and start fresh.  God took me full circle. He picked me up out of the mess of a life I was living and put me where I needed to be. Today I’m a new and clean person with a new outlook on life, and I love being a mom."

Alisa: The love and support of a family of women

"In the past I was never one to surround myself with women, especially women whom I saw as “different” from myself. When I entered St. Monica’s for treatment for my addiction, I met women from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, which gave me more insight and knowledge than I ever would have received otherwise. I was able to step outside of my own social preconceived notions and judgments and allow myself to accept and love this temporary family of women, understanding we are far more similar than we are different.

The notion of treating women specifically was initially unnerving to me. I assumed there would be a lot of drama, petty fighting and jealousy. What I found instead was a supportive, nurturing and recovery-inducing family of women who were all there for one another, day or night, during times of turmoil and joy alike. I am beyond grateful to St. Monica’s for this opportunity and hope that the women who will follow me in recovery will find the same life-changing and empowering experience I have found. I believe they will."

Chelsea: ‘I've been given a second chance at life'

"I began using meth when I was 15. I married young and had three children;  I stopped using during the first pregnancy and remained clean until my husband and I split up. My use got worse and worse, until Child Protective Services took my babies. In that moment, my world ended  …  and yet within hours I was getting high again.   

I became involved with a dangerous group of people and went up the 'food chain' quickly ~ from homeless, no money, no car, begging for my next fix … to living in a nice house, too much money to count and more drugs than I'd ever imagined. With all that change came unwanted attention: I was arrested on drug charges. I reliquished parental rights to my two older children, and my youngest was with his father. My family hated me, and I hated myself.

After a month in jail, I was granted pretrial release and sent to St. Monica’s. Treatment opened my eyes to the damage I had done to myself and others. I was finally able to admit that I had chosen drugs over my children, and I begin to change.  I became someone others looked up to, and that was an incredible feeling. I never in a million years thought I'd be someone that anyone admired.

The changes in my life have been dramatic. I have a place I can call home. I have a great job working for a construction company, where I have learned how to bend metal, put up siding and install windows. I’m allowed to write to my two older children, and I get to see my youngest son and my family through clear eyes. Due to my progress, my sentencing date was postponed. As crazy as it may sound, I am glad I was caught or I’d be dead by now. I feel I’ve been given a second chance at life." 

Wanda: ‘They believed in me before I believed in myself'

"I was indicted on intent to distribute methamphetamine. My son was 6 years old. I remember feeling relief when I was arrested because life had become so chaotic. I felt guilty and ashamed for my actions and for all I had put my son through. I also knew I was a disappointment to my family once again.

I knew I needed to make some big changes in my life, I just had no clue how to begin. When I was sent to St. Monica’s, I was happy just because it meant I would get out of jail. But I immediately felt the compassion and love from the staff and my counselor, Jenny. They believed in me before I believed in myself.

After treatment, I completed my federal sentence and have now been sober for more than 10 years. I am working at a women’s treatment center because I want to share the same compassion with other women just like me. My son is in high school. A friend told me about Habitat for Humanity, and I applied. I am now paying a mortgage for our own home.

Before St. Monica’s, I never thought anything great was going to happen in my life because I never believed in myself. I do believe in myself today, and that is one of the greatest gifts I have been given.  Life is good, one day at a time." 

Veronica: ‘Changing ME was my only option’

"My first prison sentence was for selling meth to feed my habit.  To some, this would have been enough to change your life around, but as it turned out it wasn’t yet the 'bottom' for me.

Two years later, my son was born in late August. Though I remained sober for my pregnancy, I relapsed with a single use on Sept. 1.  By the grace of god I was arrested two weeks later for delivery of meth. I was able to hold my son for about 4 hours before they took him away. This was the beginning of my recovery and a moment I will never forget.  Not even another trip to prison could break my heart like handing him over.

Changing me was my only option.  After two months in jail, I entered treatment at St. Monica’s, where my life changed in more amazing ways than I had ever thought possible. I began to feel like myself again. I got my son back that January, and things started falling into place for me.

I am now a little over two years clean and sober.  My son is amazing and happy.  I have graduated with an associate’s degree in human services and am working on my bachelor’s degree in psychology.  My goal is to give back what I have been given.  If I hadn’t been willing to change, if St. Monica’s hadn’t been part of my recovery, I would not be with my son or have my freedom …  or myself. At St. Monica’s, I got my life back."

Jennifer: Hope even when life is difficult

"I remember how bleak and dreary every day seemed when I was using.  Day in and day out, it was always the same thing … just trying to make it through.  Daily life isn’t all roses today, but difficult situations don’t seem as dark and dreary because I know that if I was carried through my addiction, God isn’t going to drop me in recovery.  I can have hope for the future by doing the next right thing today.

I don’t ever want to forget how bad my life had gotten.  I do this by staying in touch with my sponsor and taking the opportunity to share my hope with others in meetings.  I learned in St. Monica’s that I need a network of support.  Others can give us hope when life gets difficult. I learned that we are all important and have gifts to give and receive in the journey of recovery. I thank St. Monica’s for my gift of hope!'

Stacy: ‘I thought no one noticed how much I was drinking’

I was raised in a middle-class home where there was always alcohol in the house.  In 5th grade, some friends and I took a bottle of wine and drank a little, just enough for a “buzz”.  By junior high we were drinking every day after school.  Although my friends were able to study and get good grades, I was content to spend my time drinking.

As a young adult I was in the bars almost every night, telling my friends I would just stay until happy hour was over because I had to work the next day.  But I always ended up closing the bar. The drinking and the hangovers got worse, and I was usually late for work.

My mother died of cancer when I was 30, and after that I was drinking every night and drinking more and more.  It was the only thing that seemed to deaden the sadness about my mom being gone. Since I was usually drinking alone, I thought no one noticed how much I was drinking or how often. Then I lost my job because I was late for work so often. Eventually I began to realize my addiction was a problem.

I went through treatment twice elsewhere but always relapsed. I checked into St. Monica’s because I knew someone who’d had success there. I told myself this time I was going to listen to the pros and do whatever they suggested. I ended up living at St. Monica’s for 8 months, and, I’m so glad I remained as long as I did. It helped me find my home base.  

Today I have 6 years of sobriety and I’m working two jobs.  My life is happy and fulfilling, and I remain committed to my new way of life. Without treatment, I wouldn’t be where I am.

Michelle: 'Being sober really can be fun!'

“I was so emotionally, mentally, and physically abused that I wasn’t sure I deserved any better than I was. But through treatment at St. Monica’s I learned a whole new way of life. I learned the true meaning of working hard for something, and I believe that is why I appreciate my sobriety so much. I learned that being sober doesn’t have to be this big ugly drag ~ that it really can be fun! St. Monica’s saved my life. I truly don’t know where or what I would be now if it hadn’t been for the program. When I think about my time at St. Monica’s, I think of the word Blessed.”

Rosa: 'Paying forward my sobriety'

"Growing up in western Nebraska, my two older brothers used drugs frequently, and I wanted to be like them. It started with pot, but at one of their parties I was introduced to cocaine.  I loved it immediately ~ it made it easier to socialize and forget our family’s problems.

Trafficking drugs from Colorado to Nebraska became an easy way to afford my addiction, until I was caught and arrested. A friend begged me to enter St. Monica’s, where she knew I would gain emotional stability and be able to prepare for my stay in prison. I’m so glad I did.  My counselor introduced me to one of St. Monica’s alumni, Trisha, who became my sponsor.  The day I graduated, she drove me to Omaha to surrender myself to the federal authorities.  I remained in prison for 2½ years, and Trisha kept in touch with me the entire time, encouraging and motivating me.

After I completed my prison sentence, Trisha suggested I move to Lincoln to get away from my friends and family back home who were still using drugs. She is still my sponsor today, and now I am working as a mentor to women currently at St. Monica’s, to pay forward my sobriety in the same way Trisha has helped me. I am grateful and embracing a second chance at life."

Denise: 'The best thing that ever happened to me'

Now 5 years sober and a manager of a local business, Denise and her daughter lived at Project Mother & Child.

“My life was centered around drugs. The getting and using consumed every waking moment. I was abused daily, and I didn’t believe that this world had anything positive to offer. I was beyond hopeless. I was scared, angry and alone. I didn’t come to St. Monica’s by choice, but it was the best thing that has ever happened to me. At St. Monica’s I learned that it was okay to be me, that I was a good person making poor choices and that I had the power to change. I worked on my parenting, I became financially responsible, and I listened. I listened to the women who had come before me and were making it. Today, I have hope. Life is not about drugs, it’s about doing the next right thing. St. Monica’s was exactly what I needed, when I needed it. I am now enjoying life with my daughter, who is doing great!”

Angela: 'I feel myself getting stronger every day'

"I came to St. Monica’s from jail. My first 48 hours were the worst. I found myself wanting to go back to jail ~ I thought it was better than the shame and guilt that I felt. My first roommate found me in bed crying and took me my counselor, who convinced me to stick it out. She gave me a list of coping skills to make it through my first weekend by staying busy. Best of all, she introduced me to Positive Affirmations and made me come up with 10 of them. That was one of the hardest things I had ever done; I had relapsed and lost everything important to me, so I felt like nothing. She told me to read those affirmations out loud to myself every day.

My whole life I had never completely opened up to anyone because I felt I couldn’t trust them and they didn’t care about me. The counselors and my peers gained my trust, and for the first time ever I opened wounds in my heart I had covered long ago ~ I had used meth to cover up and suppress memories and feelings I didn’t want to deal with. Slowly, St. Monica’s helped me find ways to cope, to accept what I have been through and stop blaming myself for it, to come to terms with my actions and the consequences I am facing, and most important to understand why I did the things I did and not to hate myself for it. It’s not easy, but I feel myself getting stronger every day."

Annemarie: A stable family, a strong support system

Annemarie recently completed outpatient treatment and graduated from Lancaster County Family Drug Court. A single mother of 5, Annemarie came to St. Monica’s facing drug charges, on the verge of homelessness and with no regular source of income as a result of her meth addiction. She is now working three jobs and is committed to being a good mom and making ends meet without assistance. She plans to enroll at Southeast Community College for a career in Human Relations, telling her counselor she wants to give back to others in the way she received help when she needed it.

Annemarie encouraged her sister to seek help at St. Monica’s as well. Their mother also has become sober as well as a result of Annemarie’s positive encouragement. She has created a stable family environment and a strong support system as a result of her Intensive Outpatient treatment. 

Cindy: 'I came in sure that I knew it all'

Cindy is in her third week of residential treatment at St. Monica’s.

"I came in sure that I knew it all and that I wouldn’t have anything in common with my peers or counselors since I am a baby boomer from the Panhandle and a country person born and raised. I quickly learned how wrong I was, and I am constantly amazed at how much empathy and compassion everyone has for me and each other. 

I am also reminded daily that most of my peers are smarter and more mature than I am, since most of them had to grow up early and become survivors.  It makes me appreciate my family and my upbringing after hearing the stories most of my peers share ~  for some of them, St. Monica’s is their first experience of having a family-like living situation with rules, structure and regular meals. It’s disappointing when peers leave the program early, knowing that the timing wasn’t right for them. But it’s also great to know that they can and do come back.

Thank you for helping me be part of the St. Monica’s program. You are all very generous, loving people that truly want the best for all of us."

Misty: 'Putting that drink down was the start'

Misty has been at St. Monica’s for nearly 8 weeks ~ her story of recovery is just beginning.

It has taken me 11 years to finally admit to myself that I am an alcoholic and I have a drinking problem. I took my first drink at the age of 17. All the bumps, turns, hitting rock bottom, ending up having nothing besides hope. That was the first chapter in my life. Putting that drink down at the age of 28 and coming to St. Monica’s was the start of my second chapter.

My counselor at St. Monica’s asked me a question: If I made changes in my life now, would it be different from today? My answer came to me very quickly. No, I would not change anything about it. I’m not perfect ~ I make a million mistakes every day.  But being at St. Monica’s has made me a stronger, more independent person.  I can honestly say I would not be here without their help. 

I have no way of knowing what is going to happen on the next page of my life story, but I do know that thanks to St. Monica’s and my strong willpower I am sober today!

Keenan: I'm just so proud of my mom'

Keenan was 15 when her mom, Lisa, came to St. Monica’s for her oxycodone addiction. The entire family got involved in family counseling as part of Lisa’s treatment.  “It really helped us learn how to talk more openly,” Keenan says, noting that before, the family didn’t know how to talk about problems without getting into a huge argument.  “Instead of fighting, now we can encourage each another to use our coping skills.”

Lisa now spends time with all three of her children at the end of each day to share their successes and problems. She has taught Keenan and her siblings not to use the word can’t ~ that they can do anything they put their minds to. Acting as their best example, Lisa is currently working 2 jobs and going to school.

“I really look up to to my mom,” Keenan says today. “I’m just so proud of her.”

Linda: 'I began to get sober for me'

'Only having been a drinker for a year and a half, I didn’t think I had a problem.  I first went to St. Monica’s for my mom. As soon as I left, I relapsed.  Then I relapsed and relapsed many times.  I had periods of sobriety and never stopped going to meetings, but I couldn’t stay sober for long.

I thankfully found my way back after my second DUI.  St. Monica’s had a huge impact on my life, once I began to get sober for me.  I grabbed on to all of the teachings offered to me with both hands and started to build the foundation on which now I stand. 

Nowadays I am a manager at an upscale clothing store in the mall, I live in my own little apartment and it is wonderful.  My family is back in my life, and I am grateful!  I continue to go to 3-4 meetings a week and sometimes throw in another one for good measure. My life is full.  I appreciate things now.  I am grateful for all that I have.  I am eternally grateful to St. Monica’s for saving me from myself.”

Celeste: Grateful for the blessings of being sober

Celeste shows that even hardships can bring blessings and opportunities.

“I sought treatment as a result of a third DUI.  I had tried to stop drinking on my own but could not. Getting sober meant I was able to keep my home and my children. All my family members were on board also. I gained a better understanding of my disease and really realized I had to have a true willingness to do the hard work that was ahead of me.  I have survived jail and a job change (for the better). 

The physical challenge of riding a bike, since I lost my driver’s license, is amazing. I am in good physical shape and have lost 25 pounds since being in treatment (currently 3 years now). I have good relationships with family and some old friends, also new friends through AA. I am also grateful for the many blessings I have obtained since being sober.”

Marta: 'Today I am the best I have ever been'

“I had been severely addicted to meth for 13 years. I was referred to St. Monica’s by a friend who had also completed the program and was sure it could work for me as well. I had tried getting clean twice before, with no luck. It wasn’t until my youngest daughter was removed from my care that I was fully ready. I knew the road to recovery was not going to be easy, but I was prepared to do what I needed to do in order to get my little girl back with me. St. Monica’s helped me do that. I was able to build a solid foundation, something I had never had before. 

I will never forget when my daughter was finally placed back in my custody. I remember feeling very excited and very afraid at the same time. Had I not been living at St. Monica’s Project Mother & Child when the transition happened, I’m not sure how successful we would have been. Being in such a safe environment, having positive people all around us to help, made all the difference.

Today I am 2 years sober and the best I have ever been. I’m working two jobs and am attending Southeast Community College to get my degree in Human Services. I aspire to help women just like me better themselves and build healthy relationships with their children. I am married to a wonderful man. Not a day goes by that I don’t remember my time at St. Monica’s. It has made me who I am today. I will never let my past define me again.”

Tanya: 'I discovered who I wanted to become'

“When I checked into St. Monica’s, I was desperate and terrified ~ desperate to get my children back home, and terrified because I didn't know how I was going to stop using methamphetamine.

I thought the removal of my children from my home was the one thing that would have made me stop, and I did for a while, but relapsed twice with my kids out of my care. I was 41 and had used some sort of substance since I was 15 years old. The only clean time I had experienced was my three pregnancies. In my mind, being a mother was the only thing I was good for and I was messing that up, too.

At St. Monica's, I dug into the underlying problems from my childhood as the victim of sexual abuse. I discovered who I had become and more important who I wanted to become. I was able to have regular visits with my children, which gave me hope. Soon I had been clean for a year and my children were able to come home.

My life is good today. My children have a mother. I got my GED at 46 and my Associate’s degree in Human Services at 49, graduating in the same class as my oldest daughter. I know as long as I stay clean & sober I can get through anything. Thank you, St. Monica's, for being my lifeline and showing me how to love myself as much as I love my children.” 

Brenda: 'They showed me how to 'do' life'

Brenda came to St. Monica’s 14 years ago, facing indictment on drug charges.

“To be honest, I was so scared,” Brenda says. “But St. Monica’s accepted me, and my journey, my new life, began. The staff and counselors loved and guided me until I could love myself. They very gently and patiently showed me how to ‘do’ life.”

After 2 months in treatment for her addictions, Brenda surrendered to federal authorities and spent the next 2 years in prison. “St. Monica’s helped me prepare for that and come to accept that I needed to pay my debt to society. “

Two years later she was released and, in her words, “given another chance at life.” She earned an associate’s degree and has a career in home health care. Her daughter is planning for college next fall. She is active in her church.

“I have been able to create a new past now ~ 14 years that has been the most rewarding, sweet life I could have ever imagined,” Brenda says today. “St. Monica’s continues to be a huge part of my life and my recovery.”