Recently the Surgeon General’s office issued a first-ever report specifically on the topic of addiction and substance abuse in the United States. The report states that only 1 in 10 Americans with a substance-use disorder receives treatment.
I am grateful that my friend Peggy, who first came to N Street Village in 2011, is one of those who found help and a new life for herself in recovery from alcoholism.
You might guess a few things about Peggy just from meeting her. She is cheerful and wise (she’s a minister’s daughter), she doesn’t hesitate to offer a hug (she’s a grandmother), and neither does she hesitate to “encourage” others to be on their best behavior (she’s the oldest girl in a family of twelve).
But you wouldn’t guess that just six years ago she was homeless and suicidal.
At age 61, after forty years of drinking, Peggy had lost everything – her career working with children as a teacher and caseworker, and contact with her siblings and her children. In the hospital after a serious suicide attempt, she recalls her son saying, “Ma, look at you…” With his prompting, she went to detox and then came to live at N Street Village, where she enrolled in our addiction recovery programs, including our partnership with Theatre Lab.
Peggy threw herself into recovery with determination and quickly emerged as an anchor in our community – a friend to everyone, with a quick smile and an easy manner. And Peggy really shined as a member of our Theatre Lab program,
where participants develop their autobiographical stories into a theatrical performance. The year that Peggy was in the program, the women had the unique opportunity to perform their drama – How I Got Over – in a one-night sold out performance at the Kennedy Center. I was there and I know that no one in the audience that night will ever forget that powerful experience.
But there is a second act to Peggy’s story that no one could predict back then and which makes her recovery from alcoholism all the more triumphant.
Peggy left N Street Village in 2013, eager to try out her new wings.
But over a period of months the old stressors returned – conflict with family and an absence of income and meaningful work.
One night she was offered a drink by a housemate and she thought “what the hell, I can have just this one.” The disease of addiction quickly turned that moment into a spiral of despair and negative consequences.
And then Peggy did something remarkable – she asked for help soon after her relapse and she returned to N Street Village.
She was afraid of being met with judgement and criticism. But the day she came back, our Day Services Manager Evelyn Green saw her in the hallway and said, “Where have you been? I’ve been worried!” Peggy told her about the relapse and Evelyn opened her arm for a hug saying, “Come here, Darlin’. I’m so glad you’re here!”
Today Peggy is eleven months sober.
When we visited in my office yesterday, she said, “I feel proud of myself today. I am an example of what is possible.”
According to the Surgeon General’s report, there are nine other “Peggies” out there who are still struggling. Maybe there’s a Peggy in your life? Someone you care about who needs help?Someone you care about in treatment or in recovery? In this season especially, we will hold hope that everyone in need finds the healing they deserve.