Southern California Alcohol and Drug Programs, Inc. has received funding from the Services in Supportive Housing (SSH) program of SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services. The SSH program funds grantees to provide intensive services to prevent or reduce homelessness.
Cinda* is the first woman to graduate from Southern California Alcohol and Drug Program, Inc.’s Living Independently, Functioning Everyday (LIFE) Project. She completed the program several years ago, but continues to return to attend group sessions. “They are awesome. They do anything and everything to help you,” says Cinda.
She explains that she would do anything for the LIFE Project staff, saying “They are like handpicked flowers that make the perfect bouquet.” She feels she is able to discuss all of her fears and that the project staff truly understand what it is like to have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Cinda’s fears come from a very real place of substance use, trauma, poverty, and living on the edge of survival. They are the result of the devastating challenges of co-occurring disorders and lack of access to care, diagnosis, and support in the early stages.
Cinda graduated from high school (with honors) and from college. She also suffered from depression, PTSD, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. She started doing crack cocaine and phencyclidine (PCP). She did not realize that she had a problem with drugs until her mother confronted her. Her mother said, “You put that little rock in the palm of your hand and you blow your mind.” She tried a treatment center, but was high within 30 minutes of release.
Her mother was a single parent. She found Cinda a job at a post office, but Cinda was unable to maintain it. She did not pass her probation period. She became a prostitute and lived on the streets for 30 years. She describes this period as “taking care of business.” One night, she got into the wrong car with two men she described as clean cut. They took her on the highway and feigned car trouble. Eventually, they told Cinda to get out of the car, hit her over the head with a gun, and started to drive away. When they noticed she was looking up, they backed up and shot her in the head three times. They left her to die on the Los Angeles freeway. She has no idea how she made it to the hospital.
Within 2 months she says, “I was loaded again.” She thought she was going to be paralyzed and her self-esteem was in the trenches. She thought all she could do was “hook,” even though she knew deep down that she was smart. Until 2007, this reality was Cinda’s life.
She returned to Compton when a friend with 27 years of sobriety offered to help her. She spent 10 months at Southern California Alcohol and Drug Programs, Inc. where she says “I learned that to be clean and sober is to be humble.” She explains that she had limitations when she arrived there and she still has them. From the outpatient program, she transferred to the LIFE Project. She credits the LIFE Project with saving her life.
While Cinda has some physical limitations from the shooting, she is able to care for an elderly woman, and is in the process of obtaining social security benefits. She wants to take a special education class so that she can teach at a school for youth with disabilities. Today, Cinda is 4 years clean and sober. She is joyful and full of hope. Yet, she is still aware of the reality of her past and that she received the gift of a future.
*Not her real name. Her name has been changed to protect her privacy.
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