Giving Back at the Snohomish County Diversion Center

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Thanks to Julia, a resident monitor at the Snohomish County Diversion Center in Everett that Pioneer operates, who shared her story of recovery and success.

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It is really amazing that I ended up working at the Snohomish County Diversion Center in Everett. I am now serving individuals who are raw, coming right off the streets and struggling with their substance abuse - just like I was before I got help. It is a program that I believe in, and an addition to the Office of Neighborhoods service where I found my salvation.

My journey that included substance abuse, mental and physical abuse, homelessness and criminal activity turned around when a few police officers from the Office of Neighborhoods asking me if I needed help. They were talking to other people in a homeless camp across the road and approached me. The sheriff told me he wasn’t there to arrest me but invited me into a brand new program where I could get treatment, housing and assistance. I told them I was ready and remember saying, “I am done with this lifestyle, I can’t do this anymore!”

Getting into Treatment

Unfortunately, a few days later my mom died and I was caught up in a wave of things that pulled me away from following up with the officers. But as fate would have it, five months later I ran into the same police officers and I approached them.  I said, “Hey guys, do you remember me? I am really interested in this program and I am ready!” Three days later a sergeant and a social worker picked me up and took me for my initial assessment for the program. I was nervous but they assured me this was a voluntary program and they were only there to help.

After my assessment, I was accepted into a residential treatment program that they secured for me down in Tacoma. They worked with me to find an out-of- town program that distanced me from my husband when they witnessed signs of domestic abuse - my bruises and everything about me told the story I couldn’t tell.

My Path into Substance Abuse and Homelessness

I had an abusive childhood and at 19 I got into an abusive relationship. At first, I was just a young married mother with two children surviving the traumas of domestic abuse, but then years later I had to have surgery and the start of my drinking and addiction to pain pills began. My husband was also using drugs and we had a doctor who prescribed pills to us without question. After the FBI raided the “candy doctor’s” practice, we were left with an opiate addiction and the need to buy pills on the street. But that was an expensive habit so soon we resorted to heroin as it was cheap and easily obtained.

We went downhill into the spiral of addiction, losing our jobs and a place to live. My oldest son moved out and my youngest son moved in with my brother. At this point I was emotionally and physically beat and followed my husband through a decade of couch surfing, living in abandoned buildings and sheds, and living in a tent in the woods. Over the last 10 years of my addiction, I only saw my kids a few times as they were very upset with me. My homeless life consisted of shoplifting and breaking into cars, and breaking into abandoned houses to survive and buy dope. I was at my lowest when I ran into the police from the Office of Neighborhoods. 

A Helping Hand

The residential treatment program the Office of Neighborhoods team found for me in Tacoma had a three-week wait and I wanted to live with my father until I could get into the program. I had a history of burning bridges with my family so the sergeant offered to speak with my father for me. He worked it out and I moved into my dad’s while I was waiting to get into the treatment program. That really helped me to prepare for the treatment program and slowly start the process of weaning off the drugs.

I was really set on getting straight. When I arrived at the residential treatment program in Tacoma I was determined to give it 100 percent. After 43 days of engaging in every class and service at the program I was clean and released from the program. But that was a very vulnerable point right after I was released - what next? I didn’t need to worry. Instead, the same sergeant picked me up in Tacoma and brought me back to my apartment at Oxford House that the officer and social worker helped me secure.

For the next six months, the Sheriff’s program helped me get my rent paid and continued to offer me help in whatever I needed. They gave me rides to appointments, took me shopping for needed hygiene products, clothing and food items, housing needs and gave me endless support. I was so amazed that each of the officer’s cared so much about my welfare. They are a big part of my life today and still continue to support me. The officers still join me in celebrating my clean and sober birthday every year. I will be celebrating three years clean on March 31, 2019!

A Clean and Sober Life

It was so exciting to experience life being clean and sober for the first time in 20 years! By assisting me with my rent, the Office of Neighborhoods program allowed me to focus on my recovery while I participated in intensive outpatient (IOP) treatment.

The sergeant called me about a part-time job counting ballots in the last election which I accepted, and then I got certified to be a recovery coach. He also told me about the new Snohomish County Diversion Center opening in Everett that Pioneer Human Services was operating and suggested that I apply for a resident monitor position at the Diversion Center as I had been through addiction and homelessness. His team helped me with my resume, encouraged me to apply and put in a good word for me with Pioneer’s program manager. I was eventually hired, but the Diversion Center opening was delayed so utilized that time to continue working on my education in this field.

Today, in my resident monitor position, I know how to approach and work with people who are struggling with addiction and fear.  Often, I share a little of my story to give them hope and let them know I have been in their shoes. It is important to build a trust and let clients know that there is life beyond addiction. The staff at the Diversion Center is there to help clients build a new life of respect and dignity.

I have shared my story with the governor and other organizations. The highlight of my new life is being able to give back. I met a wonderful man in NA and we are both very involved in the Oxford Houses. We act as chair and co-chair of Area Services for 33 Oxford Houses in western Washington organizing and facilitating training for house positions and providing assistance, experience and support to houses. Each house is self-run by residents in recovery. We are also very engaged in our church working as head usher and a leader in the children’s ministry.

Best of all, I have built back my relationship with my wonderful boys and I am a proud grandmother. On December 29, 2018 I got married and feel I am definitely blessed to have experienced this change in my life with a good man. I am eternally grateful to the Office of Neighborhoods and Pioneer Human Services for giving me the chance to change and build back my life!