A special thank you to three of the GREATEST WOMEN I KNOW!
"Dr. Mimi Silbert Dr. Teri Lynch-Delane and Ms. Carol Kizziah"
"Without them not only would I not have any of the joy that I have in my life today, and I would not even know how to!!!"
My story begins when I grew up in two of the neighborhoods you see on the news every night due to violence and drugs. But when I was little, these same neighborhoods had unlocked doors, grandma's looking after the children and they played in the street until after the street lights came on.
As I think back on those days, I have good memories and more really bad memories. My mother was addicted to every kind of downer and pain killer there was. They were always given to her freely by the doctors she went to. Add to that her being an alcoholic, life was not very pleasant most of the time, so I always dreamed and fantasized about having a better life.
I was pregnant by the age of 15 and was pressured to get married so I did. This led to the blind leading the blind because my husband was fresh from the south and only had a third grade education. After about four years, five children (one of which died of heart disease) and an environment of yelling, screaming and domestic violence, we separated.
I then, being very dysfunctional, scared and hopeless, started to experiment with drugs. I was searching for happiness in all the wrong places and with all the wrong people. By the time I was twenty two, I was pretty much hooked on heroin and cocaine. I completely left my two smallest children with my father and took the two oldest with me on a journey of drug addiction, violence and crime. From that point on until 39 years old, (when I went to Delancey Street) my life was a violent drug infested nightmare which my two oldest children played a first role part in. As a result of that they both turned out to be extremely drug addicted, illiterate and dysfunctional.
I went to Delancey Street as an alternative to prison in 1988. I successfully completed Delancey Street (one of the hardest rehabilitative programs in the world) and created a wonderful life for myself. I was there five wonderful, hard, scary years. I learned all I needed to know to live a great life, which I've done now as of 2009 for 22 years. When I graduated I started working in the field that had saved my life and found where I was meant to be. I also had the time to help my own children to find the way out of their nightmares. I have perfected my career and realize most of my dreams. Now I am establishing a model of transitional living that will be a continuum of care for people who need extra support and help maintaining their sobriety.
When I was getting ready to graduate from Delancey Street, I realized that I was so lucky that I had gained all the tools and life skills that it was going to take for me to embark upon a new life. What I saw when I graduated from Delancey Street, not everyone comes out of a program with all the tools they need to hold themselves together. Some come from generations of violence, addiction and crime. When they get out of incarceration they don't have the elements needed to live a healthy clean and sober lifestyle, or after they get out of a wonderful drug program, for a lack of financial resources they often have return to the same negative environments and associations that they came from. Thus they wind up right back where they started from.
That is when I soon realized that everyone was not quite as lucky as I was, they needed additional help to maintain a clean & sober, healthy lifestyle. Hence forth Mz. Shirliz Transitional Living.