Peggy is the kind of woman you read about in books, but rarely meet. She is strong, responsible and quick with a laugh. She is what your grandmother would have called, "the salt of the earth." At 85, she has the keen mind and energy of someone decades younger. When others might be content to sit on their porch and watch the world go by, Peggy remains an active part of it-volunteering at several senior centers each week and singing in the choir.
In 1958, Peggy was 26 years old and newly married to her husband, Bob. Soon their family grew as they welcomed a baby boy. It should have been a picture-perfect Norman Rockwell moment-it wasn't. Within three years, she lost Bob to kidney disease and was left alone to care for her young son. Determined to make a better life for herself and her son, she found a job working at a bank. "When I came home, I would have a drink. I found that I was looking forward to that drink."
Soon her drinking began to spiral out of control forcing her to quit her job and move into her parents' home. While trying to keep it together during the day, at night Peggy would sneak out of the house and walk the streets in the dark and pray for a car to hit and kill her. She sought help to deal with her drinking from doctors, hospitals, and psychiatric hospitals, but nothing seemed to work. "I did take shock treatments. That is how desperate I was to stop drinking."
She moved to Southern California for a fresh start and began working for her brother-in-law, Tom, but her drinking continued to escalate. Tom suggested she give Casa a try. "I've made an appointment. Would you go with me?" he asked her. Her eyes still fill with tears when she remembers, "I said, 'Yes.' I remember this so clearly. I went into my room and knelt on the floor. I said, 'God, please. If you are not going to let me die, show me the way."'
Twenty-four hours later, she was staying at Casa and listening to a speaker. "Our speaker said that she had been sober for ten years. I thought 'ten years! I can't even get ten hours some days,"' Peggy continued. Then their speaker said something that changed Peggy's life. "She said it was a disease and I felt this weight come off me. I knew I was going to be okay. I said to myself, 'thank you, God."' Peggy remained at Casa for 30 days, but stayed connected to the people and programs for decades. "We went to meetings. Sometimes people would drop in and just talk. We talked about our emotions. Sometimes we talked privately or in a group. I didn't have anyone to talk to who could understand what I was going through before Casa.
That was 49 years ago, and Peggy is still going strong. She has a lovely home in San Gabriel and friends and family that love her. Of course, she will always be an important part of the Casa family. "Can you see what Casa did? Look at this house! I own it outright. I didn't have anything when I went to Casa. I can't believe these people came and they didn't want anything. They just wanted to help."Peggy B., Alumna
Katie, from all outward appearances, had the perfect life. She had a good and hard-working husband, a happy marriage and four wonderful children. Nothing meant more to her than her children and family, but she hid a dark secret – she was wracked with severe depression and was self-medicating with alcohol after suffering a still-birth in the spring of 2013.
Shortly after the loss, Katie was pregnant again and she focused on family and stayed far away from alcohol. After the birth of her fourth healthy baby, she just didn’t have the tools to deal with her grief and depression and soon as the new baby was weaned, she started drinking heavily. She knew she had to try to keep it a secret, but that turned out to be impossible. Her family immediately closed ranks and staged an intervention. Katie was so full of remorse, guilt and concern for her family that she agreed to enter treatment at Casa.
When Katie arrived at Casa she was terrified. “Initially, I just wanted to go home. Every waking moment I just cried and wanted to go home...The thing that made the difference is that I realized that these other women were like me. I thought I was the only person in the world like this…. Once I realized that these women were moms, they were professionals from all walks of life and that I had a commonality with them, it made me realize that I needed this. I needed recovery.”
Katie stayed in Residential Treatment at Casa for 30 days and spent another 60 days in Sober Living where she received daily therapy and counseling . “I’ve never been in therapy. Never dealt with my dad’s alcoholism (he has been in recovery for 11 years), but I came to realize that I had been depressed since I was a teenager. In my family mental illness was not something that was discussed. At Casa talking with professionals and dealing with my mental health was okay.” She and her husband attended Family Group therapy and he began to understand what she was going through.
While in Sober Living, Casa gave her a scholarship to attend Intensive Outpatient treatment. “We took advantage of what was offered to me. People would say, ‘if you have any questions or if there is a moment that you need someone to talk to just call.’ That was what I got in Sober Living. It was something I couldn’t have gotten at home – it was the access to all of this knowledge on campus that I was able to reach out to at any given moment. Everybody was so forthcoming with advice or just an ear. That was pivotal to me.”
It has been six months since Katie arrived at Casa for the first time and she doesn’t take her sobriety for granted. She still visits Casa five days a week and participates in the free group sessions, aftercare and volunteers with Casa’s alumnae program, Las Estrellitas. “When I come to Casa, I feel like I am coming home.”Katie, Alumna
Leslie is the girl next door from the “average American family.” She grew up playing basketball in high school and idolizing her brother. She was even the captain of her high school the Color Guard. She is everybody’s daughter, sister, girlfriend and best friend – she is also an addict. She started hanging out with older kids and always wanted to be “cool.” At 14 she took her first drink and end-ed up finishing a bottle of vodka with her friends, taking a bunch of pills (Norco) and passing out in her driveway. She continued to drink and smoke pot throughout high school, but kept “it under control.”
After high school she started “using everything.” She heard a lot about Meth from her brother and his friends and she “loved it” before she tried it. “I wanted to love it.” That was just the beginning. Leslie had three children while using meth and just about everything else. She stole to get money for drugs and spent time in jail for possession and theft.
Eventually, her children were taken by Child Protective Services (CPS) and placed with her mother and a family friend. There were many times when Leslie was determined to quit, but she just couldn’t do it on her own. She wanted to be a good mother and get her kids and life back. “I knew I would never stop unless I got help.” After her last stint in jail, she begged her health insurance company to send her to residential treatment and she was sent to Casa.
When Leslie arrived at Casa she was so happy to be here, but that doesn’t mean her the struggle for sobriety was easy. It took a lot of time and effort. She has been working on her sobriety at Casa for almost a year now and the changes are extraordinary. “For the first time in my life, I have a job...I am happy with who I am... I had no hope a year ago. I didn’t care about anything.”
Now Leslie is planning for the future. “Five years from now I want to be able to support myself and my kids. I want to be working at a treatment center as a counselor…I would love to work at Casa. I want to help out my mom because she has helped me out so much.”Leslie, Alumna
Carmen started finishing off her mother’s beer when she was just 5 years old. “Mom was a party-girl” who worked hard Monday-Friday and then played hard all weekend. By the time Carmen was a teen she was drinking heavily and taking drugs. She would continue this downward cycle for almost 25 more years. By the time she hit bottom, she had been living on the streets for 8 years and was freebasing crack cocaine and drinking daily.
Things slowly started to change for Carmen in the most remarkable of places - jail. Someone had slipped a bible into her cell and as she read it she realized she wanted to be different.
Soon she found her way Casa and began her recovery. At Casa she learned the 12 steps and the 12 traditions, life skills, and attended group sessions with rest of the sisters. One of these sessions ended up being the worst day of her life and the turning point in her recovery. It was there that she told the secret that she had kept for more than two decades —she had been molested at the age of nine and lost her virginity to a family member by the time she was 14. After the session a Casa staff member told her, “Carmen, you have a choice. You can hold onto that pain or you can let it go.” It made all the difference. “I didn’t know how to release that pain, but it was the first time I ever realized I had a choice.”
Her struggle for sobriety wasn’t easy. One day when she had a breaking pointing and was ready to walk out of treatment, a staff member hugged her and held her saying, “I don’t think you really want to leave.” Carmen didn’t want to leave. She completed her 90 day Residential Treatment and then spent another year at Casa in Sober Living.
Carmen has been sober for 20 years. Today she has a wonderful life and family and is about to begin a credentialing program to become an alcohol and drug counselor. Her story of survival and redemption is truly inspirational.Carmen, Alumna