As of the writing of this letter, the Bay Area and in fact most of the world is going through a difficult time as we work to keep the most vulnerable among us safe and healthy. We debated about not sending this letter given the serious challenges that some of you may be going through right now. We made the decision to send it because reading Tasha’s story may be just what you need to hear right now, and for some of you, continuing to support the women we serve may still be important and doable for you. But if you are struggling right now or everything just feels very uncertain, please know that we empathize, and you are in our daily thoughts and prayers.
Tasha’s story is one of remarkable self-efficacy – an inspiring reminder that by being open to help and motivated for change, each one of us is firmly in charge of our own destinies.
Tasha grew up in Sonoma. One of five children, Tasha describes her parents as being young and doing the best they could with what they had.
“My family was always there for each other physically, but not emotionally,” shares Tasha. “There was a lot of drinking and anger. We didn’t talk about feelings, ever. I remember being 4 years old at Food Maxx. My mom wouldn’t let me get the Rolo candies that I wanted, so I stole them. My mom said that my dad would deal with me about it. My dad let it go. From then on, I knew I could do whatever I wanted. At 5 years old I was stealing cigarettes and smoking, then drinking a lot by 8 years old. At 16 I was snorting meth.
My mom left when I was 18. I went to the beach and came home and she had packed all her stuff and left. I had to make sure my brothers and sisters and dad were ok. I was able to graduate high school.
I ended up finding out I was pregnant. I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t know what I was going to do. Nobody talked about it. I was obviously pregnant, but nobody asked me about it. I went into labor February 4, 2001. I remember being so detached. I had a girl. I stayed the night with her, then I just walked out the next day without telling anyone I shut down and ran from everything. I reached out to my high school teacher who took me to an adoption agency. I met the family who adopted my daughter. They had their lives together and being able to have a child meant so much to them.
After high school, I was able to maintain a job, was married, helped support my sister through college, and I had a house. But I felt broken inside, and substance use was never far away. When I lost my job, I just walked out of my house and went back to using drugs. I just walked out. I was eventually arrested for selling drugs. My dad couldn’t bail me out. I was 33 years old and it was the first time I had real consequences.
I stayed clean for one year. I felt that drinking would be ok, but after I started drinking again, I was back on meth, and in 2017 I was incarcerated for selling drugs. The judge said I might be in prison for 13 years. This was when I began to try to turn my life around. I signed up for classes while I was incarcerated and started reading self-help books. They helped me change my thought patterns and taught me how to work through the dark places.
After being incarcerated, I entered a program called Epiphany, which gave me a great foundation for recovery. When I finished the program at Epiphany, my transition fell through and I went to a hotel. With nowhere to go, I reached out to a girl I had gotten to know through Epiphany, and she told me about Gracenter. I called, and Sandra at Gracenter interviewed me. They were somehow able to move me in the next day. That first day at Gracenter, it was my birthday. They had a cake for me. They made me feel so welcome.
When I got to Gracenter, I had just started working at a deli. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Being at Gracenter, I have been able to get my life in order. I have been able to take care of my health, and have lost 38 pounds. I completed my 12 steps through AA with my sponsor.
There were some things in my life that I thought were never going to get better. I was blacklisted from being able to open a bank account. I thought my credit was absolutely shot. At Gracenter they bring in a person from Bank of the West to teach about budgeting and saving. She gave me a chance to open a bank account. I was crying I was so happy. We ran my credit report, and my credit score wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. The woman from Bank of the West was also able to help me open a secured credit card to start rebuilding my credit. I’ve now been able to pay off my probation costs.
And my overall health is in such a better place too. Gracenter helped me get a primary doctor and a real plan for my health. My therapy has helped me no longer be ashamed of my depression, my anxiety.
I now work full-time at Trader Joe’s in addition to my part-time job at the deli. I have been working on finding housing and recently applied for a spot in a high rise. They ask for a lot of paperwork, and it’s been great to have access to the computers at Gracenter, and to print out my paystubs and my bank account information.
So many things I thought were a lost cause, but I’ve been able to work on myself here at Gracenter. Everything is falling into place. There is no judgment, and everyone here is willing to listen. It is a safe place. I feel so loved, so blessed. It’s so amazing to be here. Gracenter has helped me with every aspect of my life.
When I grew up, we didn’t talk about what was going inside; we were emotionally disconnected. Being here and having a safe place to open up and be vulnerable for the first time in my life has allowed me to accept who I am on the inside. Asking for help used to make me feel bad, like I wasn’t able to take care of myself. But I’ve learned that it is ok to ask for help. I’ve been able to talk about things in my past that I’ve never been able to talk about before, like having my daughter. I have still never talked to my mom or my dad about it, but I have now talked to my siblings about it.
I am able to talk about it now because I’ve been through therapy, and am releasing the guilt and the shame that I’ve carried. Those things were holding me back and keeping me sick. Now there is a peace in my chest, a calmness. Things that I’ve done in my past, I don’t let it define who I am. This is the first time I’ve been able to heal and forgive myself.
On May 27th of this year, I will be two years clean. I’ve always had a passion for exercise and eating healthy, and I’m thinking about going back to school to become a physical therapist. When I do leave Gracenter, I’ll also come back here and work and stay connected to the girls. It’s such a special place. It’s given me the confidence and love to continue my life outside of here. I want the other girls here to be able to get there too. Now, instead of violence and hatred, I have compassion, empathy and love. If I can do it, anybody can do it. I feel amazing. Financially, mentally, spiritually, physically. This is the happiest I’ve even been in my life.
At Gracenter, we are determined to provide more women like Tasha with the opportunity to achieve long-term recovery from addiction, but we can’t do it without your help. If you are able to, please consider a donation, which is 100% tax-deductible, to provide the support needed for women like Tasha to turn their lives around. Your support makes this program possible.
- A gift of $1,000 sponsors one woman for a month and includes housing, three meals each day, one-to-one recovery mentoring, job and school application support, and connections to community volunteerism.
- A gift of $500 provides job-readiness mentoring sessions for 13 women as they pursue their goals, including resume support and referrals to job training.
- A gift of $100 provides 40 nutritious home-cooked meals that support each woman’s health and foster community among the women.
- A gift of $50 provides basic toiletries like toothbrushes and soap for women arriving at Gracenter.
Gifts of any size will make a difference in the lives of the women we serve at Gracenter. Thank you for considering a donation.
Sr. Marguerite Bartling, RGS
Executive Director, Good Shepherd Gracenter
P.S. Does your company offer matching gifts? If so, please email me and I will help make sure your gift is doubled.