Natalee had been to more rehab facilities than she could count. Then Athena House changed the trajectory of the rest of her life

Natalee’s Story
Natalee and Daughter

I arrived at Athena House one day in May 2017, having just been sentenced by a judge to six months of treatment. My only possessions were the filthy clothes on my back. My yellow, translucent body was riddled with track marks and scars like a roadmap marking places I had been. At 25 years old, I had walked thousands of miles of life, but none in the right direction. I was broken and completely desolate of any hope. But hopelessness implies a feeling that can be felt, and during that time I knew only how to operate on an animalistic level. Everything in my life up to that point had been about survival. I was a shell of a person, unable to formulate or articulate any real feeling other than the instinct to run, which I always did.

Athena House was not the first rehab I had arrived at in this way. In fact, by this point, I had lost count of the number of rehabs and jails I had entered. But this time was different. At Athena House, I wasn’t met with what I had come to expect from past experiences. Instead, I was given clean clothes. It was the first time I wore clean clothes in months. To be helped to feel human again in that moment is a feeling that I haven’t forgotten. Days and weeks into treatment, I didn’t run. Instead, I began to learn how to pay attention with an open mind and open heart. The staff spoke genuinely and honestly about their experiences, they spent extra time with me, and made themselves available as I tried to unravel and piece together years of using. The emotional rollercoaster that comes with recovery was met with grace, tolerance, and understanding. These women had been where I had been. I now recognize that they had earned enough of my trust that I came to believe them and began wanting what they had.

The six months I spent at Athena House meant more than simply a separation from drugs and alcohol. It provided me with counseling and the tools I needed to navigate early recovery. It also shaped me into the person I am today. Athena House introduced me to AA and the fundamental tools and words of guidance I now use when working with others struggling with addiction.

Once I completed treatment at Athena House, I received six months of aftercare while living in Hope Village. I was held accountable while living in a safe sober environment and transitioning back into a world where I had no memory of navigating without substances. Years later, I remain connected to Athena House. Life doesn’t stop happening when we get sober. As an alumna, I always have one of the safest spaces I have ever known to return to for support.

To say Athena House saved my life doesn’t feel big enough. My time at Athena House marked the beginning of a changed trajectory for the rest of my life. Recovery wasn’t something I knew I wanted. Recovery found me at Athena House, though I couldn’t explain it at the time. Now I know it came to me because of the staff’s dedication to saving the lives of the women who come through their doors. The family I’d come to know there built me up when I was down, taught me how to love myself, accepted me, and have continually shown up for me over the years.

With just under a year clean in March of 2018 I became a single mom. My daughter and I have always been welcome. Those women taught me how to be a mother to her. They taught me how to be an example. They taught me how to not use, no matter what, especially when things get hard, explaining it over and over and over again.

I have celebrated seven years of continued freedom and evolving perspective. During that time, I achieved something I once only dreamed about but never thought I was capable. I completed nursing school and became a registered nurse.

Today, I am a sober mother, a registered nurse, a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, an aunt and a friend to those close and those arriving at their first meeting. That’s because Athena House was there for me when I didn’t even know I needed it.
With love and gratitude,
Natalee, RN.