In 2011, Lauren was first charged with assault and put on probation. While on probation in 2013, Lauren started using drugs … again. She first started smoking pot and drinking when she was 17. She stopped using drugs during her first pregnancy. On parole she tried pills and then heroin a couple months before she was pregnant with her second child and continued until two weeks before her daughter, Layla, was born.
Lauren went to prison, was released into recovery and was clean for 9 months. Then, while her grandmother was taking care of Layla, Lauren was coming to the house to pick up Layla and saw an ambulance and police cars in front of the house. Her grandmother had died suddenly and threw Lauren for a loop, “I got high two weeks later and overdosed.”
As long as she attended Intensive Out Patient (IOP) therapy, Lauren did not have to go back to prison. She stayed clean for four months, but could not afford to continue the IOP, so she went back to prison. Then she was released to a recovery house where she stayed until she moved into Beth Shalom.
Lenara reminds us of the challenges the women of Beth Shalom face, “They have a lot to accomplish. They go to meetings, maintain their recovery, maintain their Christian lives, pay their fines and costs, attend classes or go to jobs. The supportive aspect of Beth Shalom is critical. Their chances of succeeding in the community are much greater than if they are released without a support system.”
Lauren’s main objective in coming to Beth Shalom is to have her children back. And to learn how to budget her money. “I’m terrible with money,” she explains, “so I’m looking forward to learning how to budget.” The structured environment is what attracted Lauren to Beth Shalom. “I’ll be independent, but still be held accountable. I think I need that,” she says. “I am really thankful to be accepted into the program. I’ve never had my own place, so it is going to be a new start for me.”
She still attends IOP and meets with her sponsor 2 to 3 times a week. “I call [my sponsor] and send her my gratitude list every night. I see my parole officer twice a week. And I ask him to give me a drug test. It holds me accountable.”
The Christian aspect of the Beth Shalom program is very important to Lauren. “I go to church,” she says. “Prayer is really good for me. I pray in the morning for my kids and for the day ahead. I’ve come to accept that nothing happens in God’s world by mistake. If I wasn’t strong enough to handle it, I wouldn’t be going through it.”
Lauren’s immediate goals are to find work closer to the Beth Shalom residence and has already applied for several positions, and obtain custody of her 3 month-old son. She eventually wants custody of all of her three children. “I want to make it up to my daughters for the time I was away,” she says, “and I don’t’ want my son to ever see my old self. My oldest daughter snap chats with me every night.
“People look down because I’m an addict. But we can rise above it. We’re just like anybody else. We just have it harder. It is a choice, but it’s also a disease. And I’ll have it the rest of my life. We are all strong and we are all worth it.”
Lenara says that she accepted Lauren into the program because she could see that Lauren is very motivated to make a change in her life. "She loves her children," says Lenara, "and wants to be independent and accountable. She is doing everything she needs to do and is willing to do whatever it takes to move ahead and put the past behind her."