Our Stories

A Life Changing Experience

My name is Nancy and I am an alcoholic. I was raised in a middle class family. Neither of my parents have a problem with drugs or alcohol. I started drinking when I was 16. During high school, it was mostly just on the weekends and for fun. I was awarded a full athletic college scholarship. I managed to control my drinking for two years but then decided to return home.

I was able to settle down and have a family–one daughter and two sons. I worked throughout their childhood and somehow managed to continue maintaining my drinking. As they got older, my drinking picked up. Things continued to get worse and I eventually started not showing up for work at all, picking my kids up late from practice and dances, and spending what little money I had on alcohol.

I became a prisoner to alcohol and my life fell to pieces. I was hopeless, tired, confused, angry, sick and very unhealthy. My parents took over my role as parent to my children. I drank all day, every day until I passed out. My family no longer talked to me.

On January 13th, I asked God to help me because I couldn’t stop drinking on my own. The next morning, I made the decision to come to Grace House. I wanted a new life and a new happiness.

I am growing at Grace House every day. I have learned how to work with others, be punctual, do the next right thing and have compassion for others. I enjoy going to 12-Step meetings, working with my sponsor and the fellowship of my peers. The feeling of love among sober women is powerful and amazing. One of the best days of my life was when I was voted Leader of our Therapeutic Community!

I have been here at Grace House for five months and I am now attending the Work-Pack program–which gives me training and education to get back in the working world. I am going to finish and then go and get me a job.

I am so very grateful for this opportunity. My relationship today with my family, especially my children, is beautiful and continues to grow. I can never say enough about this program and how Grace House has completely changed my life forever! Goodbye Alcohol.

A New Hope

My name is Derrick, and I’m a recovering alcoholic and a drug addict! I was born in New Jersey, and I moved to Florida at the age of 22. I was a late bloomer when I was introduced to drugs and alcohol, but when I started using them at the age of 25, it took me less than six months to lose everything that I had. Drugs and alcohol led me to a dark place of violence, stealing, hospitals, mental institutions, and finally prison. All those consequences never stopped me from picking up a drink or using a drug. I had over 50 prior arrests, and all of them where a result of drinking and doing drugs. Florida was so fed up with me, they were ready to give me life in prison. I made a decision to move to New Orleans at the age of 38, but I still chose to drink and do drugs. I was homeless and living under the bridge, sleeping on a concrete slab. I had a five hundred dollars a day crack cocaine habit with no will to live. While panhandling, a van with the Bridge House logo on it came and picked a few of us up and took us to “Christmas in The Summer”, where they fed us and gave us clothes. A few days later, with my heart beating two hundred beats per minute, I checked myself into Detox. After three days, they sent me to a place called New Hope NOLA, and where they referred me to Bridge House. I went to Bridge House and the staff and the clients were genuinely kind, but I was afraid that I was a lost cause. I left Bridge House after 20 minutes of my admission. The second time I came back to Bridge House, I stayed for six months, but I didn’t take any of their suggestions serious enough, and I relapsed after a year. I was dishonest and wouldn’t get down to the core of my problems. I ended up back under the bridge and my life was in shambles. I knew that I had a purpose in life. That day, I saw The Bridge House van again, and I got on my knees and prayed. I went to the hospital and then went back to Bridge House. I was willing to take suggestions, follow instructions, and use my counselors to get to the core of my problems. Bridge House taught me a new way of life, such as responsibility, honesty, and forgiveness with yourself. Once I started to believe that, things started to change. I then completed Bridge House and took what I learned from Bridge House with me. I landed a job next door at Restaurant Depot as a Forklift Operator. Because of Bridge House, I have learned how to be responsible, on time, honest, and grateful. By taking suggestions, I have received blessings after blessings. I am currently two years clean and sober. I am living on my own with my fianceé in an actual house, I am currently in college for Business Management, I am about to be a father, and I was just promoted to Assistant Floor Manager. I am indebted to Bridge House for giving me a chance to change my life.

The Greatest Gift

My addiction started at a young age. I am the only person in my immediate family that struggles with addiction. I grew up in a great family. My parents have never divorced and I have two older successful brothers. I was addicted to heroin and crack cocaine. My addiction was very powerful and dark. It started out as me using drugs to boost my self-esteem. After getting involved in an abusive relationship, a deadly traumatic car accident, and the deaths of my closest friends- I began using to numb any and all feelings. I lost all my self-worth. My days consisted of finding a way to get money through prostitution to buy my drugs. Each day I did the same thing. I didn’t care that I was constantly in and out of jail and getting arrested. I thought the drugs would keep me numb. However, my problems only got worse. I was completely miserable. I feared sobriety because I had to face all the trauma, guilt, and shame. I had to face the guilt of my parents reporting me missing because I was MIA on a crack binge. Having to face those things terrified me. I was sentenced to drug court, I ran, and I obviously couldn’t stay sober alone. I needed help. I went back to jail and waited for a bed at Grace House. Here at Grace House I have grained back my self-worth. Today, I love who I am. Today, I have real, healthy relationships. Today, I can get through each day sober. The holidays are a beautiful time. Last Christmas in my addiction I remember the look on my family’s faces when I walked in the house completely impaired. It broke their hearts and mine. This year, whether I’m physically present or not, I will be sober and joyous and free of my addiction. That to me, is the greatest gift to have been given. My hope for the future is to show my family this gift I have been given and to show others that the holidays can be a joyous time. We have the power to let it be.

-Laura L

Dear Bridge House / Grace House Donors,

At 44 months sober, I am still in awe of what you have done for me through Bridge House / Grace House. Before my arrival, I was on a path of destruction that was second to none. I was tired of fighting a battle I was convinced could not be won. The anger I felt at not being able to fight this on my own left me needing a referee just to look in the mirror. You took me in free of charge and rose to all of my challenges. You became my referee and when I veered off course, you never tired of throwing up a yellow flag.  Your constant guidance and care helped me realize that the only one holding me back was myself. The most significant thing you did for me was to put me in your Thrift Store as a cashier. I’d like to tell you, I’ll never forget my first customer, but in all honesty, I never looked up.  The hounds of guilt and shame would not allow me to look in ones eye and have a simple conversation. So as long as I looked down at my shoes, I sad that will be a $1.95. It was an akward transaction to say the least, but you kept faith in me and pushed me forward. As I started rebuilding self confidence, I also started to see that alcoholism and addiction was a battle that could be won with the right guidance. I wish I could coin a word or a phrase that would show my appreciation for the guidance that Bridge House so freely gave me. In seven short months at Grace House, I was able to shake those hounds of guilt and shame. When I look in the mirror, I no longer need a referee, for today I see my friend. I would further like to thank Brige House / Grace House for the time they let me spend as the manager of their Thrift Store. It was with great honor to personally thank so many donors who made it possible for someone like me who would have otherwise never had a chance. At 45 years old, today I am a freshman in college pursuing a degree as a Liscensed Addiction Counselor.  What Bridge House and their donors have done for me is no less than amazing.

Thank you all,

Sandi N.

“I pulled myself up…”

When I began my journey at Bridge House I was physically, mentally, and spiritually broken. I had fallen so far in such a short time in my life. Drugs and alcohol had become my master, and I had fully lost the power of choice to even think, feel, or act on my own. I remember waking up one day by the New Orleans Mission, sleeping on the cold hard concrete listening to the cars pass overhead. I asked myself, “How did you ever let yourself get to this point?”

I never realized at that time that I had a disease. I had come from a good family and to be living on the street was very foreign to me. By this point in my life, my disease had made me do terrible things to everyone that I loved and they were no longer in my life because I was unwilling to get help for so long. I always believed that I should be able to control this thing, like other people that I see, but it never occurred to me that I have a physical allergy and a mental obsession that is triggered whenever I put any type of foreign substance into my body that changes my perception.

I pulled myself up from that hard, cold concrete and came to the realization that I could no longer live the way I was living. I had heard many great things about Bridge House, but I never had thought to go there because I had to become completely willing to become sober. I walked to Bridge House from the New Orleans Mission carrying my luggage behind me and was completely broken.

Once I entered the Bridge House program, they were able to put structure back into my life and it was a place where I could feel safe and truly cared for. Bridge House introduced me to recovery and now it was my time to take the action. I acquired a sponsor and began working steps. I began learning things about myself that I had buried for so long through the use of drugs and alcohol. I began to come to the realization that drugs and alcohol were only a symptom of my problem and the thing that I needed to work on the most was myself. Alcohol and drugs were my solution for many years, but, somewhere down the line, it had turned its back on me. By working the steps and building my support group in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, I began to learn how to deal with everyday life issues that I would normally get intoxicated over.

My relationship with my family and loved ones has grown more than I could ever imagine. Today, I am able to spend quality time with them and give them the son and significant other that they have always known I could be from the very start. I can now contribute to life and society on a daily basis instead of being a burden. I will forever be grateful for the things that Bridge House has done for me to get my life back in order.

Brett J.

They saw something in me that I didn’t

I came to Grace House because I needed help—help from myself. I didn’t know who I was. I was like a kid lost without a parent. I had nowhere to turn and was hopeless. I thought I found myself in a bottle or in pills. Really, all I was doing was hiding my pain, my hurt that I never really knew I had. I’m able to take off those bandages and let the wounds heal. Take a look at my past and realize the wrong I’ve done.

I recently went to Manresa, a spiritual retreat, for a day and, I looked up in the sky and saw a bird flying. His little wings were flapping so fast, like he’s fighting so hard to get where he’s got to go. That’s me! I’ve got to give it all I’ve got. I’ve got to fight. I’ve got to flap my wings really hard to get where I want to go. I want to succeed in life. I want to be the mom that Jaida (my daughter) deserves. I want to love myself.

I started drinking and using drugs at the age of thirteen. It was what everyone was doing. It was the cool thing to do at that age. It made me feel like I was a part of something. It started off with just marijuana. Eventually it led to acid, pills, ecstasy, cocaine, and heroin. I never thought I’d stick a needle in my arm, but I did. My addiction worsened. They say marijuana is a gateway drug. For me it was.

I started getting in trouble with the law when I was fifteen, and I had Jaida when I was twenty. You’d think I would have straightened up after having Jaida, but I didn’t. When I was twenty-one, I was put on probation for marijuana and pills.  I messed up while on probation, so my parole officer revoked me.  I did fifteen months in the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women. I received my first DWI when I was twenty-three, my second when I was twenty-eight, and my third and fourth DWIs—within two weeks of one another—at the age of thirty-five. Thank God I never hurt anyone!

I’m at a different place in my life right now, a good place. I’m very grateful for Grace House. Through this program, I am learning the coping skills that I need to survive. I’m not running and hiding anymore. I’m able to face the fears and challenges that come at me. Relapse is a part of my story, but it doesn’t have to continue to be. Grace House has given me the tools needed to work on fixing me. I’m the Kitchen Lead at Grace House. I didn’t think that I would be able to do it, but they saw something in me that I didn’t. I’ve always doubted myself, but I now have faith because of Grace House. They say faith without work is dead, so I’m working!

Nikki W.

Today I have confidence and self-esteem

My name is Casie and I am thirty years old.  I am a manager at work, a student, and the proud mother of two little boys.  I am also an addict.  As far back as five years old, I struggled with anxiety and depression which caused a constant feeling of inadequacy.  I felt judged by everyone, so I kept quiet.  I just wanted to be normal so I pretended to be fine and always had a smile on my face.

I started drinking at twelve and was using drugs by fourteen.  By sixteen, I discovered that the pills in our medicine cabinet, the same pills that destroyed my parents’ marriage, took all my pain away.  My fears were finally gone.  I felt normal and had no intention of stopping.

By the age of twenty, I was using needles.  My relationship with my family was strained.  I had become a liar, thief, and a cheater.  The drugs completely consumed my life.  Every time I turned around, I woke up in jail with very little recollection of how I got there. The consequences were heartbreaking and scary. I never imagined my life would turn out this way.  I never wanted to hurt my family, but I couldn’t handle life without drugs.  Once the drugs wore off, those things I wanted so much like love, family, and friends seemed impossible.  I got married, divorced, had two children, and still couldn’t stop.  In February 2011, I was arrested for the last time for manufacturing methamphetamine.  After six weeks in jail, the judge sent me to Grace House.

The next few months, I experienced the worst anxiety and depression a human being should have to endure.  Grace House offered me a safe place to stay for an extended period of time, hundreds of hours of therapy, and they introduced me to Alcoholics Anonymous.  At this time, I was willing to do whatever they told me to do and I did.  A few months later, I started to experience freedom and happiness for the first time ever.  I started to have some hope and liked the way I felt, so like with anything else, I wanted more of it! I was shown a solution to the depression and anxiety without drugs.

After a year, Grace House offered me aftercare and permanent housing.  The next few years, I learned some real responsibility and I learned how to enjoy life.  Above all, and by far the best thing that recovery has given me is a real sense of self.

I have been sober a little over four years now and my life is so different.  I just moved back to my hometown which is something I said I would never do.  I was able to make peace with my past and get reconnected with my family.  Today, due to the program, I have confidence and self-esteem.  I am able to be a good mother, daughter, and friend.  I am present and active in the lives of my children.  My boys finally have the mother they deserve.  I will always be grateful to Grace House for giving me my start!

Casie D.

I just couldn’t break the cycle

In the beginning, things were good.  I had lots of money, lots of drugs, and, of course, lots of women. My work took me to places most people never dreamed of. To stand on The Polar Ice Cap or next to the Crucifix in Rio were magnificent adventures to me. These experiences were never ending in my life. So was the cocaine.

I went to work in Mexico when I was twenty-five years old.  I was so glad to get away from drugs and the rut I was in. I married a woman there who had a three year old son, who I adopted and raised. We set up house in the city Tampico, Tamps., Mexico and later she gave me a beautiful baby girl.  I was so happy; I thought my using days were behind me.  Little did I know that the worst was yet to come.

The company I worked for sold their share in the joint venture and, in order to continue working for them, I began to work at other locations, worldwide.  These trips kept me away from home for months at a time.  My feelings of loneliness increased, as did my drug use.

This went on for ten years.  My pain grew and grew until one day, I became acquainted with crack cocaine.  I knew this was what I wanted the first time I used it.  For the next twenty years, I would not be able to leave it alone.  Now, I’m a full blown drug addict.  I’ve lost everything and everyone in my life and still, I didn’t get it. There were times that I sought help, but it was only because I thought that I could manage my addiction after some period of abstinence.

This continued for over twenty years.  I would use, feel guilty for it, then use more to cover up those feelings.  I just couldn’t break the cycle.  All I could do was to run from the feelings.  I would go days without eating and spent two years sleeping under bridges.  Finally, when I couldn’t stand it anymore, there was the inevitable suicide attempt and I was committed to the psych ward of a local hospital in New Orleans.  Now, being unable to use or obtain drugs, I was able to begin to see things a little more clearly.  So, I asked to be placed in Bridge House, where I remain at this writing.

For the first time in my life, I was able to sit down and take a good look at myself. The staff here had many helpful insights and the information in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous has, at last, been revealed to me.  Upon reading one of the personal stories in the back of the book, I had what can only be described as a lightning bolt experience.  I never was a dancer, but I wanted to dance that day. This passage had the effect of freeing me from me.  I am no longer a slave.

Thanks to Bridge House, the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous ,The Big Book, and last but certainly not least, a loving God.  I now count myself as one of His children and am preparing myself for the mission He has given me; saving other lives as He saved mine.

Don T.

I am not the same broken woman who walked in these doors

My life has been difficult.  I have the typical story of many an alcoholic/addict.  I was no stranger to abuse and trauma at a young age.  However, these things pale in comparison to the abuse which I inflicted upon myself while I was using.  I did not respect myself.  Over the years the consequences of this horrific disease piled up, and I have been using since I was fourteen.  As you can imagine, this has been a long journey for me.

I have lost both of my children to this disease.  I gave my daughter up for adoption and terminated parental rights to my son.  I have trashed a scholarship and both my civilian and military careers.  I can probably never drive again for the rest of my natural born life—which is ironic because I have spent altogether almost a year, homeless, sleeping in my car.

I was spiritually bankrupt.  I had lost my dignity, self-respect, and any semblance of hope or faith I have ever had.  I was walking around without a soul.  I was not afraid of dying, but I was scared to death to live.

My journey at Grace House, or my attempt at sobriety, began over a year ago.  Although relapse is not a part of everyone’s story, it is a part of mine.  I am definitely of the sometimes slowly variety.

I decided this July that I still had some experimenting left to do.  It is so true that you start right where you left off, and sometimes worse.  My significant other passed away from an overdose in August, and that was my green flag to use, no holds barred.  By September I was homeless, sleeping at the bus-stop on South Broad.  I had blown past everything I said that I would never do and graduated to things that had never even entered my wildest dreams.  Ironically, I am eternally grateful for those three months.  They gave me the gift of desperation.

When I contacted Grace House, they welcomed me back with open arms.  So did my higher power.  Today I choose to call him God.  I didn’t find him.  He found me.  I just finally had to surrender.  I had to learn how to live again because my way wasn’t working.   I had to follow a few simple suggestions.  That meant admitting that my life was one big shipwreck, and I could no longer captain my own ship.  I had to believe that God could steer my ship, and then I had to let him.  This took reconnecting with my hope and faith that had been extinguished so long ago.

Today I am not perfect, but I have peace.  I seek God’s will in my life and pray for confirmation that I am on the right course.  I am becoming aware of how my actions impact my relationships.  I turn my character defects over to God in prayer and strive to do the next right thing.  Though, when I make mistakes, I remind myself that all God asks of me is progress, not perfection.  I am trying to make amends to the people who have been effected by the fallout of my addiction.   When I make a mistake today, I admit my fault to God and myself, and try to rectify things.

When I become overwhelmed, or depressed, or anything, I have the tools that I have learned to get out of my head.  I know that “this too shall pass.”  One thing that I have found to be invaluable is my support system.  When I need help I reach out and ask for it.  Or look for someone else who needs help.  This is the value of community.  We all have something in common that holds us in unity.  One addict helping another.

I have come so far in just a few months.  I am not the same broken woman who walked in these doors.  I am free from the bondage of addiction.  I have regained my identity.  Today I can hold my head high because I am becoming the confident strong survivor that God has intended for me to be all along.  Today I am reclaiming my place in the human race.

Hillary K.

Drugs and alcohol have taken everything and everyone I have ever loved or cared about

My name is Mark D.  I am currently a client at Bridge House.  At the age of 53, I never imagined spending my golden years in a drug and alcohol treatment facility.  For over 35 years I have swallowed, smoked, snorted, or shot anything and everything that would let me escape from reality.  Drugs and alcohol have taken everything and everyone I have ever loved or cared about.  When I check in at Bridge House to speak or make an announcement to the community, I check in as Mark D.—alcoholic and addict.

I was once asked by a client, why both.  I explained to him that back in 1994, after drinking all night and with impaired judgment, I made a decision that would scar my soul for the rest of my life.  With less than a mile to go to my house, I drove up on the sidewalk and struck and killed a pedestrian: Mark D., alcoholic.  Here it is, some twenty years later, and again with impaired judgment after getting high on heroin, I made a decision that would darken my soul for the rest of my life.  I gave my wife, the person I loved more than life itself, her first shot of heroin and it killed her: Mark D., addict.

I arrived at Bridge House some four months later, angry at God, the world, and everybody in it.  For the first three months at Bridge House I didn’t speak to anyone, didn’t participate in the recovery program, and wasn’t a part of the community.  My attitude eventually got me kicked out; where, without the coping skills I needed, I turned to heroin within less than a week.  Instead of getting high, I got robbed and beaten.  Again, I turned to Bridge House for help.  This time I am fully invested in my treatment plan, and I participate in community and group.  I work with my counselor and sponsor, and I am currently doing my 9th step.

I believe that with the tools I have learned and the coping skills I have acquired at Bridge House—and with the help of N.A., A.A., and god—the chance of me living a clean and sober and happy life is not only possible, it’s probable.

Mark D.