Client Success Stories
I Found My Person - Sabrina's Success Story
I’ll never forget it: the date was November 17, 2006, and I was in jail for drug charges.
A lady was doing HIV testing at the prison, and I’d wanted to get tested for a while just to know; but I also had this “feeling” lately, because I’d had symptoms of thrush and didn’t understand why. I wanted to die when she told me I was positive! I felt ashamed, because I knew that my addiction was behind the choices I’d made that brought me here.
I’d started drinking and doing cocaine in my late twenties, but when my grandmother – who raised me – passed away in 2004, I started smoking crack and just gave up on everything. My life had changed so much that I couldn’t look in the mirror, because I didn’t want to see the person I had become. I was out on the streets trading sex for food, drugs, places to stay, or even just companionship. I tried to kill myself once by taking pills because I couldn’t deal with life on life’s terms.
Once I got out of prison, I bounced around between living on the streets and in shelters, my life going nowhere. It was my therapist who told me about Broward House’s drug treatment program. Before Broward House – at 48 years old – I’d never lived a life that I wanted; but better late than never!
The program at Broward House gave me confidence and a sense of direction. It brought out the best in me, taught me that the shame I felt for my past didn’t matter, and helped me look towards my future. With their help, I also learned how to reach out to the right people and surround myself with positive people. Now I have a whole other family I can depend on for support! It has been so helpful to know that I’m not in this alone.
I also now have a better understanding of HIV. I’ve learned that being HIV positive isn’t a death sentence: it’s an eye-opener, because it made me contemplate my life and how I got to where I am. Now, my goal is to inspire people by becoming an HIV Advocate. The simple fact is that it’s hard, and a lot of women don’t have help or know where to find support. My goal was to successfully complete the program and maintain my sobriety, and I just graduated! I’m proud of myself for staying clean and sober the entire time. I’ve also started working again, and I don’t worry about getting fired, because I’m no longer drinking and getting high. I’m taking care of myself, taking my HIV meds and building my self-esteem.
Recovery and knowledge have set my soul free, and I feel like I have transformed into a butterfly. I am out there working for a better life. I like to smile. I like to dress up. I like to be pretty. Just looking in the mirror is a blessing. I’m finally free!
Lizaa's Success Story
She imagined herself floating through the middle of a gigantic donut with pink icing and sprinkles...
This is how Lizaa finally overcame her fear of going into the big, round MRI machine. For over two weeks, she had been trying to lay down on the MRI table for a necessary brain scan … without which her doctor had put her cancer treatment on hold.
The tale of the giant donut began one morning at breakfast in the Broward House dining room. On that day, Chef Chad noticed Lizaa sitting at a table rocking back-and-forth and tapping her feet. Even though he had only known her for a month, he could tell she was frustrated. As he walked over to find out what was going on, he remembered how he had first met her – he’d been preparing breakfast when a tiny head with a big smile suddenly popped over the counter window and said, “Hi! I’m Lizaa! Lizaa with two a’s.” Her giant smile warmed his heart in that moment – as it does with everybody she encounters – but today she wasn’t smiling. “Lizaa, what’s wrong?” Chad asked.
“Chad, I’ve got to go have a test. I have to have a test and I’m scared!”
Because food is a common need that is shared by everybody, Chef Chad interacts with the residents of Broward House almost daily. Over time, Lizaa shared with him that she was at Broward House for medical respite because she had a cancerous tumor removed from her brain. She was re-learning skills like brushing her teeth and tying her shoes, but also struggled with things like even remembering what shoes are. Chad could see why anything new terrified her.
When Chad went home that evening, he came up with an idea to help Lizaa. First, he printed some donut clip art he found on the internet. The next day, he and Lizaa sat down together to color them with some highlighters he kept in the kitchen. After they finished, he asked her: “Now, do you know why we colored these donuts? Because of that big round MRI machine that looks like a donut!”
For the next four days, “How are the donuts this morning?” became their greeting to each other. At Lizaa’s next appointment, she was able to successfully complete the MRI and could finally move forward with her cancer treatment. Chad later found out that the hospital staff let her keep the donut
picture with her when she went into the machine. Lizaa now takes it everywhere she goes, and looks at it whenever she’s feeling anxious.
“It’s incredible how a little word or simple thought can completely change somebody’s outlook. To realize that a piece of paper covered in donut pictures could help Lizaa overcome her fear is humbling for me. It’s made me more grateful for life in general and for those I have around me, because many of our residents didn’t have that kind of support before coming to Broward House.”
Lizaa found her person in Chad, and then found her courage at Broward House. Sometimes, our courage to take the next step is just a person away.