Testimonials

Successful Rehabilitation Stories

Read first-person accounts from our graduates about their experiences at CLARE and hear what they have said about the impact that CLARE’s compassionate programs have had on their lives

At seventeen, I was a newly minted freshman at Stanford University. I grew up in a middle class home with loving parents and a great group of friends who were also embarking on paths that our mentors told us made us destined for greatness. But even before I picked up my first drink almost a year later, I always had a sense that I was different.

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vanessa

At seventeen, I was a newly minted freshman at Stanford University. I grew up in a middle class home with loving parents and a great group of friends who were also embarking on paths that our mentors told us made us destined for greatness. But even before I picked up my first drink almost a year later, I always had a sense that I was different. Not just different-but maybe little bit worse. At times, I felt like a fraud. Still, there wasn’t time to consider that as I forayed into my new independence. It didn’t take long for me to find alcohol, and although the progression of my disease was of the slow and steady variety, from my first drink with my roommate, to the drink that brought me to my knees nearly 8 years later, alcohol became my solution. The very human experiences I had in the years that I was drinking-falling in love for the first time, having my heart broken, studying abroad in Europe, being involved in a serious car accident-alcohol HELPED me. As the years went on, I gave myself permission to drink more and more. Pretty soon I didn’t need permission-I just needed a drink. I moved to San Francisco after graduation, and the party was on. I began to care less and less about the consequences of my drinking. I once heard a speaker say that he really only had two problems with alcohol-when he was drinking it, and when he wasn’t. This was true for me. Every day, when I wasn’t drinking, I was thinking about the first drink. And once I drank it, I couldn’t stop. In a sense, this my story in a nutshell. My whole life before alcohol, I felt like an incomplete human being. I was thinking about my next drink before I even knew it. And once I had it, I couldn’t stop.

By 2012, almost 9 years after graduating high school, I was back at my parents, barely working, barely functioning. I had gotten a DUI, and the legal and financial implications gave me more excuses to drink. Somehow, during this time, I had managed to get it together enough to apply to graduate school. I found myself accepted to a master’s program at an Ivy League university, which I used as a shield whenever anyone pointed out my drinking problem-“I can’t be an alcoholic! I’ve been accepted to graduate school!” This argument held little water for my parents. They told me that spring that if I didn’t stop drinking, they wouldn’t pay for my plane ticket back east, and with loans for school not yet kicked in, this was the one thing I needed from them. Little did any of us know, I really couldn’t stop. We traveled to the Midwest in June, to attend my grandfather’s funeral. I was drunk the whole time. My family was devastated. They were not going to pay for my plane ticket. They weren’t even going to let me go home. That summer, instead of going to graduate school, I went to CLARE. And my life couldn’t be richer for it.

When I arrived at the doors of the CLARE Foundation on August 20th, I was bewildered. I had never been to treatment, didn’t know anything about alcoholism and addiction other than what I had ignored in my DUI classes and court-ordered AA meetings. But I was desperate. I thought I had lost everything that mattered to me. A shell of my former self, I told the staff at intake that I was alone and that I needed help-and I would be willing to put myself into their care for THREE WHOLE DAYS. I couldn’t see the knowing smiles they probably exchanged, (or maybe the eye rolls), but they politely helped me fill out my paperwork as my hands shook and my stomach turned. I ended up staying eleven months.

With my relatively privileged background it may seem like I could have ended up somewhere other than CLARE. But alcoholism doesn’t discriminate. It is not unique to one socioeconomic class, it is not particular to race, and it doesn’t care how educated you are. And neither did CLARE. They saw a desperate young woman, with nothing to offer, and with no place left to go. In a society that so frequently closes its doors to the hopeless and homeless, CLARE told me “come inside.” The staff and counselors at CLARE invite in the problems, and give us solutions. Looking back, I wouldn’t have changed my experience for anything. After my self-designed three day treatment program, the counselors at CLARE worked their magic and convinced me to stay on 27 more. Over the course of that month, my eyes were opened. I was given an education about my disease that was more valuable than any Ivy League institution could have provided.

The women I met in that thirty-day period changed everything for me. They changed how I saw my disease, how I saw others, how I saw myself. The challenges of living with so many women from such a variety of backgrounds was presented as an opportunity by the staff at CLARE. Real life was in session, and we were given tools we needed to process and grow from those situations. It is a community that was stronger than the sum of its parts. Bonded by a common disease, we had a safe space to share our fears, our struggles, and our dreams. As my life came into focus, and with guidance from my counselors, we came to the conclusion that it would behoove me to stay beyond 30 days and enter the residential treatment program. This is a decision that was so far from what I could have imagined on July 17 that it hardly seems like the same person could have made such a choice just one month later. And in a sense, I wasn’t the same person. CLARE hadn’t just kept me from falling to eventual certain death; they had helped rebuild me. This is a place where if you’re willing, you will find hope. If you stay, you will find recovery. If you try, you will grow.

After a few months, CLARE afforded me the opportunity to stay on for an extra 6 months as resident staff. I knew owed my life to someone being there for me; it was an honor to be given the chance to be there for others. Being of service to women who were also left broken and devastated by this disease was an opportunity for me to give back. It was challenging to be sure. But I saw these women fight through adversity that I could hardly imagine. Some had been to prison; others had lost their children to the courts; many came from violent homes, suffered sexual abuse, domestic violence and discrimination. And yet here they were, showing up, fighting for their lives, making jokes and enduring, because despite their financial positions, CLARE had given them a place to rebuild. We shared intimately about our past, our present, and our future, and I was inspired to live life again. I found myself reunited with family and friends, and back on a path to continuing my education. I disclosed to that graduate school the real reason I did not attend that past fall, and in May was accepted into the program again. Life couldn’t have been going better for me. All that would change again. Two short months before I was meant to leave for school, I felt a lump in the shower in my left breast. Encouragement from the staff at CLARE brought me to the doctor. This eventuated in a diagnosis of Stage III breast cancer.

Facing what should have been the scariest test that life had presented to me in my sobriety, and probably in my 27 years, I felt supported. Presented with a situation so unique for my age, I didn’t feel alone. To be sure, there was hardship and fear. But I had just spent eleven months surrounded by women who were walking through hardships of their own every single day. I had just been given the tools to survive life on life’s terms. In that sense, I wouldn’t wish for my diagnosis to have come at any other time in my life. Perhaps most importantly, it was not a reason to drink. In part, I felt a sense of responsibility to others, to walk through this new challenge with the grace and dignity that the Women’s Residential Program had shown me was possible. When I left CLARE to begin chemotherapy almost 11 months after I had walked in, I felt the love from everyone in that community surround me; and I was able to let that love in.

One of the definitions of the word foundation is, “the basis on which something stands.” What the CLARE Foundation provided me with was that basis. Over two years later, I’m sober, cancer free, and working full time. I’m still close with some of the women who I met while at CLARE. I give and receive real love, and I am of service to others the way that I was shown I could be. This is the great opportunity. CLARE was my foundation, and it continues to be the foundation for so many others like me. We each have something to offer to the world. We just couldn’t do it alone.

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When I was asked how I would start to tell my story, I said, “You mean…how the miracle began?” My demons were alcohol, methamphetamine, speed, crank, crystal. I was court ordered to a six-month treatment program. Stipulation was I had to pay for it and complete six months without getting kicked out. “And if you don’t complete,“ the judge said, “I’m going to give you…

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carlos

When I was asked how I would start to tell my story, I said, “You mean…how the miracle began?”

My demons were alcohol, methamphetamine, speed, crank, crystal. I was court ordered to a six-month treatment program. Stipulation was I had to pay for it and complete six months without getting kicked out. “And if you don’t complete,“ the judge said, “I’m going to give you the maximum your sentence carries — 12 years. Possession with sales, with priors.”

I found a bed in Santa Monica. When I showed up they asked when was the last time I was loaded. I said, “20 minutes ago.” (You’re supposed to be loaded going into rehab, aren’t you?”) But they needed 3 days of sobriety before they’d take me, so I was out. I guess I’m going back to prison for 12 years, I thought, and just accepted the fact.

As I was about to leave I noticed a cute little blond and told her what had happened. She called CLARE. I got clean there. My counselor kept it raw and real. For me, baby steps wouldn’t have worked because I’d have manipulated that. I went back to court and showed my paperwork, including that I’d found funding for treatment myself – that is, CLARE gave me a sponsored bed. I’ve put all my demons behind me now. When I went for my physical checkup recently and told the doctor how long I’d been using drugs and alcohol, he said I should have body damage but I don’t. I took that as a sign that maybe I can help other people because I don’t have anything disabling me.

Everything I do today I built from the foundation I got at CLARE. I’ve become willing to trust. As long as I do the next right action, whether someone’s looking or not, things just work out for the better.

Since I’ve been in recovery I’ve reunited with my 4 kids I’d abandoned for 18 years. Turns out they’d been keeping tabs on me through LA Sheriff Inmate Search. When I got into recovery and was no longer on that list, they thought I was dead. But it was just the reverse.

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I’m a mature adult now. I started using when I was 12, and I started trying to get sober 20 years ago. Nothing ever worked. I was raised in a dysfunctional family with a lot of alcohol. My mom and I used to drink together. As it continued though, she saw I was destroying my life —I had two small kids and alcoholism. She saw that and said enough is enough.

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stephanie

I’m a mature adult now. I started using when I was 12, and I started trying to get sober 20 years ago. Nothing ever worked. I was raised in a dysfunctional family with a lot of alcohol. My mom and I used to drink together. As it continued though, she saw I was destroying my life —I had two small kids and alcoholism. She saw that and said enough is enough. She went into AA, not court ordered, and got sober. She was 17 years sober when she died. I am only coming up on 4 years.

When everything was going good for me I would relapse. In 2010 I got picked up on a drug possession charge. Went to jail and they gave me outpatient with Prop 36. On the first day of intake and evaluation, I know it was God speaking to me, and he said, “Be honest: you don’t need out-patient. You need in-patient.” I was honest and told the truth, and I came to CLARE. It was my 4th treatment center, and for 6 months I stayed totally honest and willing to do whatever it took.

I had to find out what was going on for me. A counselor at CLARE suggested I see a therapist besides going to meetings. In the black community, outside help is taboo, but that was what broke my negative pattern. With the help of the therapist I learned that I didn’t think I deserved to be happy.

Because of the household I was raised in I was used to drama and chaos, so if things were going good I didn’t know what to do. There should be problem! I was addicted to crack, so I’d start using again and create chaos. Once I understood that this was what prompted my relapses, I got treatment, and was basically dry. This time I was independent. It feels solid. Very solid.

I am still close with the women I met at CLARE. We go to meetings together and have stayed clean. When I graduated from CLARE I was honest with my former boss and he gave me my job back.

What appealed to me about CLARE was that this was the first time I ever went to a treatment facility that emphasized outside help – clinicians – if you wanted to continue in treatment. That’s what helped save my life. I advise everyone to please continue recovery outside of the Treatment Center, because that’s the only thing that’s going to save your life.

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The most special thing about this moment is that I can think back to all those times I cried and didn’t even know if I’d live through the night. But I did live, and that blows my mind. It’s great that I have a story, and it’s great that story is not my truth today. I started using drugs at 13, and was in and out of mental institutions for attempting suicide. My mother was an addict.

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john

The most special thing about this moment is that I can think back to all those times I cried and didn’t even know if I’d live through the night. But I did live, and that blows my mind.

It’s great that I have a story, and it’s great that story is not my truth today. I started using drugs at 13, and was in and out of mental institutions for attempting suicide. My mother was an addict. I was taken away by Dept. of Children & Family Services to live with grandparents. When I returned home things were better because my mom was in recovery, and that was wonderful to see. But I was hooked on methamphetamine. She always kept a bed for me though, even though she had zero tolerance for drugs. She stayed sober through my addiction, and I honor and appreciate that. She paved my way.

At 24 I got pregnant. I stayed sober through the pregnancy but binged when my child’s father was released from prison. My son was taken from me and put in foster care. I was homeless. Couldn’t see my son. I was out of options, sleeping in a friend’s van and I began to question if this was my truth. What if sleeping in someone’s van was all that I was?

I reached out and left a message at CLARE. “Can you please help me?” I remember the staff, the structure, the love, the fact that they cared. I remember Cherae, my intake counselor. She told me we were only allowed to bring four sweaters, and I had brought more; I was so afraid of being cold. “Can I please have five? “I asked, andI remember the way she looked at me. “Of course you can,” she said.

I completed my program at CLARE, and I’m studying Spanish at Santa Monica College. I went from not seeing my son at all to waking up next to him every day. He’s 8 now. I go to 12 Stepmeetings and appreciate the fellowship of the spirit. That’s the beauty, having elders and predecessors who have walked this journey, who understand my feelings are just like yours. And I don’t have to kill myself.

What I sought in drugs I have in my life today. There is nothing better than the feeling I don’t have to reach outside myself to be okay. I clinically overdosed 3 times, swallowed handfuls of pills and still woke up. No doubt I’m meant to live.

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“I’m still close with some of the women I met while I was at CLARE. There are 3 of us. We all stayed clean and are still close. It’s been 4 years now. We’re a support group for one another. My son’s in graduate school now, and to this day, we go out to lunch, we go to meetings or just hang out.”

“Now I give and receive real love, and I am of service to others the way that I was shown I could be. CLARE was my foundation, and it continues to be the foundation for so many others like me. We have something to offer. We just couldn’t do it alone.”

“It seems like a dream sometimes, but as I write this I know I’m awake, alive, and free.”

“The staff and counselors at CLARE invite in the problems, and give us solutions. Looking back, I wouldn’t have changed my experience for anything.”

“I had never been to rehab before, but I went with it. From Day One at CLARE, I knew I made the right choice to listen and take direction from them.”

“Hard work and ambition are what it takes to make the program work for you. Sobriety is so much more than willpower.”

“CLARE worked for me because I was willing to make it work.”

“At seventeen, I was a newly minted freshman at UC Berkeley destined for greatness. But my first drink brought me to my knees 8 years later. At CLARE I was given an education about my disease that was more valuable than any Ivy League institution could have provided.”

“The challenges of living with so many women from such a variety of backgrounds at CLARE offered me an opportunity. Real life was in session, and we were given tools we needed to process and grow from those situations.”

“The women I met at CLARE changed everything for me. They changed how I saw my disease, how I saw others, how I saw myself.”

“I like the structure. They told us, ‘You are going to make mistakes; it’s how you pick yourself up and try again. Progress, not perfection, is what it says in the Big Book.”

“CLARE afforded me the opportunity to stay on for an extra 6 months as resident staff. I knew I owed my life to someone being there for me; it was such an honor to be given the chance to be there for others. Being of service to women who were also left broken and devastated by this disease was an opportunity for me to give back.”