By Fr. Joseph Rinaldo, SdC
I met Cruz on a sidewalk in Detroit begging for money: she was addicted, hungry and homeless. I convinced her to enter a residential program where she would be treated with dignity and love. She accepted. I drove her with the promise of visiting her as often as I could. Cruz spent three years trying to get around that mandate as she stayed stuck in the disease of addiction. Not until she finally gave up faking it, got honest with herself and got into recovery did she make any progress. The two-word requirement fundamental to sobriety is rigorous honesty.
Cruz grew up in a rough part of East Detroit, MI, where her drug addiction was almost inevitable. She lived in the drug world and she inherited the genetic brain disease. At age 13, her drug was marijuana and she got hooked on cocaine at age 18. By the time she was in her forties she lost everything, including her four children. Cruz moved away to get a new start, but she found out that her disease came with her. Between 2001 and 2007, she spent three years in jail for committing crimes to buy drugs. She wasn’t a good criminal, because she always got caught.
In jail, for the first time, she wanted to be sober. In 2014, she entered Our Hope, the women’s recovery home in the Heritage Hill district of Grand Rapids. That’s when she first tried to get honest. She told her therapist, “I was afraid of my feelings, so I buried them with anger and drugs.” Cruz stayed sober in a Recovery Roadhouse for six months before disaster struck. The father of her children went to prison for dealing drugs, and since she didn’t have custody of them, her four children were given up for adoption. She lost all hope and went on a two year binge. Then her children’s father got out of jail, and Cruz got pregnant. In November 2016, she delivered a healthy baby girl who was taken away from her in the hospital.
When Cruz was discharged, she went straight to a drug clinic, where they gave her a second chance at Our Hope. She said God, too, gave her another chance to be the good mother she always wanted to be. This time at Our Hope the counselors insisted Cruz had to get rigorously honest with her feelings if she wanted to stay sober. Finally Cruz understood that she was the problem. “Before when I was hurt, I used. When I was angry, I used. When I was sad, I used. When I was happy, I used.” Our Hope taught her how to be emotionally honest, the sine qua non of recovery. Our Hope’s program also led her out of the chaotic life her brain disease created into the structured, orderly days she leads now. Cruz has a job, lives in the Catholic Community’s first Step House, has a sponsor, a recovery coach, and best of all, sees her seven month old daughter whose foster mother has cared for her as her own child.
Cruz dreams of having her older children back in her life one day. She prays, “They will want to find me and see me as the good mother I always wanted to be for them. I never thought God would let me be a mother again. Now by God’s grace, I have another chance.”