Finally Home

Finally Home
Contributed By Tara Van Gelderen

Walking up the twelve steps into Charlford house, I was broken; life had beaten me down and I didn’t know how to get back up on my own anymore. The house itself isn’t anything special, just a regular home in a normal residential neighborhood but inside, magic happens. It was here that I first learned about being loved by strangers without anything being asked of me in return. The first few days were a whirlwind of new faces and a noise level I had never before encountered. Addiction is a dark quiet place and it was hard to get used to living with so many people. Eventually I found myself disappointed when I went into a room and there wasn’t anyone there. Now it doesn’t feel like home unless fifteen people are there to say hello when I come in. The noise is what I learned to love at Charlford. If you listen closely you can hear the girls empowering each other, consoling each other so much more. These girls are keeping each other alive. Girls that had no one, girls that felt worthless are now standing up together and fighting not only for themselves but the people around them. It’s a type of power none of them possessed their first day in the house. The new ones are being shown how the house works and what to do by the seniors but they are also teaching the seniors responsibility, how to care for others and so much more. Humility lives here, no one is more important than anyone else, no one is better than or worse than, everyone has a voice, a vote and a chance.

What is that magic feeling?

What is that magic feeling?
Contributed by Laura Johnson

There is a feeling inside Charlford House that immediately soothes the soul of anyone who enters it. I'm not the only one to notice this - you hear it from the women, staff, and volunteers – and there are others much more qualified than I am to describe what it's like to walk into the house for the first time. Over the years, many women have shared their experiences stepping up the 12 concrete stairs and through the front door, imbued with equal measures of courage and trepidation as they prepare to face their demons for the next 3 months. My first step over the threshold was much less courageous. As a prospective board member, I had only to meet the other board directors and present myself as a worthy candidate. Yes there were nerves involved (a lot), but they were quelled once I sat down in the dining room that serves as gathering place for monthly board meetings. And now each time I enter the house I am instantly put at ease. It's as though nearly 50 years of miracle-making lingers in the walls and gently instills the air with the residual magic of lives saved and renewed. There is a palpable sensation that this is a good place. All are loved here, and anything is possible. But is it really these four walls that are the source of these feelings of acceptance and inspiration? I believe that the true genesis of Charlford House's magic is its people and their collective will to see each woman succeed: it's the hope and drive of board members, staff, volunteers and the women themselves to overcome. From what I have witnessed in just one year, it is this good will that produces a determined, indefatigable, and loving energy that fills every corner, and fuels every function and operation of the house. The impossible becomes possible time and again and more miracles are made. Charlford House is a special place. You will feel it if you are ever lucky enough to be present under its roof. However, its magic lives within each person who has ever walked back down the 12 stairs, empowered with the love and message of Charlford House and ready to light up the world. 

It is this power that we will harness in the coming years as we strive towards a new and different challenge: finding another set of four walls for Charlford House. After 50 years, this well-loved and well-loving house is showing its wear, and it's time to relocate to a new, 'forever home'. It will take more than magic to reach our capital campaign's target. Hard work and unrelenting commitment to the vision lie ahead. It may seem like a daunting pursuit, but as long as the people of Charlford House are the driving force, we can achieve yet another miracle. 

 

Fully Alive

Fully Alive
Contributed by Miranda Vecchio

I’m never short of inspired by the courage the women of Charlford House demonstrate each and every day and I doubt I will ever cease to marvel at their miracle of change.

I often tell people that I’m not on the frontlines or in the trenches with the Program staff. I couldn’t do what they do. I’m responsible for the nuts ‘n bolts of the operation - fundraising, public awareness, administration – that sort of thing. I’m only on the sidelines – on the periphery.

What is amazing to me though, is that even from this vantage point, I have the privilege of witnessing the magic of Charlford House - the gradual revealing of each woman’s spirit and soul, her very identity being discovered, exposed and strengthened. I see her transition from frail and fragile to “standing up straight” empowered with a whole lot of gutsy emotion in between.

I suppose the process could be described as time-lapse recovery, each woman gradually emerging until the moment she becomes fully alive. That’s a sight to behold and I am blessed to be able to do so on a daily basis.

Thank you to these women who enrich and amaze me every day and to the staff who, with tender patience, lovingly nurture and guide these women home to themselves.

We are all the better for it.

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Circle of Women

Circle of Women
Contributed by Linda Shaw

There’s nothing more powerful than a Circle of Women.

When I join the circle every day, I feel each woman becomes part of me, and I them. It’s as if we become as one, in a place so safe anything can be said, discussed, and even debated. I had often wondered how that worked, walking into the circle as a human doing, immediately turning in to a human being as I cross that invisible line. I suppose it could be contributed to DNA, the ancient circles of the first women, the warmth of the fire, suckling babes and the first blush of verbal communication. Perhaps it’s changed in content but not context. It’s still life and death, and the need for safety has not changed since that far off ancient time.

Living in solitary addiction is not the natural way of women. We are nurturers, we are bearers of new life, and our sisters are there in empathy with us and for us. The Circle is the place we recover together; the women becoming sisters forged by the fire of change. The support and love will follow us throughout each woman’s journey.

Fearless.

Do you know a real live warrior?

Welcome to Charlford's new monthly feature!
Do you know a real live warrior?
Contributed by Laura Johnson

I've been lucky enough to meet more than a few warriors. They are women who are in recovery, and they are some of the bravest women I know. Since joiningCharlford House's Board last June, I have been repeatedly inspired by the stories the women have shared about their recovery. I am moved by their accounts of overcoming adversity to change their lives from deep lows to highs of joy and fulfillment. Recovery begins at Charlford House, where the women are encouraged to confront the their histories of struggle and tribulation. They deserve our utmost respect for revisiting their personal battlefields and defeating them. But their victory is not won in just one day - just as addiction is not a single-headed monster defeated in one battle royale - it is a continuous process of introspection throughout their lives. The women learn to face the disappointments and tragedies of life head on, in full consciousness of their emotions and reactions. A commitment to staying clean and sober requires a constant and vigilant attendance to life's pitfalls and seeking ways to manage the ensuing pain without turning to the numbing effects of substances. Many of us try to achieve this kind of self-awareness. We may strive to practice mindfulness, journal to make peace with our feelings, or go to the gym to work out our frustrations. But for some the following options remain: a glass of wine to smooth the edges after an argument with a spouse, or a “restorative” night of cocktails with the girls after a stressful week. Or we might simply choose to ignore a conflict while it bubbles away, unexamined and wreaking psychological havoc from below the surface. That avoidance could be a hazard to someone in recovery: their success necessitates that issues be dealt with before they become triggers for relapse. The women of Charlford House show us that recovery is a continuous journey requiring the discipline and courage of a warrior. It is pure bravery and I am in awe of them.