Suffering a seizure from alcohol withdrawal didn’t get Shelley Hoffman to stop drinking. Neither did losing her job.
“I no longer cared about my life. I didn’t care if I died. I felt like it would have been better and easier for my loved ones if I were to just cease to exist,” said Ms. Hoffman.
A self-described late bloomer, Ms. Hoffman’s addiction started when she was 24. One night, after years of witnessing fighting and alcoholism with her parents, she reconnected with high school friends over a night of dancing and drinking at a bar. It was the first time she felt comfortable in her own skin, and she didn’t want the party to end. Soon she began drinking every day, and over time needed more and more to feel normal.
“My life was spiraling out of control and I would try to lie to myself in a futile effort to convince myself that I was happy,” said Ms. Hoffman.
Deep depression and dysfunction became Ms. Hoffman’s life, but through it all, her mother was her rock.
When Ms. Hoffman rear ended another driver, drunk and on her way to buy more liquor, she still wasn’t ready to ask for help. But a few days later, her mother learned about Bethel House, Santa Barbara Rescue Mission’s 12-Month Women’s Residential Treatment Program. It took some time, but eventually she convinced Ms. Hoffman to apply.
On Saturday, Ms. Hoffman stood before hundreds of Rescue Mission alumni, staff, family, and friends, and shared her story of recovery at the graduation ceremony for the Rescue Mission’s drug and alcohol treatment program’s class of 2020.
“I’m no longer that sad, depressed, shame filled young woman. Today I’m a strong woman of God, working a full time job that I love, and I have all of you to thank for that in my life today,” said Ms. Hoffman to thunderous applause and cheers from the audience.
The ceremony Saturday night was held at Santa Barbara Community Church and was the first graduation ceremony for the Rescue Mission in 2020.
Four women and eight men were honored and celebrated for successfully completing the first three phases of the life-changing 12-month residential drug and alcohol treatment program at the Rescue Mission, joining over 835 recovery program graduates since 1997.
Rescue Mission’s Bethel House and men’s program caters to men and women in need of long term structure and accountability for substance abuse. Many who enter the program have exhausted their options, have nowhere to go, and no financial resources to seek help. At the Rescue Mission, they are asked to commit to the year long program, where they learn how the dysfunction caused by a life of addiction goes beyond just the use of drugs and alcohol.
“To heal from the underlying issues that create addiction takes time. Time to build community. Time to self-reflect, and time to be encouraged and challenged by those who understand the work that needs to be done,” said L.B. Chandler, the men’s program director.
The Rescue Mission’s model for treatment is designed to immerse their clients in a social environment, where they are surrounded by peers and staff who not only bring to light their unhealthy behaviors, but encourages them to unpack the events and relationships that allowed addiction to control their lives, Mr. Chandler explained.
While in treatment, each client works closely with a residential treatment specialist to track their weekly progress, setting goals throughout the year that include everything from the completion of 12-step work to taking care of dental needs.
“During my time here I have been completely supported by my family and friends. I can honestly say I no longer feel shame or embarrassment for being an alcoholic. I persevered through many obstacles this year, and I had nothing but support, love, and guidance from all the staff at Bethel House,” said Ms. Hoffman.
Upon their graduation, the men and women standing before the audience began the fourth phase of their recovery.
During the last 90 days of the program, they are given the opportunity to reenter the community to find employment or further their education while staying at the Rescue Mission. It’s their first step into a life that many of them thought impossible.
“Thanks to their staff and everybody that makes this whole place possible, I feel like I can have the future that I thought I missed out on,” said graduate Tim Reynolds.
Rolf Geyling, President of the Rescue Mission, praised the graduates’ accomplishments, and reminded them that only one in five people who start drug and alcohol treatment programs finish them nationwide.
“A year at the Rescue Mission is challenging, but what comes after is also challenging. Our hope is that we’ve given you a roadmap and a network of people who will support you as you go on in life,” said Mr. Geyling.
“The one thing that I’ve learned here,” said graduate Mike Trieste, “is that the best years of our lives lie ahead of us and not behind us.”