Sara’s Story: overcoming 20 years of addiction

Sara needed a major change in her life. She’d fought her addiction for 20 years, tried treatment a number of times, and still couldn’t reach sobriety.

After an arrest for drug possession and theft, she made a life-changing decision: Sara chose to serve her sentence at Minnesota Correctional Facility – Shakopee, rather than take supervised release that was offered. She thought it could be the exact change she needed.

“I’d been in treatment so many times… I didn’t feel like I was receiving help. I felt like I needed to go some place, not be able to leave, and kind of self-impose a treatment for a much longer term than I’d received in any sort of treatment program before,” says Sara. “It worked.”

“I didn’t realize the reality of what life would be like upon release, not only from Shakopee, but from a lifetime of living with addiction. That’s where Avivo helped, tremendously.”

During Sara’s time at Shakopee, she worked with correctional facility case managers, as well as other nonprofits, like Amicus Sisters Helping Sisters, to create a set of post-release goals. That’s when she first learned about Avivo and All Square (a one-of-a-kind nonprofit social enterprise centered on a craft grilled cheese restaurant, with aims of reducing recidivism).

“Even though I was self-motivated and wanted to change my life, I didn’t realize the reality of what life would be like upon release, not only from Shakopee, but from a lifetime of living with addiction. That’s where Avivo helped, tremendously,” says Sara. “I’m very thankful for Avivo being there – and simply existing and supporting [me].”

“I’m very thankful for Avivo being there – and simply existing and supporting [me].”

Sara received housing from Avivo on day one of her release, and she credits stable housing, as well as her case managers, for her treatment success.

“I mean, there are outpatient treatment programs out there where there isn’t housing,” says Sara. “Definitely, a stable home within walking distance of the facility really helps.”

When Sara entered treatment at Avivo, finding a job wasn’t initially a priority. Still, her team of chemical health professionals and career counselors suggested she attend Avivo’s Warehouse Pro training program, which she ultimately took and graduated from.

“I learned a lot. It gave me structure. It trained me in showing up and taking in as much as I could.”

“I’m trying to do what I can to contribute to society … See if I can find what my niche is. I feel I have talents and skills that can help people, perhaps very much like I used to be.”

Sara entered a unique workplace experience, as a member of All Square’s second cohort of workers/learners. She works in the kitchen during the week, except on Mondays, when the restaurant closes for workers to attend the All Square Institute. That’s where Sara and her cohort learn about topics like budgeting, finances, how to manage legal matters, and how to start a business.

“They help you right now by giving you a job and a paycheck to support yourself, then help you with other areas of your life,” shares Sara. Now that Sara has some work experience and is in recovery, she’s working on creating long-term plans.

“I’m trying to do what I can to contribute to society,” she says. “See if I can find what my niche is. I feel I have talents and skills that can help people, perhaps very much like I used to be.”

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