‘I had been arrested so many times that when I would inevitably end up back at jail, the corrections officers would say to me, “Welcome home…”’
“I started drinking when I was 12 years old and was even thrown out of sleepaway camp for getting drunk. I got into hard drugs after my father passed away when I was 18.
“By 24, I was a full-blown drug user, including smoking crack and shooting heroin intravenously. I have been in and out of rehab since I was 25, and usually never even made it past the 28-day period.
“I had been arrested so many times that when I would inevitably end up back at jail, the corrections officers would say to me, ‘Welcome home, Barone.’ But I discovered I had guardian angels, starting with my mother.
“One day, I received a card from her, and it was at that moment that I decided to turn my life around. She wrote that she loved me, enclosed a picture of my daughter, and $100.
“After all I put her through, she still had my back — and still does today. After I got out, my mother made a phone call to Lisa Cohen of Living Water For Women, an organization that helps women like me, who I knew from both attending her groups in the jail, and from previous attempts to sober up years earlier.
“Lisa sent her wonderful house manager, Kelly Cavanaugh, to pick me up at the jail on my release date. I was ready to do whatever was asked of me in order to become a responsible, mature, independent woman.
“Through Living Water, I learned how to be a human being again, how to just live like a normal person in a house with chores and responsibility, and how to be around other people. I had been in the streets so long that I didn’t know how to talk to people anymore.
“After a few months, I was able to get a job at Sorenson Lumber. I am so grateful that I get to go to work every day and have been blessed to be working all through the pandemic.
“I am currently trying to obtain grants to enable me to go back to school to become, first, a peer advocate, then a drug counselor or therapist. The best advice I can give to other women in my former position is just to dream big, write down your goals and work towards them every day. And take suggestions from people who know better, because if your way isn’t working, find another way!”
Interviewed by Saul Schachter