Published September 7, 2021 at 12:02pm
Story by Mary King Moore. Photos by Erin Schreyer.
Everyone knows fall is around the corner. Here in Texas, September may not bring the cooler weather, but in addition to all things pumpkin, it is National Recovery Month. This national observance is held every September to educate Americans that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with mental and substance use disorders to live healthy and rewarding lives. Changes in seasons can amplify addiction struggles for some, with busy schedules and the start of the holiday season. Chelsea McGinnis with the Recovery Resource Council (RRC) in Dallas knows firsthand the effects of change. Her personal story includes a season of addiction, a road to recovery, and a path forward for helping others as a certified Recovery Support Peer Specialist at RRC.
The mission of the Recovery Resource Council is to promote wellness and recovery from alcohol, substance use disorders, and trauma. RRC has been serving North Texas since 1946 with an established pathway to substance abuse screening and mental behavioral health treatment services for low-income, uninsured, or under-insured youth and adults. This programming is exactly what Chelsea needed, even though it took some time for her to truly find it. “My addiction got to the point where it removed the freedom to choose,” Chelsea says.
But in 2003 Chelsea’s season changed. Chelsea received an assessment with a woman named Paula Shockey, who took her to her first rehabilitation facility. Chelsea went in thinking the worst, that it would be like a prison. Paula was a counselor who worked for the Recovery Resource Council. “I remember Paula’s reassurance and her encouragement, and just telling me I could do this,” Chelsea says. It was Paula who helped Chelsea move towards a new season. A season of hope.
After alienating everyone in her life, there was no one left to clean up the mess. “I was spiritually, emotionally, and financially bankrupt,” Chelsea says. Her primary focus was to get her children back, but she lost sobriety after 35 days and her son was removed from her care. Tumbling through circumstances, an eviction led to homelessness.
The next time Chelsea worked with RRC, she stuck with the program and received therapy. “I was willing to do anything to stay sober,” she says. “I received the gift of desperation.” Suddenly she was not desperate to get high or drunk anymore, but instead, desperate to find a way not to.
During Chelsea’s first year of sobriety her son was diagnosed with severe autism and her mother passed away from lung cancer. Despite these hardships, she was able to obtain gainful employment, get her driver’s license back and purchase a car. A sponsor helped her work the 12-step program. “I can honestly tell you from my perception that working a diligent program of recovery saved my life,” Chelsea says.
And though this year has brought challenges of its own, Chelsea can see hope in the next season. She recently received her certification as a Peer Support Specialist. from My Health My Resources of Tarrant County (MHMR). “I currently work for the council, the very agency that helped me nearly 20 years ago,” Chelsea says. “It’s been an amazing journey.” With the programs RRC provides, Chelsea was able to find true freedom and find her authentic self. She has learned acceptance, humility, and forgiveness. As a Peer Support Specialist, she can share her experiences and guide others based on her past. “I’ve been there, and I can empathize with them about what they are going through.”
Chelsea describes her role as one strand in a network, “The more different strands you have, the stronger the net.” Her job with RRC gives clients a person to meet them where they are at in their season of struggle. Chelsea brings a recovery toolbox and provides a person-centered, non-judgmental environment. Chelsea reflects on her childhood and remembers her grandmother insisting that we are put on this earth to help each other. “There is value in getting out of your head and helping others.”
The Peer Support Specialist program came from state-level discussions about the need to take a different approach to recovery, with a holistic understanding. The program is new and is funded through grants, as well as donations. The RRC has two upcoming fundraisers. The Power of Prevention event on September 28, 2021, will feature guest speaker Chris Herren. Chris is a former NBA player and the subject of Emmy nominated ESPN documentary Unguarded. On November 3, 2021, the RRC will host John Wayne Walding at Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine, TX. The RRC Annual Golf Tournament will celebrate the resiliency of our country and the veterans who have served it.
For more information about programs and events at Recovery Resource Council, visit recoverycouncil.org. You can also support Recovery Resource Council for North Texas Giving Day.