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New life for a new year

Creating new beginnings at Webster Place

December 28, 2010
REGION—The wind whipping blizzard that blew up the coast into New Hampshire this past holiday weekend disrupted a lot of travel plans, but not many as momentous as the homecoming planned for Carlin S., a beautiful young woman returning to her family after nearly six months of hard work to beat her addictions at Franklin's Webster Place Recovery Center.

In an interview this past week from the conference room at the peer-centered drug and alcohol sanctuary, located on the grounds of the historic Daniel Webster Farm in Franklin, Carlin said that these days, she could be philosophical about such things as the storm that delayed her father from picking her up to go home.

"I think I was meant to stay here one more day," said Carlin (whose last name has been withheld at her request for reasons of privacy).

She has acquired a newfound balance and equanimity, grounded in the daily practice of the 12 steps and fostered by the seemingly limitless love and acceptance that she has experienced at Webster Place.

She spoke enthusiastically and with extreme candor about her recent transformation from a homeless, severely ill heroin and cocaine addict who had been arrested for multiple crimes, including breaking and entering and theft, to the animated and articulate young woman eager to meet life's challenges with patience, determination and hope.

And there will be plenty of challenges in 2011 for Carlin as she returns to her life, seeking to regain custody of her nine-year-old son, undertake the rigorous demands of the drug court program in Rhode Island, where she was arrested, and find a job to support herself.

But if anyone manifests the benefits of following the sage advice "don't quit until the miracle happens," it's Carlin.

Despite dozens of previous attempts to get clean and sober, she "never stopped quitting" until she finally found the refuge at Webster Place and strung enough time together to make a real difference for her disease.

As she spoke, it was hard to believe that this energetic, smiling, self possessed young woman in her early 30's could possibly be the same struggling, sick young woman she describes as living in abject misery for many, many years.

"I was just miserable," she says over and over again throughout the telling of her story, recounting her dark years.

As she tells her tale of growing up with an alcoholic mother, a broken home, disorientation, alienation, self destructive behavior and well intentioned but disastrous relationships with other active addicts, she never once blames anyone else for her troubles. She accepts responsibility for managing her illness and takes responsibility for her part in the saga. That is a sure sign of recovery.

Her eyes tear over when she speaks movingly about the birth of her son, and how that event was the only thing that gave meaning to a chaotic and troubled time in her life. She knows it will not be easy to earn back a place in his life, but she says that her son is what helps her to understand that God believes in her, even if she sometimes didn't believe in herself. She is ready to do whatever she has to do to be in his life again.

Carlin chronicles a long history of repeated previous attempts to clean up her act, each ending in failure, sometimes even before she left a rehab or treatment program.

When asked why she thinks this time is different, she is reflective.

"First, I think, like a lot of other people, I had to lose everything before I was desperate enough to make it," said Carlin.

She clearly had exhausted the good faith of family and friends and "hit bottom" in a jail cell in Rhode Island, charged with multiple crimes. She could hardly recognize the person she had become, and still can't quite believe it.

Although she says she doesn't know what to expect from Drug Court, she does believe that it will help her stay clean and sober and continue to come to grips with her crimes.

Second, she says, it was the unconditional love and acceptance that she received at Webster Place.

"The staff at most of the other programs was more clinical," said Carlin. "They took a more strictly medical approach. Here, everybody, from the kitchen to the front office, really knows what it means to suffer addiction and to live sober. They all care so much. It makes a big difference."

Finally, she says, she learned how to pray. That was a turning point in her recovery.

She says it happened innocently enough. She wasn't expecting anything from prayer. She just heard so many people say it over and over again, that prayer was how they stayed sober. So eventually, she got down on her knees and gave it a try. Why not? From that point on, she says, she grew in sobriety, perhaps because she grew in humility. "It just worked," said Carlin.

It is really that simple.

Carlin was fortunate to have been awarded a scholarship so that she could afford to come to Webster Place. She eventually did so well that she stayed on as an advocate for other alcoholics and addicts, helping to ease their way into a sober way of life.

This upcoming weekend, on Friday, Dec. 31, there will be a safe, sober, fun-filled celebration at the Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center on Main Street in Plymouth. The event will feature sober musicians, Webster Place Chef Martha's awesome cuisine, lot of raffle prizes, treats, and best of all, good, sober company! (The bar at the Monkey will be closed for the event!) Tickets are only $15, and will raise money for the Webster Place scholarship fund.

Alcohol and drug treatment programs are few and far between. Many established programs are beyond the means of those who need them the most. While Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings are readily available and indispensible to help those who still suffer, many people can only turn their lives around with the kind of help that Carlin found at Webster Place.

Webster Place is located at 27 Holy Cross Rd. in Franklin. More information on Webster Place can be found online at the Web site, www.websterplace.org, or by calling at 934-2020. All requests for information are confidential.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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