Meet Us Monday: Candi, Education Navigator

For today’s Meet Us Monday, we’re introducing you to Candi and her daughter, Dani.
Candi knew she had hit rock bottom when she was angry that she was still alive. She felt as though she had no purpose in the world. “I had lost my self-respect and my will to live,” she says. She was incarcerated and knew that everyone had given up on her at that point. She had just wrapped up a tearful conversation with her attorney, who was recommending a 30 day in-patient rehab program for her. But Candi knew it would not be enough for her. In and out of rehab and programs for the better part of five years, she had been in so many classes and programs, but she describes them as “band-aids over the trauma.” One of her fellow inmates just happened to show her a flyer for REAL LIFE, and upon reading about the program, Candi believed it was divine intervention. She spoke with Dr. Scarbrough and after being accepted into the program, Candi felt hope and peace for the first time in her life.
Candi’s daughter Dani was more skeptical at first. She had lived through the cycle of her mom’s substance abuse, arrest, jail, losing their home, rehab, and back to using so many times. After Dani’s dad left the family when she was 13, Dani believed as though she had to take care of Candi, and in a role-reversal, be the parent. She didn’t trust her mom and felt as though she had the weight of the world on her young shoulders. Dani finally came to her breaking point when she and her brother had to take Candi to detox at the hospital because her drug use had escalated. While Candi was in the hospital, Dani graduated from high school. After that, Dani didn’t think she could ever forgive her mom and didn’t want to have anything to do with her. But shortly after Candi started REAL LIFE, Dani could tell things were different this time.
Candi struggled with addiction from the age of 14, after a traumatic childhood, including physical, sexual, and mental abuse. Her mother was a heroin addict, and her father was an abusive alcoholic. When she was 8, Candi’s mother and brother tragically died in a house fire, after which her father abandoned her with her grandparents. She began drinking at age 14, and by 16, she had advanced to cocaine. The older she got, the harder her addiction became, as she attempted to numb the trauma she had experienced and continued to experience while in an abusive relationship. She was sober while pregnant with both of her children, but as soon as each were born, she returned to her addiction. After her husband left, Candi turned to heroin and meth. The final year before coming to REAL LIFE, Candi explains her entire life revolved around using drugs.
Since REAL LIFE, Candi and her children have gradually rebuilt a healthy relationship. They are able to communicate and tell each other what they need. Candi is excited to share her milestones with them, and they are proud of her for all she has accomplished through REAL LIFE. Dani even brags to her friends about how many days sober Candi has achieved. Grateful for friendships with the other women in the REAL LIFE program, Candi says those relationships are a meaningful part of the program. She finally has a group of friends who understand what she has gone through and are there to support and encourage her.
And Dani is happy to finally have the opportunity to be the child, rather than the parent. She is grateful to have her mom and feels a sense of freedom, trusting her mom for the first time. Dani says “it’s as though a whole weight has been lifted off my chest. REAL LIFE provides mom with the support network and friends she needs for her sobriety. When we talk and spend time together now, it’s as mom and daughter. I don’t have to babysit her or constantly worry about who she is texting.” There’s a cloud over old family memories as Candi associates each with the drugs she was using at the time; she says “none of the memories feel normal. But now I can be a mom to my children and create new sober memories with them, thanks to REAL LIFE.”
Candi recently joined the staff of REAL LIFE as the Education Navigator. In this role, she helps Lifers achieve their educational dreams and aspirations by designing an educational path that is attainable and that will contribute to their career and their future. We are so proud of Candi and all she has accomplished!