Hope, healing and recovery: How our partners are helping our neighbors achieve sobriety

Chelsea McClain’s childhood was filled with cheerleading, volleyball, singing, and friends but as she approached her teenage years, life took a dramatic turn.

“To this day, I still can’t believe I made it out of that darkness in my life alive.”

United Way partner agency, PreventEd and an unexpected friendship helped Chelsea cling to hope.

The darkness of addiction

Chelsea grew up in Warren County, Missouri with her mother, but an unexpected change of scenery to go live with her father marked a chain of unfortunate events.

By age 12, Chelsea was smoking marijuana, cigarettes, and drinking alcohol. At 17, she had been hospitalized two times for alcohol poisoning, experienced a physical assault unknowingly due to unconscious intoxication and was already the mother of two children.

“Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and ask myself, ‘How are you where you’re at in life?’”

As she entered adulthood, her drug and alcohol addiction escalated.

“I met a guy that had just gotten out of prison,” said Chelsea. “We were dating for maybe a month, and one day he called me, told me he was on the way home and that he had some crack. He asked me if I wanted to try it, I said, ‘Sure, why not?”

Crack led to meth and meth on to heroine.

“Things got so bad, so quickly. Our paychecks were basically gone before they hit our pockets. We ultimately ended up becoming homeless because we had no money,” said Chelsea.

With no home, she lost custody of her children, financial security, and her health and wellbeing. Deep down, she knew it was time for a change. Sobriety can be a long, difficult journey out of the dark.

A reckoning

She participated in Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, and other rehabilitation and treatment programs, but eventually relapsed every time.

Her drug use landed her in jail and only after a judge issued a court order requiring Chelsea to meet with a peer specialist from PreventEd named Kenajo Bell did life begin to shift.

“Kenajo would pick me up and take me to my meetings whether I wanted to go or not. She wasn’t a probation officer or any type of authority figure, but I knew she wanted to help me change my life and get back on my feet.”

PreventEd’s peer support program pairs people with Certified Peer Specialists who have been successful in their own recovery process and help others who are in similar situations as they were.

“Chelsea never gave up and she was willing to trust me to help her. I know it takes someone to give you a hand up to believe in yourself.”

Chelsea entered rehab one last time.

Chelsea has been sobered since April 2, 2021.

“Between a year and 18 months clean, I really started to see change in my mental health, my thinking, my behavior and how I react to things,” said Chelsea.

A new life

Chelsea’s sobriety began to open an array of opportunities. She is pursuing a career in the legal profession.

Her defense attorney offered her a position to work for his law firm as a legal assistant and to pay half of her tuition if she decided to go to college to pursue further law practice opportunities.

She is also a sponsor for other women struggling with drug and alcohol addiction and a member of the Hospitals and Institutions of Narcotics Anonymous subcommittee.

“I tell them not to give up on themselves, take suggestions, and let people who are trying to help them in Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous love them until they can love themselves.”

Kenajo and Chelsea achieved sobriety and friendship, they keep in touch to this day.

“It was a gradual process of believing in myself and realizing my self-worth and beginning to love myself again,” said Chelsea.

“When I think of Chelsea, I can’t help but tear up. She is a shining, bright star of inspiration.”

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Rodney Humphries
Rodney Humphries

Rodney Humphries is the Communications Specialist for United Way of Greater St. Louis and a proud graduate of Webster University where he developed his passion for writing. In college, he combined his love for writing and sports, serving as the primary sports writer for his school newspaper while also developing his own sports blog. After graduating, he continued his love for writing as he served as a freelance writer for various publications. Rodney continues to be a fan of Webster athletics, you will often see him sitting courtside at a lot of their basketball games.