As Wilma walked through Meta House’s doors as a graduate of eight years, she was proud to reflect on how far she’s come since she first arrived in 2008. “When I first came to Meta House, I was so angry. I didn’t want to be there, I didn’t want to participate. Yet, I was so tired and I had hit rock bottom,” she remembers.
Wilma was born and raised in Milwaukee. She was child six out of seven children and while her parents didn’t struggle with addiction, she remembers seeing her older siblings use heroin. Despite this, Wilma managed to stay away from drugs until she was 27. However, her life lacked structure and at a young age she was abused by a family member and close family friend. Ashamed, Wilma would hold on to this secret for 35 years.
Wilma said that as a result of the abuse, she didn’t have healthy relationships moving forward. She turned to crack cocaine as an escape. “For 11 years, I just survived. My drug use became worse and I moved from apartment to apartment and moved my children from school to school,” Wilma remembers.
Wilma moved back and forth between Minnesota and Milwaukee and continued to use. She lived with others who also used and sold drugs and was caught stealing in 2008 in Milwaukee. “At the time, I didn’t even realize I had an addiction. I knew that I was in trouble,” Wilma says. But Wilma didn’t understand the judicial process and didn’t feel like her attorney cared about her or her case. On the day of sentencing, Wilma recalls, “I looked over at the judge, tears pouring down my face and said ‘I’m guilty, your Honor. Just send me to jail. I’m tired.’” The judge sent Wilma to a drug assessment. “I felt so embarrassed. When being asked about the extent of my drug use, I saw for the first time that I might have an issue. Even with me minimizing the problem, I was told I needed inpatient treatment.”
Wilma entered into Meta House’s Residential Treatment Program in December 2008 at the age of 46. She found the structure of the program helpful, as well as both the one-on-one sessions with her counselor and the group process sessions with others in similar circumstances. Wilma successfully transitioned from residential to Meta Housing and continued attending outpatient treatment. In a group focusing on trauma, Wilma shared for the first time that she was a survivor of sexual abuse. “It helped me understand I was not alone. Sometimes it only takes one [person] to speak up. It takes courage to speak due to the associated shame and guilt.”
After commencing from Meta House’s outpatient program in 2011, Wilma continued to work on restoring the relationships in her life. “I remember learning that just because I got clean, it doesn’t erase all of the pain and hurt that I caused my children,” she says.
Wilma later moved back to Minnesota to be with her family, but frequently visits Milwaukee. She’s been clean for over eight years now and will soon be graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. “I remind myself to stay in the moment. Pain shared is pain lessened. If I don’t use, then I have a fighting chance,” Wilma shares. “Now I’m so proud. I have uninterrupted clean time. There have been many moments of pain or hardship, though, but I have made it through.”