Drugs didn’t break her. Nor did a tumultuous relationship or a health scare. Smart and articulate, Maria is a survivor. It just took her a minute to find her stride.
Maria, 43, grew up in Reading with her mother and two sisters. When she was 26, her mother passed away, “and that was the beginning of my drug spiral.” She started smoking marijuana and progressed to harder drugs. Opportunity House was there for Maria—more than once.
In 2013, Maria and her live-in boyfriend lost their apartment due to drug use. They entered Opportunity House’s program together. With their case managers’ help, they got clean, found jobs, and secured housing. But ultimately, the lure of drugs was too strong. Inside of a year, “we lost everything,” Maria says.
In 2014, they moved to Florida. This time, it wasn’t drugs that interfered. It was a health crisis. Maria was diagnosed with a tumor. Thankfully, it was benign, but surgery was required. With no family in Florida and no insurance, they moved back to Reading. Maria had the surgery and recovered at her sister’s house. But before long, tension developed. “It was better that I left,” says Maria.
This summer, Maria again sought refuge at Opportunity House. “I was welcomed back,” says Maria. While her boyfriend is still in her life, “I took back my power,” she says. “This time, I got clean for me,” she says. “I’m taking the reins of my life and making the decisions that are best for me.”
Recently, Maria discovered that her tumor had returned. “I’m staying positive, giving everything to God,” she says. And she’s loving life. She works as a front-desk attendant at the Doubletree Hotel. “My job has been an incredible, life-changing experience for me,” says Maria. “It’s allowed me to spread my wings.” She’s also enjoyed decorating her new apartment, which she shares with her 19-year-old son who has a chronic medical condition. “Opportunity House has been a haven for me.” Its biggest gift? “Support,” says Maria. “Emotional support, financial support. The support of people who believed in me.”