“Looking back, the staff at Vanessa Behan was teaching me how to be a better parent without even being present. They have touched my family in such a way that it has been very difficult for me to put it into words.”
These are recent heartfelt words shared by Jennifer, a former Nursery mother, a recovering drug addict and alcoholic, and Guest Speaker at our annual Vanessa’s Promise Benefit Luncheon.
Jennifer started her story sharing details of her upbringing in a stable household, with supportive parents, a surgeon and a loving stay-at-home mom, and two siblings. “Since I can remember, my parents diligently taught us right from wrong and did nothing but love and support us.” Despite her supportive family, Jennifer began drinking at age twelve, which started her life long battle with addiction. At age thirteen Jennifer was using marijuana, making poor choices, and found herself pregnant and giving birth to her first child, a son, by age sixteen. Jennifer’s parents helped care for her new baby, encouraging Jennifer to complete high school and straighten out her life. Jennifer managed to graduate, but her addiction issues continued, resulting in her parents gaining custody of her son and Jennifer moving away from home.
A few years later, Jennifer met the father of her now grown four daughters. For the next twenty-one years Jennifer was off and on with this man because of physical and emotional abuse. She shared that, “due to both mine and my partner’s ongoing struggle with addiction and periods of homelessness, my girls have witnessed more in their first few years than probably most of you in this room will ever experience in your entire lives. My children are truly my motivation in this journey of sobriety.”
Early on in her daughters’ lives Jennifer was arrested for a DUI. Her daughters were placed in foster care. Jennifer was devastated but unable to stay sober. Jennifer was assigned a Child Protective Services’ Social Worker named Patricia who became actively involved in her recovery. In record time, she reunited Jennifer with her girls and helped them get accepted into a 6-month behavioral modification program for women and their children.
Jennifer and her girls graduated from the program, and with the help of Patricia, was referred to, and participated in, other agency programs along with AA. Despite these programs Jennifer still felt completely alone in raising her girls without a support system.
But then it came – the life changing referral from Patricia to Vanessa Behan. Jennifer was afraid to use the Nursery, but having no other options, she made the call and arranged to come in for a visit. “I had a nasty, pessimistic and flat out rude attitude when we arrived that first morning but then the kindest and most genuine young lady opened the Nursery door. Her name was Allison.”
That morning Alison spent a significant amount of time with Jennifer until she felt comfortable to leave the girls for the day. When Jennifer returned that afternoon her kids did not want to leave. The Nursery was all they could talk about. They even set up their own Vanessa Behan at home and argued on who got to be Allison first. Jennifer shared that, “watching my girls role play ended up being the closest I ever got to finding out what it’s actually like at the Nursery. Looking back, the staff at Vanessa Behan was teaching me how to be a better parent without even being present.”
Jennifer further shared that the referral to Vanessa Behan, “saved my family and my sobriety.” She added that she was able to remain sober for four years, utilizing the Nursery and their services countless times. And each time, “my family was met at the door by a Nursery employee who not once judged, criticized or ridiculed. And their support didn’t stop when my children became school aged and my family had moved on. Here it is, thirteen years later, and the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery is still rooting for and supporting my family and my sobriety by letting me share today.”
Jennifer concluded her emotional speech expressing her gratefulness to have VBCN in our community, “Please know that the giving and support bestowed upon the Nursery by the Spokane community does not go unnoticed – not even a little bit. I not only will forever be indebted to Allison and Vanessa Behan, but to all of you as well for keeping their services going and accessible to people such as myself.”