TAKE A HIKE: WEAR program participants explore the outdoors at the HMoA

Participants of the WEAR program and volunteers link arms, forming hearts with their hands, outside the Huntington Museum of Art on Tuesday before their group hike.
Participants of the WEAR program and volunteers link arms, forming hearts with their hands, outside the Huntington Museum of Art on Tuesday before their group hike.

Last October, the Cabell County successfully received a grant to launch the Women’s Empowerment and Addiction Recovery Program (WEAR), a program tailored for women recovering from various addictions in the Huntington area.

The program currently has eight women, with a maximum enrollment of 20, and is generally an 18-month program with four phases and an aftercare program.

Depending on how successful the women are in each phase, they can lose or gain weeks in the program.

While the women found comfort in knowing each other’s stories and pasts, they all also knew one thing—no story is the same.

Salena, whose last name is being excluded for confidential reasons, has been in the WEAR program for approximately 10 weeks.

She and three other WEAR members attended a group hike and ice cream social at the Huntington Museum of Art Tuesday, organized by Missy Clagg Browning and other female volunteers in the community who aim to assist and support the women in their recoveries.

She said she has already learned so much from being in the program, and that it has changed her life so much in such a short amount of time. Salena said she has become a more positive person and has become passionate about her recovery.

Salena said she couldn’t do it alone, and has everyone that has helped her through her recovery to thank, including her probation officer, Lauren, who she sees as her support system.

“Being in this program has saved my life. Without this help, I would’ve been dead or in prison,” Salena said. “They’re not giving up on me, so I’m not giving up on me.”

Salena said that naturally, she wasn’t excited about going into the program. She felt many emotions, including fear of change and anger towards others and herself.

“It was hard to leave that drug life, it was hard to leave your friends, hard to leave what you know,” Salena said. “It’s what I was used to. I did what I needed to do to get the next fix, whatever it was. But, you have to completely separate yourself to get any better. I’m very proud of myself, and I couldn’t have said that before.”

After gaining the strength to get away from her past the first time, Salena relapsed, which she described as one of the worst moments of her life.

“Fourteen months in jail, I came out, was thrown back into the world, and… I knew it was there. I knew drugs were there, and I knew where to get it. I thought to myself ‘just one more time,” but I thought that too many times,” Salena said.

Salena said it wasn’t until after that moment, where she truly had her wake up call, and realized she never wanted to touch drugs again.

Amy, another woman in the program with her, agreed that you have to have a wake-up call, and it’s not always a positive one.

“You have to lose enough before you want to change,” Amy said. “I don’t believe in rock bottom anymore; I believe in change. If I hit rock bottom, I would be dead.”

Salena, like others in the program, finds her motivation in herself, in her children, and in her parents. She said her father told her he had one wish before he passed—and it was to see her sober, which makes her want to strive harder and do better.

After finishing her recovery, Salena wants to go back to school, have a home, a job and feel like she has her life back.

For once, Salena is looking forward to the future.

Karima Neghmouche can be contacted at [email protected]