Community Success StoriesWhat follows is a sampling of people whose lives we have touched. These stories are true, and illustrative of the uniquely comprehensive work that we do within our small agency.
"Ariel""Ariel" came to Programs For People (PFP) when she was 32 years old. While in college she had begun to experience severe mood swings ranging from hyperactivity to deep lethargy, and her self-esteem was extremely low. As a result, she had developed a habit of using drugs and alcohol to deal with her feelings instead of expressing them, which led to even more serious problems. She was eventually hospitalized, and there learned that she shared the same bipolar mental illness as her grandmother, as well as with her highly accomplished father who committed suicide while she was in college. Ariel had been studying to become a teacher. Bright, artistic, and ambitious, she left college because of her illness, could not hold a job, became quite dependent upon her mother, and spent the next ten years adrift.
When she finally arrived At Programs For People, Ariel had to start by learning how to overcome her addiction through utilizing our Substance Abuse Services specifically designed for people suffering from both mental illness and addiction. At the same time, in sessions with her counselor, in Writing Group, and in other groups with clients, Ariel worked on learning how to both express herself and deal with her illness. In referring to sessions with her counselor she remarked, "Even though I've been through the gamut, I learned something new every time." Although initially phobic of any work-related activity, in our Skills Development program Ariel engaged in tasks within the PFP community that provided her with opportunities to exercise her strengths, build confidence, and act independently. She said that at PFP she learned it was "OK to be taken care of, while being pushed to question my own sense of ineptness." Family Therapy meetings with Ariel and her mother helped them both to see that at this point in her life, less involvement by her mother could free Ariel to assume more responsibility for her life, such as by working.
In time, Ariel entered our employment placement program, "Project Advance," and after completing it was actually able to obtain and maintain a part-time cashier job at Starbuck's with the ongoing support of our vocational counselor. There, she did so well that her employer asked her if she would be willing (as a promotion) to be trained to be certified to mix Starbuck's specialties, and she became certified. Then, while still working, she inquired about doing volunteer work at a nearby Montessori school. When she went there for an interview, she was offered a position as a teacher's aide instead!
You should know that Ariel's journey took many months and, yes, there were some setbacks along the way. But now her life is more stable, she no longer relies upon drugs and alcohol to cope with her feelings, and she is moving closer to achieving her dream of becoming a teacher.