My name is Tess.
I’ll start with my family. I have an extraordinary, strong, wonderful family. We were big in our church; we were strong with education. I was a great athlete; I was a really good student. I played collegiate soccer. I just never saw this coming.
I got married when I was 22 and I had my daughter when I was 25. I was married to a cowboy here in Nevada, we traveled a lot all through different rural communities. It was a very isolated life – I had a little baby and was trying to keep it together, but started to become depressed and unhappy with my marriage. I didn’t realize at the time but my depression had started a snowball effect of where my life was heading.
My son was born when I was 28, I had a lot of complications and surgeries afterwards, I became addicted to oxy-contin. The guilt and shame were unbearable. It became very unmanageable to the point where I brought my kids to Reno to my parents and I said, “I have to figure this out”. My marriage quickly fell apart, I ended up working in a restaurant and living with a friend. Within 3 months of that transition I was smoking meth thinking I can transition off painkillers and I’ll just use meth.
It was a very sad time.
For the next year and a half, I was in and out of jail, I was not allowed to see my children, I went through a terrible divorce, my family was turned upside down and I was in a horribly abusive relationship. I found myself in jail and my parents came and got me and said, “If you go to rehab in Reno, they’ll release you”. So I did. I went into a 30-day rehab program and I wasn’t successful; I did my 30 days and moved in with a roommate that I had met through the program. I came home within 4 weeks of living with her and she was on the couch doing heroin. I was not coping with life sober. I was stuck in my past, upset about not having my children and what I had done to everyone I loved. I started using with her and within 3 months I was arrested. At the time I was looking at multiple felony charges and losing the custody of my kids permanently.
I was in jail and I had heard the name STEP2 for a long time and I decided I was going to do this. I decided I’m going to turn my life around and I’m going to fight. Soon after I made this decision, I was unexpectedly released from jail due to the lack of beds. All I left with was a bus ticket to get to 4th Street. I called my dad and said, “will you please let me come stay on your couch and will you take me to STEP2 the next day?” and he did.
The next day, I walked into STEP2 and they took me right away.
From that point forward, the world made sense.
Every day at STEP2, I would remind myself this is where I need to be, everything else can wait. I need to focus on my health, my mental health, my physical health, and what it means to become a really strong mom for Ella and Cy, to find my identity and purpose. STEP2 gave me every opportunity, tool and endless support to redefine myself, understand I can rise out of devastating failure and show my children that I never gave up.
After a period of time in intensive residential treatment, I moved into the cottages continuing to work my sobriety, I was able to have visitation with my kids and finish my probation and drug
court. I finally felt confident enough to move out and I continued out-patient services.
This year I’ll have five years since I was in STEP2.
I can tell you that the approach to learning to slow your world down to being able to focus on being safe, your health, being mindful, being aware of your thoughts and behaviors, your choice of words – how powerful those are and how that can really lead to success or lead to failure. I learned that at STEP2.
Every day I know my foundation started with this program.