Molly. Christy. Jennifer.

These were the names of the three ladies who shared their stories at the Women’s Addiction Recovery Manor this afternoon during a Christmas reception they had to thank our church members for bringing the items for their Christmas dinner (for the 115 residents who live there).

“My name’s Molly and I’m a drug addict…”

“My name’s Christy and I’m an alcoholic…”

“My name’s Jennifer and I’m a drug addict alcoholic…” each one began and was greeted by a chorus of “hello…”

Only three ladies shared, but each of the 115 ladies has a story that is uniquely her own. The stories we heard all had normal beginnings. Each took a devastating turn somewhere in the middle of life. All three are mothers. All three have loved, were loved, are loved. Each of the three spoke clearly and well. All now have a chance to start again with life.

Whenever someone stands up and tells his or her story, I’m immediately tuned in. I love to hear stories of lives lived. I love to know what brought a person to the place where they currently stand. I like to know where people come from, what makes them “tick,” lessons they have learned along the path. Lives are complicated and there are choices made along the way that change paths and affect others. These women told mesmerizing stories.

I was overwhelmed by their gratitude to us. It was almost too much that they were having a reception to thank us. Several of the ladies hugged me and thanked me for coming, for bringing food, for listening and learning. “Oh, thank you…” I feebly replied. Yet, I was aware that this reception wasn’t just for us. It was also for them–a chance to gather, to share stories, to hear each other, to do something as normal as having a Christmas reception.

I’m pretty aware that there are decisions I could have made, places I could have gone that would have caused my life to veer in directions that could have resulted in addiction, conviction, rehab. I’m aware that I’m not better than these women, that I don’t have my life any more together than each of them did at one point during better days. I’m aware that although their struggles are diagnosed, admitted or discovered, I have struggles too.

“You’re never too young…you’re never too old…” Molly said. “Your life can change at any moment.”

It’s true.

“I feel like I have my life back,” Jennifer stated.

My hope is that I was sitting in a room full of women who feel this way. My hope is that each one can finish her story triumphantly. My hope is that in this community, they will continue to encourage and listen to each other.

I also hope their Christmas dinner is incredible!