Kathy Nguyen: UConn Public Policy Graduate Internship at Coram Deo

Kathy Nguyen: UConn Public Policy Graduate Internship at Coram Deo

My name is Kathy Nguyen and I am an intern at Coram Deo. I was born in Connecticut, but my parents moved to the US from Vietnam years before I was born. I grew up in West Hartford, where I worked in stage crew for multiple musicals in middle and high school. In my free time, I enjoy working out, watching funny Tik Toks, and playing on my Nintendo Switch. I have a Bachelor’s in Political Science and Economics from UConn, with minors in psychology and public policy. I will also be finishing my Master’s in Public Administration from UConn in May 2023. I hope to move further out west in the future, to either Texas or California. I hope to work somewhere in the public sector like the Department of Justice, as I have always been passionate about social issues. I want to help make sure that the entire process is running smoothly so that the public can get the help that they need. I was offered the opportunity to intern at Coram Deo for the last 6 months through my Master’s Internship & Professional Practice program. During my internship, I have learned so many different ways in helping women in recovery to succeed. I have been given the opportunity to help be part of a growing team while creating solid policies and procedures.

Thank you Coram Deo!

Sara’s Story: The Journey Continues

Sara’s Story: The Journey Continues

Update June 2021

I wrote that part of my story 2 years ago. I had just begun working in the field of recovery and my life was beginning to take on a very different shape than I ever could have imagined.

In the past 2 years I have worked with over 100 women and children from all over the state. Supporting them as they walk through their recovery and pick up the pieces of their broken lives. There are no words to express what an honor it is to be there for women in recovery the same way someone was there for me.

COVID 19 brought with it all kinds of challenges, but also some blessings for me. As a result of the pandemic and the entire “distance learning” from all the schools, my son has now come to live with me permanently. He still has a good relationship with his dad, but he lives with me full time. I never thought I would have that again. Most days I am very, very grateful. (it’s an honest program you know! some days I miss my space, lol) 

So many doors have opened for me in the past two years, one of the women I now work for part time and who has been a teacher, mentor and encourager to me tells me I don’t have to walk through every open door, but it is sooooo tempting! I just want to help everyone, do everything, make a difference. I WANT TO LIVE. I want to make up for lost time. I want to do GOOD. I want to share my experiences so others don’t have to experience the pain I have experienced.

I am learning though, to draw boundaries and keep myself sane (sometimes) . I am learning to pick and choose where I spend my time and energy to do the most good. I serve on the NB Recovers committee and as a result of my time and connections there other doors have been opening for me.

This year will find me running for political office – the Common Council to be exact. I am not sure why I am doing it, I dont know WHAT I am doing, but I know this: When the election is over, and I have a seat on the council, I will be a voice for those in recovery. Not only in New Britain, but all over CT. I will be an example of what a life changed can accomplish.

I am proud to stand in the gap for so many who have been used and abused and find themselves discarded and forgotten. I am proud to be the one to tell them they are not forgotten, they are not worthless.

I continue to remain connected to Coram Deo and my support system there by working for them part time! This has been a great joy for me, to stay connected to the roots of my recovery and healing.
My life is amazing today – I make time for myself, for short vacations to my new favorite place: Florida; and this past Sunday I tried Goat Yoga for the first time! Check it out:

That’s all I have for now….

Stay Safe, Stay Sober, Stay Connected….

Sara P.

Jody’s Story

Jody’s Story

My story starts out similarly to many who struggle with addiction:  Abuse. Trauma. Feelings of abandonment. All beginning when I was very young:

  • At three years old my mother divorced my alcoholic father
  • My oldest brother went to live with him
  • At 5, 6, 7 I was sexually abused by members of my family
  • At 8 years old my sister left the house
  • At 9 years old my other brother left
  • Around this time I picked up some self-harming behaviors, started hitting myself, banging my head against the wall.
  • By the time I was 13 years old I was so steeped in depression I tried to take my life for the first time.
  • When I hit high school I picked up drinking and when I was 18 I did my first line of coke in the bathroom of the grinder shop I worked at.
  • When I was 18 I began to be promiscuous.
  • When I was 21 my mom passed away after a short battle with cancer, one month to be exact.
  • One year later I was homeless and pretty much hopeless.
  • When I was 22 I was done. I no longer wanted to live and I had a plan.

One look at that outline and the enemy is obvious you might think, alcoholism, sexual abuse, probably some abandonment issues from everyone leaving, death wishes – the works, pretty much.  But what I’ve just described to you is only what was happening on the outside. Those events were obvious to outsiders.

What is equally important I have found is what actually happened on the inside. On the inside I learned to hate myself and with that I hated everything and everyone around me. I trusted no one. No one had been trustworthy in my life, ever.  Fear became my closest ally and loneliness my nearest living relative. I kept these two companions with me wherever I went. I was never without them. It wasn’t a conscious thing, it was just part of who I was.

There it is – my sad story, and it is sad, really sad. Who would do that to a little girl? Why did everyone have to leave my family? Why did my mom die when I had just gotten to the point of being friends with her? Why was my dad an alcoholic? Why couldn’t I grow up in a “normal” house like everyone else?

These questions and others I carried with me for years, in the form of bitterness and anger towards God. A God who I had been taught was a somewhat loving God I found to be distant and uncaring, somewhat like my earthly father. Imagine that.

And so it was, I was 22 years old, done with life, my outlook at this point is pretty much that my life sucked, there was nothing I could do to change it and that the best thing to hope for is that it wouldn’t last too long or hurt too much before I died. Hopelessness was the bane of my existence.

That was many  years ago. So what happened? I know you’re all the edge of your seat, in one sense, I mean if you know me at all today,  I think you all know God came and did a wonderful work I gave my life to Jesus, he transformed me, healed me, helped me work through my issues, I worked the steps, went to Celebrate Recovery and life began to get better.  That’s all true, for sure.

But I get hung up on the details, I do. I want to know – what does that mean – God transformed me? What does it mean God healed me, how did that happen, what did that look like?  This is the truth I want to tell you – it can be pretty ugly sometimes. It can be very difficult sometimes and I found in this whole process that while my experiences caused “separation anxiety” – “ abandonment issues” – “addiction” and a whole host of other character defects, my biggest enemy in this whole thing was me. The person who fought hardest against me, was me. Remember, I hated myself, very deeply. So how do you win a battle against yourself? Here’s how I did it:

I realized I was powerless over my addiction and that my life had become unmanageable. I was 22 homeless, hopeless, I had no one and nowhere to go. Pretty sad.

I came to believe a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity. I had always known God, I was raised in the catholic church. At my bottom – when I was 22 – I asked God for a sign, I was ready to kill myself, but there was still some small part of me that wanted to live. I called the Pastor at a church I had been going to for just a few months and I asked him to meet with me.  I told God if he didn’t meet with me that night I would take my life. He met with me that night. And I began to see God and feel God in a different way. I began to feel like He was vested in me. Interested in my life.

I gave my life and my will over to the care of God. That very same night after meeting with the Pastor I went home and started reading the bible he gave me. 1 John 1:9 says if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I got it. I mean I really got it. The words on the page leapt into my heart and understanding came and started to take root and I began to believe in my heart what I had known in my head for so many years. Jesus died on the cross for me. He did it for me. He loved me that much.  I gave my life to Christ. I prayed a simple prayer and acknowledged that I couldn’t do this without God and I asked him to take over my life and make something of the mess I had made of it.

I made a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself. This is definitely an “I” statement, though there were those who tried to help me do this. This was the hardest step and this went on for a long, long time. It took me a long time to acknowledge all of the things that were done to me and all the things I had done.  This was the most painful part of the process, being honest with myself. In the midst of this I had to acknowledge that I had a deep, deep hatred of myself and I didn’t know what to do about it. Sure, things were starting to change on the outside, but on the inside I KNOW who I am. And I KNOW who I AM NOT. In some ways I stayed stuck in this for many years. But in the areas I wasn’t stuck in I moved on.

I admitted to God, to myself and to another human being the exact nature of my wrongs. Vomit. That’s what I wanted to do. And you know this step came in various forms at various times, but I had to examine my thought patterns and behavior. I had to journal – write it all down.  I am eternally grateful for the help I received during this time. I had a great sponsor, I also did some one on one, and I had some great friends, people who were willing to walk with me through my junk, people who apparently saw something in me I sure didn’t. Some of the things I realized here was that I would reject people before they rejected me. I would sabotage a relationship so the other person wouldn’t end it first, because really no one could ever love me. I still hated myself I couldn’t believe someone could love me for real. You know I was married for 10 years and I wrote in my journal “imagine being married 10 years and not being 100% sure your husband loves you” and I realized during this time that my greatest desire and my greatest fear were the same. To be loved.  I was afraid of being loved, I was afraid of showing myself to someone truly and allowing them to love me.

By now you’ve probably realized I am walking you through my steps – but I have to share something with you, I don’t think step six reads right. I don’t think anyone is entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. I mean I thought I was, and I certainly wanted a new life, by now I am in this process pretty far, pretty well invested and it sure sounded good to me, you know, “Character Defects Removed Here” Line up. I didn’t want to be defective anymore, right? But it hurts, a lot. It is a very, very painful process. Worth it, for sure, but difficult as well.  So what does it look like? Some compare it to the peeling of an onion, one layer at a time. Not a bad analogy. But what does it look like? Well, for me I had to remember the details of my abuse, I Had to share my feelings and thoughts with someone – it felt like someone was ripping my heart out. The fear that encompassed me in those days was overwhelming. I found it difficult to do the things I had to do on a day to day basis – even take care of my kids. I had panic attacks – I isolated myself and I clung to self hatred convinced that nothing good could ever come of my life and refusing to hope that I might be wrong.

I did ask God to remove my shortcomings and I learned a major key in the process – forgiveness. I had to forgive those who had harmed me, including my father. I had to forgive myself for the things I had done wrong and I found I had to forgive God – sort  of – for the things that I had blamed him for.

I made a list of all persons I had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them. Some were easy, some were not. I had to pay back money I stole and I had to learn about “living” amends. Which is basically saying that there really isn’t anything you can do except get it right this time. So I did.

I continue, to this day, to take personal inventory and when I am wrong I admit it promptly. I have found that the longer I wait to right a wrong the harder it becomes.  At this time, I allow others to take my inventory as well. It’s a part of my process, holding myself accountable to those I trust.

I seek through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with God praying for knowledge of His will and the power to carry that out.  It doesn’t come naturally to me – it’s not second nature – though some of it is. I have to be intentional about picking up my bible and checking in with God on a daily basis.

Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, I carry this message to others and try to practice these principles in all my affairs. Today I get to give back in ways I never thought I could. I started Coram Deo 15 years ago which provides safe housing for women struggling with addiction and abuse. It’s a place to grow, a place to learn, a place to love and a place to become. We started this with one house and 14 beds. Today we have 5 houses, 56 beds and we are able to serve women AND children. Lives are being changed and I get to share on a regular basis what God has done for me. I have a wonderful husband, we’ve been married 29 years and two beautiful children.

But that’s what people can see on the outside, on the inside

  •     I am no longer afraid
  •     I am no longer alone
  •     I no longer hate myself
  •     I KNOW who I am and I KNOW who I am not
  •     I have peace that comes from trusting Jesus
  •     I have a family and extended family that love me and whom I love.

It took me one year to get clean, it took me the better of ten years to work through my recovery. I just want to encourage you here, look at the big picture, it takes time. This is a process, we call it recovery, it’s a journey that can change your life, if you allow it to.

Sara’s Story

Sara’s Story

Sara’s Story

I took my first drink when I was 12 years old. I took it from my parents liquor cabinet…..I added water so it wouldn’t be noticed. I began drinking more socially in high school, and became a blackout drinker by the time I turned 18. I was smoking marijuana and just after high school I tried cocaine for the first time.

I wasn’t a bad kid – I was different though, at least that’s how I felt. People liked me better when I was under the influence, or so I thought. I wanted to be liked, I wanted to belong.

I began to dig a hole for myself – I was quickly headed into places you really wouldn’t want your daughter or your niece at; and so it was my family gathered me up, shipped me to my aunts home in Maine and told me to choose a branch of the military to join. That was their solution to my problem and I let it happen.

I chose the Navy. I did well there, I completed 8 years, was a diesel mechanic, serviced ships overseas, and lived on a Destroyer Tender. I even managed to lose a ship! (that’s a longer story than what we have room for here, but it’s true!)

In spite of all of that and probably because I was in the Navy, drinking continued to be a normal part of my life. During this time, I met and married my first husband (who also happened to be my drinking partner). While we were serving together, we drank together and in the last year or two of my service, he began to be emotionally abusive to me. I didn’t entirely understand that’s what was happening, but when the hands began to fly and my face was being slapped and he pushed me around, well, THAT I understood.

I made the decision to leave, took my 2 children with me and made my way back to CT.

I managed for a while on my own, and then I met my son’s father. I met him at work, he was a cook, he was charming and smooth, with a little bit of temper, but that didn’t bother me.

After a year we moved in together and for the next 13 years I watched my life crumble as he mentally and physically abused me. He set out to destroy me and he came very close to doing just that. After 13 years, 4 broken noses, (2 that required surgery), 26 black eyes, 4 cracked ribs and with less than zero self esteem, I finally called the police.

In came DCF, they took my kids and 30 minutes later I went on an 11 and a half month drinking and drug binge. I lost my house, I was homeless, sleeping where ever I could find a bed or a couch.

It was on Mothers Day, 2015 that I made the decision to never use again. I was tired, I was lonely, I missed my children and I never wanted to be without them again on Mothers Day.

I went into a 4 month treatment program, but when I completed it, I still had no place to go. I had gotten some help, but I was still homeless. I had no money, no job, all I had really was 4 months sober and a bag or two worth of personal belongings.

​Sitting in my counselor’s office close to my last day there, scared and anxious and not knowing where to go, I watched as a fax came in from a local sober home. Ironically enough, the name of the sober home, was Sarah’s House. I took this as a sign from God and called them immediately.

I was accepted into the house, my hope was restored, I had a plan in place and I was intent on making it work. I would go into the sober home for 2 months – get a job, save my money, get a place of my own and have my children back with 6 months to a year, easy. No problemo. Or so I thought.

Everything seemed to take a little longer than I thought. A little longer to get a job, a little longer to get into treatment, a little longer to get my DCF case going. At two months, I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready at 3 months either. Somewhere in the those three months, I began to realize what the staff had been telling me was true. I needed to take care of myself FIRST. I didn’t fully understand this, but I began to struggle with flashbacks, panic attacks and PTSD. I learned that I had a lot of trauma to deal with – that I only coped with those things in unhealthy ways. I needed to learn new coping skills. And so it was, for the next two years, I focused primarily on myself.

I learned about Trauma and it’s effect on me. I learned that my actions and reactions were not uncommon, but that I didn’t have to let the past rule my future. I began to have hope that I might actually be able to live differently this time.

I became active in NA, took commitments and attending meetings several times a week sometimes everyday. I got a sponsor, I worked the 12 steps and I learned more about myself.

I had good days and bad days, but the staff at Coram Deo was always there for me, encouraging me and pushing me for greater things. I really believe that Coram Deo saved my life. Don’t get me wrong, there were many women in our program who relapsed along the way and left. Maybe they weren’t ready yet, maybe it wasn’t their time, I’m not sure.

What I do know is that I was ready – and I was willing and I gave myself the chance to heal, the chance to build a better life and the chance for change.

Today I work in the field of recovery helping other women. I am a certified Recovery Coach / Peer Recovery Support Specialist. I work all over the state with women, offering them the hope that I once received and guiding them the way I was.

I will always be grateful for that day we received the fax and God pointed me in the direction to go. I will always be grateful to Coram Deo and the support and guidance they gave me and continue to give me.

Coram Deo provides a great opportunity for recovery and I would highly recommend them for anyone needing a safe play to rebuild.

 

Building a better tomorrow one day at a time.

Coram Deo, Inc.

P.O. Box 2334

New Britain, CT 06050-2334

PHONE 860.348.3486

FAX (860) 333-1264

[email protected]