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Meet Carissa

Every morning, Carissa wakes up ready for another day. She showers, brushes her hair, her teeth, and heads out the door for another day of deliveries. Her route consists of tight street corners, deliveries at apartment buildings, houses, and a few tricky parking spots. She looks in her side mirror and sees the message, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” She has seen this message before, but now it means a little bit more. Just over a year ago, her struggles were so close to her that she was unable to see the opportunities waiting for her. She could not see that she was just as deserving of the love she freely gives to those around her. In ATR, Carissa says she was able to step back, create some distance, and take care of herself.

“Tough,” Carissa said, describing her life before ATR. After her two kids were taken into custody by the Department of Children and Families (DCF), she was without an income and in need of support to get back on her feet as she began her recovery journey. Carissa shares, “I stopped caring about me. I was struggling because I didn’t have that many friends or the support of my family.” Her ATR Coordinator, Liz, stepped in to help Carissa get caught up on bills, find some professional clothes for job interviews, and connect her with ATR Career Services. “She was willing to work with me,” Carissa said, and when she began the Paths to Empowerment (P2E) Program, “[Liz] was on top of it, making sure I was ready to start.” Having Liz on her side to touch base with each week kept her motivated for the next step.

The first week of P2E is dedicated to uncovering the individual in each ATR participant. Carissa said, “We’re all in recovery. So, there is a lot of negative that we can focus on,” but in P2E, facilitators want to know, “What are the good things? What are your accomplishments?” She said that instead of listing the things she had done wrong in life, her mindset shifted to the positive, “What is great about you?” She said, “The fact that we were all in a program looking for work and the first thing we focused on was not work – it was us.” Carissa rediscovered her strengths, describing herself as intelligent and hardworking.

After completing P2E, Carissa was ready for the next “steppingstone,” enrolling in the Holyoke Community College Customer Service Training. She learned interpersonal skills like making a good first impression, communication techniques, relationship building, as well as practiced real life scenarios and how to respond to them. In this course, Carissa fine-tuned her resume, interview skills, and her marketability. When she completed the course, she felt more confident, prepared for her interviews, and secured a job as a delivery service provider (DSP) driver.

After all of life’s challenges clouded Carissa’s vision, she was able to take a step back and create the distance she needed to see where she could go next. “My life is still tough; it’s not that those hardships go away. Before, all I could see was tough. Now I see it as manageable,” she said, “Those problems did not go away, but my ability to handle those problems is here now.” With the ability to take care of her kids, manage her recovery, and keep up her hardworking attitude, Carissa hopes to go back to school, finish her bachelor’s degree, and save up to travel with her kids.

During National Recovery Month, we are celebrating the thousands of ATR participants, like Carissa, who have re-ignited their dreams and passions and are taking the steps to make them come true.