Make the little girl you used to be proud of the woman you are now. It is not known who first said those words. But we do know who made them come true. Her name is Sarah Wallace.

Raised by a mom who was addicted to drugs, Sara’s childhood was one without structure. From Miami’s Overtown area, she attended Douglas Elementary School and went on to Booker T. Washington High School, but never finished. Pregnant at 14, she got a job at Walgreens. “I loved working as I am a real people person. I took training classes and learned the customer is always right.”

And then she learned about heroin from one of her mom’s friends and enjoyed the warm feeling it provided. Sarah struggled with addiction for over five decades. She managed to become clean while in jail and through treatments, but then she relapsed.

“I hit hard bottom,” Sarah said. “After sleeping on concrete, I wasn’t able to get up with my arthritis. I injected drugs in my legs when I could not find my veins. With two sons and a daughter in this world, I had to stop. I went to the IDEA Exchange (operated within the University of Miami, it is the only syringe exchange in Florida), and they got me into programs which eventually led me to Camillus House.

In early December of 2019, Sarah felt like Christmas came early. She would receive help through our Institute for Success and Personal Achievement State Opioid Response (ISPA SOR) Residential Treatment Program. The Program includes individual and group therapy; medical and psychiatric services; medication management and social/recreational services as well as case management for referrals to housing and employment.

Sarah said, “I feel grateful to have been part of the program at Camillus House. It not only changed my life, it also saved it.” Working closely with staff, especially SOR Clinician Beth Yegelwel, was key for Sarah.

“Beth and I were a team, and we tackled my fears, challenges, anger and more,” Sarah recalls. “She told me I had to put in the work and helped mend me back together again. I didn’t want to die. I was committed to making the SOR program work.” And it did.

“Thanks to Beth, my Case Manager Claudine Fabien, and the team at Camillus House, I am clean and living in my own apartment.” Her day begins at 5:00 a.m. by sending inspirational messages to people who helped in her recovery and to those needing a little encouragement. When asked to share a message, Sarah smiled and said, “Walk away from anything that gives you bad vibes.” She follows that advice as she moves forward on her new path.

“At Camillus House, I learned to forgive my mother. I am forgiving of myself. And I also learned to love myself. After all, if I don’t matter to me…” Yes, the little girl she used to would be proud of the strong woman she is today.

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