(T-G Photo by Tracy Simmons)
Nationally, transitional homes average a 20 percent success rate. The local program is exceptional, with 75 percent of the women they assist finding success after treatment.
As the featured guest of the Shelbyville Woman's Club on Wednesday, former Next Step resident Sherry Swing shared a very personal story about how the program transformed her life.
Recovery is never pretty. Swing came to the program after a life which seemed to be shaped by calamity heaped upon tragedy after tragedy.
It's simple enough to tell the story in a few sentences. Sexually molested at a young age, she rebelled early, and often, Swing told club members. Sons were born, one which was lost to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, another to an accidental gunshot while playing with friends. A 2004 car accident resulted in the amputation of her right leg in 2006.
Three sentences, but it is easy to see how one might become angry with God...how drinking and drug abuse might have seemed an easy escape. "I felt like I had a dark cloud over my head," she admits now.
When she hit bottom, she hit hard, she says. "I lost everything I owned. I had a house, land, vehicles. I lost it all to substance abuse and alcoholism."
She found The Next Step Home, which at first provided the basics of life. "They didn't ask anything of me, except to work on myself, to attend drug classes," Swing said. "I began to watch Linda [Vannatta] and the ladies that had God in their heart, how they carried themselves.
"I had no clue that I could have a one-on-one relationship with God, but I knew I wanted that kind of life forever," she said.
Swing spent 14 months at the home. Months which reshaped her life.
"I have a relationship with [God] that I would have never dreamed possible," Swing said.
Now she's trying to give back, to help others. "There are so many women hurting."
Swing reminded the group that helping people in trouble affects the entire community.
"When you help ladies like me, you help my family and everyone they touch."
Swing says the black cloud is gone. "In the past my life was turmoil -- all the time. Now I have peace."
The Next Step Home is a non-profit facility providing a safe and secure environment for women. Visit http://www.nextstepwomen.org for more information.