Updated: Jun 26
Tara Bennett is a Program Specialist for the reentry program at Goodwill Industries of Arkansas. In her words, she shares a message for those struggling with addiction.
I will start by giving you a little bit of my history. I grew up and was, for the most part, a happy child. I grew up doing great in school, and I always did very well in academics and art. I was the All-American girl, and I was expected to stay that way and keep doing what I had always done. “Keep up the good work.” I was praised for my grades and my awards as well as my creativity. Then my family decided to one day move out into the middle of nowhere Arkansas. I was in the middle of seventh grade, and my parents moved me to a place that I had no idea even existed on the planet. I went from a school of 700 to a town of 700. I was in complete and utter culture shock. I was devastated.
That is when my long road of addiction started. I maintained my grades throughout high school and managed to get scholarships to go to college. When I got to college, though, my using got worse and worse. My grades started to plummet. I was continuing to make stupid decisions, and it landed me back at home with my parents—back home where I picked right back up where I left off.
I got pregnant at age 23, and by the grace of GOD I got sober and stayed sober for about three years. In that time of sobriety, I got myself back into school, going to the University of Central Arkansas. I was going to be a high school math teacher, getting my Bachelor of Science degree in Math. I was doing really well. I was working full-time and going to school full-time.
But it didn’t last. A friend saw me struggling to do it all and reintroduced me to a drug that would help me keep going fast (working and going to school) and lose weight. I took her advice, and from that moment on my life was a whirlwind of craziness. I eventually became full-time drug dealer AND USER, completely lost in the world. Always having to look over my shoulder. Always wondering who would rob me or rip me off next. Who was really my friend? Did they just want me for what I had to give them?
I tell you this because addiction is not picky it can choose anyone from any background. Addiction does not discriminate.
Drug addiction is a tricky disease. Many people don’t understand why or how other people become addicted to drugs. They may mistakenly think that those who use drugs lack moral principles or willpower, and that they could stop their drug use simply by choosing to. In reality, drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will. Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to.
No one plans to wreck their life. No one wakes up and says “I want to become an addict” or “I think I will go bankrupt today and lose everything.” But we have a choice in how we respond to situations.
I can account most of my adult life to addiction. But in Romans 8:28, God says “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” This helps me to understand that all I have done can be used for the Glory of the Lord. The LORD had made this mess into a message.
Did you know that we have 2.2 million people incarcerated in U.S., more than any other country in the world.? Did you know that 75% of those people are addicted to drugs and alcohol? Another shocking fact: America accounts for 5% of the world population, yet we consume 40% of all illegal drugs. A new study just released says that heroine now kills more people than guns, 44 people a day.
My drug addiction eventually landed me in prison for 11 months. I am so very grateful that I went to prison. It is in prison where I was set free. I was able to get my mind clear and think about all I have been doing and the consequences of my actions. I was able to look at my life objectively and know that who I had become was not who I wanted to be or what God had planned for me. Because in my addiction the disease did not allow me to think about the consequences. I was not able to look past the next high.
While in prison I was accepted into Exodus Academy a spiritually-based pre release program designed to give you hope, build a social network, and teach you who you are in Christ. I also learned about a new program for women who were coming out of prison, called Hope Rises. I knew I didn’t want to go back to the life I was living, so in order to do something different you have to try something different. So I made a 6 month commitment.
While I was in prison I found out about the TEO Program when Goodwill came to where I was incarcerated. I knew right then that is what I wanted to do. I remember them saying “In order for you to succeed, you have to get out of your own way.” That made so much sense to me. I finally gave in and decided I was done trying to do it my way.
The TEO program provided a safe and structured environment at such a crucial and pivotal point in my life. I was surrounded by positive people who I could trust. There was not an ulterior motive. TEO program provided me the tools and connections I needed to become successful.
Addiction cascades in every direction. It hurts not only the addict. When my mother came to my TEO graduation, it was clear to her that I had changed. My family relationships started to change and my success was cascading as well.
I stayed at Hope Rises for a year and moved out on my own in hope of having my daughter more often. I eventually ended up gaining all trust back from my family and got physical custody back of my daughter.
I have served my sentence, and now under the first offenders act, my felony charge has been dropped off my record. I am working on removing my misdemeanors to have a completely clean record.
I started going back to school at UALR and I am graduating with my bachelor’s degree in May. Wow who knew that with a little motivation and a clear mind you can do anything you set out to do.
I am forever grateful for the opportunity to give back every day and to work for Goodwill. God has put me in Goodwill to help people who were once in my position. It couldn’t be a more rewarding position.
People can change if given the chance, and Goodwill proves that every day.
Now, some advice:
Use your positive connections to your advantage.
Find someone who has what you want, and do what they did.
Commit to your recovery and fight for what you want in life.
Do what you have to do to stay sober.
Devote some time to yourself every day.
Live life on life’s terms.
Give back...In order to keep what you have, you should also give it away.
If you fall down, GET BACK UP!
Time will make things easier.
Take advantage of every single opportunity you get to grow and be a better person.
This is just the beginning.