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Cheree Carr cycled in and out of Hooper Detox several times before starting her long-term recovery journey in 2013. From there, she joined CCC’s Recovery Mentor Program and The Miracles Club, where she met the love of her life. Today, Cheree is a homeowner and serves people experiencing severe mental illness at CCC’s Old Town Recovery Center. This is her story — in her own words.
Growing up, there were four of us: my mother, my brother, my sister and me. My mother brought us up really well. I graduated from high school, went to one year of college, worked in a bank, had an apartment and a car. I was a good girl. But I got curious and started experimenting with drugs when I was 22. Then, it got to where I wasn’t experimenting anymore. I was in the fast life. It was fun and then it wasn’t fun. I had stuff and then I lost stuff. As the years progressed, my addiction got stronger and I became a heroin addict. I wanted to quit, but didn’t know how or have the willpower.
I heard about CCC’s Hooper Detoxification and Stabilization Center and tried to get clean there a few times, but I was never able to completely surrender. Finally, on April 16, 2013, I entered Hooper again and this time I was ready. I knew it was over. Drugs had truly defeated me. I was homeless and in a state of desperation. I was tired of being tired and I wanted something different. Hooper was a chance for me to start again.
After my detox treatment, I was referred to CCC’s Recovery Mentor Program. Even though I had the desire to stop using, I had no clue how to go about it. My mentor, Lynda W., was a source of strength and encouragement for me. My peers in the program became a huge part of my support system. I was able to get housing, food and professional certifications to help me re-enter the workforce.
The Mentor Program led me to the 12-step Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and that’s when my journey really began. I started working on steps 1 through 5 with my first sponsor, Theresa. My current sponsor and friend, Rena W., worked with me on steps 6 through 12. This program has helped me to work through my past and has given me new tools to use in my everyday life.
I met the love of my life, Harry W., at an NA meeting at Miracles Club. He was an anchor in my recovery journey. We were there for each other. He was a man of very few words, but when he spoke, he got right to the point. He taught me the meaning of integrity, being accountable, doing service work and what love means. He showed me by example, the importance of meeting attendance. He had a kindness toward others and was non-judgmental. He was always willing to give back to the NA program by helping newcomers and the old-timers.
Lucy M., who is an active part of my support system, offered me a Service Position at my NA home group, Spiritual Walkers, in 2014 and I’m still an active member today. I became the group treasurer and helped coordinate Friday Night Speaker meetings until COVID shut things down. Now, I attend the meetings through Zoom. Connections with other people help me stay clean.
After I completed the Recovery Mentor Program, I entered CCC’s Employment Recovery Program to build my work experience. Eventually I got hired at Clean & Safe. I loved that job. At that point, it had been 20 years since I had a full-time position. I didn’t care if I was picking up garbage. I was working, making my own money. I was dependent on nobody. I was serious about that job. I came in every day and did whatever I had to do. That was my whole attitude. From Clean & Safe, I started applying for on-call front desk and janitorial jobs in various CCC buildings. I really enjoyed that work because I was becoming a productive member of society. My lifestyle was changing. I started believing in myself again. I was being accountable.
After a few on-call jobs with CCC, I eventually got hired full-time at CCC’s Old Town Clinic. Now I’m an Administrative Assistant at CCC’s Old Town Recovery Center. My co-workers are compassionate and kind and go the extra mile to help their clients. And so do I. The clients are my favorite part of the job. I see myself in the people who walk through that door. From behind the front desk, I see how they are when they come for their first appointment and then I see the progression as they get a place to live, get a job — all cleaned up and just representing. I love seeing their smiles and the interactions they have with staff. When they know that someone cares for them, it’s just beauty.
In December 2017, my heart Harry W. passed away after battling liver cancer. He had 45 and a half years clean. I thank God for the opportunity for us to be in each other’s lives and, at the end, to physically love and care for him. I will always treasure my memories of our time together.
I rely upon God and thank Him for His daily protection, guidance, direction and faithfulness to me. Every morning I wake up and faithfully pray, read my devotional books and NA literature. I give back by being kind to others, volunteering and being a sponsor. Like Harry W., I’m trying to be a good example for someone entering recovery.
My mom, Bernadine, and son, Brandon, always believed in me and they have supported me all through my journey of recovery. Today they are so proud of me, and guess what? I’m proud of me too. I’m a homeowner, my car is paid off and I have money in the bank. There have been ups and downs in my journey, but I follow the path set before me by Harry W. and I live my life the NA way. Along with God, the NA program and CCC have changed my life from night to day. Where before I did not care if I lived or died, today I choose Life. Through it all, I thank God for the Light I am walking in now.
- Cheree Carr stands for her portrait in CCC’s Old Town Recovery Center, where she works as an Administrative Assistant.
- Cheree and Harry W. met when Cheree joined The Miracles Club, a Northeast Portland community recovery center for African Americans, by African Americans. Harry W. was one of the founders of the Narcotics Anonymous Portland chapter back in 1972.
- In 2016, Harry W. attended the grand opening of Miracles Central, a Central City Concern apartment community in Northeast Portland that provides an alcohol and drug-free living environment for individuals in recovery. Miracles Central grew out of the fellowship and community of The Miracles Club and is part of a partnership with the Multi-Cultural Development Group.
- Cheree paying tribute to Harry W. at his grave site in Portland. Harry passed away from liver cancer in December 2017.
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Central City Concern is proud to employ people from all backgrounds, walks of life and histories. Around half of our staff identify as being in recovery and have been participants in CCC services or similar programs in the past. Want to utilize your unique life experiences while doing meaningful work for our clients and our community? View our current job listings and apply to join our team!