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Group 401

Shasta’s Story

For Shasta, the road to recovery has been bumpy and full of twists and turns. A native of Indiana, she moved to New York City after receiving her BFA degree in metalsmithing and jewelry design. For a while, things were working out, and Shasta was happily designing jewelry and enjoying life in one of our country’s most exciting cities. But then work became more and more difficult to find, which meant there was less money coming in. Shasta feared she would lose everything she’d worked so hard for. And that’s when she started making mistakes.

Her best friend introduced her to heroin, which they used casually when stress built up. Shasta eventually kicked the habit, staying clean for five years. But then a breakup with her boyfriend and other hardships brought her back to that same group of friends and her addiction. Eventually, Shasta needed heroin just to maintain all the responsibilities in her life. When she was in her early thirties, Shasta was asked to take a trip to South America and bring back a “package” as a favor to a friend. Desperate for money, Shasta agreed. When she returned from her trip, she boarded a train in Toronto bound for Indiana.

But it was one month after September 11th, and security at the border was tight. “I was exhausted from the trip and a novice at international travel,” says Shasta. “I tripped up when questioned by border patrol, and they ended up searching me and arresting me for trafficking as I tried to enter the United States in Buffalo. It was the beginning of hell.”

Shasta was eventually released to her mother and mandated to a two-week inpatient program in Indiana, which, she said, was useless. Shasta panicked, thinking she was going to end up in jail for 10 years or more, and that she had ruined her life completely. Once again, she turned to drugs, a violation of her mandate. Federal marshalls escorted her back to Buffalo, where she served time in jail. During that time, she talked to inmates who’d been in the federal system and who told her how bad it was. Shasta was determined to avoid federal prison if at all possible.

Shasta got lucky. The prosecuting attorney and the magistrate in charge of her case saw something in Shasta, believed in her. They saw that she had begun looking at her life more positively, and they recommended she be sent to Horizon Village. Shasta spent five months at Horizon Village, and she credits the counselors – especially Paige Prentice – with helping to turn her life around.

“The counselors at HV gave me the time and space to get in touch with myself, to find out who I really am,” says Shasta. “I had time to reflect on what I had had and lost. I was able to work on the relationships I’d damaged, especially the relationship with my mom. I renewed my passion for life while at HV, and began reaching for goals again.”

Shasta adds that the counselors at HV didn’t use the “cookie cutter” rehab approach many programs use which, she says, never work. Instead, at Horizon, they work hard to tailor an individual approach, which makes all the difference. Shasta was even allowed to help do landscaping while at HV, along with facilitating groups and helping other residents. “I felt needed and productive, with a purpose, while I was there,” she says.

“Shasta’s experience is exactly why rehabilitation is so valuable to people in the criminal justice system,” says Paige. “Shasta is not a drug trafficker. She was a desperate woman who made some poor decisions.

“I have never heard her say she should not be held accountable for what she has done,” continues Paige. “But, rather, she wants to make restitution by giving back to the community, by reaching out to help others. These are clearly the attributes of someone who has made a mistake and learned from it.”

Even with possible jail time hanging over her head, Shasta has managed to remain positive. She stayed in Western New York, where she now works two jobs she loves and has stayed clean. She is no longer in contact with her friends in NYC, and has a much better relationship with her family. And it’s paying off: her sentencing, originally scheduled for August, has been pushed back to December. This was done to give Shasta more “clean time” so her lawyer could request probation rather than jail time when her sentencing comes up.

Because she credits Horizon Village with helping her turn her life around, Shasta has remained very active at HV. She works closely with Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, does whatever speaking engagements HV asks her to do and stays in touch with many other HV alumni. She’s even dared to think about what she might do if she IS granted probation.

“I would love to go to graduate school and get my master’s degree,” says Shasta. “I enjoy working with animals and cooking and making jewelry, so I’d like to combine all that and maybe open a doggie daycare business that also sells gourmet dog biscuits and funky, one-of-a-kind dog chains and collars and jewelry.”

Shasta also says that, while she hated Western New York in the beginning, she has come to love it here and hopes to remain in the area. “There’s a lot of potential here,” says Shasta. “There are many good people in the area, and it’s affordable. I could make a nice life here.”

Path To Recovery
The Path To Recovery includes true stories of consumers who overcame many obstacles with the help of Horizon Health Services to turn their lives around. Last names have been omitted for privacy.