Many of our clients have walked a hard road before reaching our program doors. Here they share their personal stories about the lives they were living, the programs that helped them, and how they want to give back to the world.
Aloha House, Inc.
“I was a party person. I liked drinking, then I got hooked into cocaine and then crystal meth. Eventually I stopped, and I was clean for seven years. Then I got into a motorcycle accident, and I was prescribed pain pills, and I got hooked on those. From there, things got really bad, everything spiraled downward, and eventually I ended up homeless. After an incident where I caused a lot of pain for my family, I entered the Aloha House Residential Treatment program on Valentine’s Day, 2019. I stayed for 45 days.
“After that I moved to the Sober Living Program, where I participated in intensive classes, group and individual counseling sessions. Now I have a car, home, job, money in my account. This is all thanks to the team at Residential, plus the support I’ve gotten from the Sober Living Program, and all that they have done for me.
“The biggest impact this program has made is not just from the classes and the techniques, but the staff supporting us. Many of them have been through what I’ve been through, so they understand. And those that are not in recovery themselves, have the “street smarts” it takes to understand us. That’s what I relied on the most. After participating in this program, I am interested in working in the recovery field, so I can continue to be in a supportive environment and give back what I can to others who need help.”
Marcus now helps ensure the safety of our community in his work screening visitors to Maui during the pandemic.
“I was born and raised on Maui, and my father was an alcoholic. I’m the middle child; for some reason the middle child seems to get the hardest time. My father used to beat me and my brother up, and I seemed to get the most cracks. But I still love my father.
“I think I started using because I wanted to, and because I could. My parents divorced in 7th grade. After that I decided to stay with my grandma. She raised me for the next 5-6 years. I was a hard head. I was drinking, smoking weed. I got into ice my senior year of high school. Over time I just did ice and drinking, then just ice.
“I spend time in jail 2012 and 2016-18 and both times I went into treatment as part of my probation, so I wouldn’t have to go back jail. When I went to treatment the first time, I was renting a studio on my friend’s property. I would use and sell drugs there. When I went into treatment, my friend told me, ‘don’t worry, I’ll hold your place for you, you can come back when you get out.’ So after residential treatment, I went back to the same spot, same place, people, and things. In treatment they tell you, to stay in recovery, ‘change your place, your people and your things.’ But I didn’t listen. I saw my old friends, in my same old place, and my old habits came back.
“I believe in 2nd chances; I called intake at Aloha House, and they told me to come back that Wednesday. I stayed in residential treatment for 45 days, then requested an extension for another month. This time, after residential treatment, I went straight to the Sober Living Program. Structure was really important for me. My first time out of treatment, I thought I was strong enough to do it, but I couldn’t do it on my own.
“I made 1 year sober on Sept 12, 2020.
“In the past, instead of dealing with life on life’s terms, I wanted to numb everything and use drugs. Your problems aren’t going anywhere, you can either deal with your problems now, or later.
“Now I have a totally different life, all of my friends are in recovery. My sober support is strong. Now all I do is go to work and come home. I work as a HVAC installer. I have money in the bank. Any emergencies that come up, I can take care of it. I get a flat tire, I can get a new one the same day. I love that. I’m comfortable.
“I can afford to get my own place, but right now the support is what I need. Knowing that I need to leave one day, is more motivation for me to focus on myself. I need to keep my head strong, so that I can still handle life on life’s terms, sober. Whenever I have a bad day or I get a trigger, I call up my old roommate. We keep each other safe. Without Aloha House I don’t know where I’d be right now.”
Kaeo continues to work as a HVAC installer. He says, “My boss has supported me through all my ups and downs over the years, and now I can pay him back by working hard, and with a clear mind.”
“When I was growing up, I was just hanging out with the wrong crowd. That’s when I started getting into trouble, and I went to prison. I was in and out of prison for 17 and a half years. When I got out and I was on parole, I was still using and partying, not caring about my family.
“I couldn’t stop smoking crystal meth, even from inside, and whenever I got out. In fact I got another 10 years while I was in prison, from smuggling in drugs because I wanted to get high.
“I did drugs because I was living in pain, pain from being hurt in relationships, and I was tired of being hurt. I chose drugs over my pain.
“After spending most of my adult life in prison, I was still on parole, and I went to Molokai, to try to work things out with my child’s mom. But I didn’t know how to handle the relationship, or how to handle “being normal,” now that I was out of prison.
“I went on a crystal meth binge for two weeks; then I turned myself in to my parole officer. I told him I needed help. I was tired. Tired of life. Just so tired. He transferred me to Maui, and he put me in Aloha House.
“I’ve been clean 1 ½ years. It’s the longest I’ve ever been out of prison. I still fight my demons every day.
“Since I’ve been in this program, and the aftercare program, I am so grateful. If it wasn’t for this structure I wouldn’t be here now, I would be in prison or smoking drugs. But now, I just have a normal life. Going to work, taking care of the house, cleaning the yard. I’ve never been “normal” my whole life, until the last year and a half. The more I stay within the structure and rules, the more I can stay in recovery.
“After 17 and a half years of being in and out of prison, and doing drugs the whole time, my friends who knew me from before can’t believe it. They keep asking, “How is he doing it?”
“When I tried to enter treatment before, I thought I was better than that – I thought I never need your guys help, I never believe in your guys programs in the beginning. I can do this on my own. But no, you can’t. As an addict, or alcoholic, you need help. That the only way you can make it in life. I want to be normal.
“I love my job. It’s all because I’m clean that I’m working and in this position. Today, I am blessed.”
James works as the on-site manager at a condominium complex. He and his former Sober Living Program roommate, Kaeo, continue to provide sober support for each other.
Malama Family Recovery Center
“Before becoming a client with Malama Family Recovery Center, I was living a life of insanity; doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. I was not being honest with my family, friends, or my probation officer. I was living a lie, and lying to everyone. If I hadn’t found this program, I would still be in my addiction, unable to get out of the pit of Hell. Malama has helped to shape me into the strong, virtuous woman that I am today.
“Here I’ve been able to fully incorporate the value of kupono – honesty and integrity – and this has made a huge impact on my life. I was able to graduate from Malama and accomplish my goal of becoming a staff member.
“Now I am giving back to an agency that helped to form my foundation today. I get to surround myself with women and children who are like-minded, and now, my hope for the future is to be a leader in this organization. I want to help lift other women up to be the strong women that they were made to be.”
Lisa works at Malama Family Recovery Center as a Care Coordinator and Therapeutic Living Program Coordinator.
“I was born on Oahu, I came to Maui when I was 10 years old. One of the first places I lived on Maui was at the Women Helping Women shelter. My father was very physically and mentally abusive, and he was an addict. My mom took us away from him because he was very violent. I loved to sing as a child, and my mom always told me I always carried a light within me, and somehow I was very positive, despite my surroundings. But I used to get beaten up a lot by my father, I would have bruises from head to toe. I learned then, as a small child, what I need to do to survive. I was always afraid, but I always had hope.
“In high school, my mom encouraged us to all to be active in sports and other activities, and I was a cheerleader all four years. In my junior year I started drinking and partying; I was trying to fit in, because I didn’t know what my self-worth was. I had daddy issues. This caused me to jump into different relationships, and I became toxic; I became my dad.
“I had different stages of substance use – alcohol and weed, which is the gateway to cocaine; I was experimenting with heroine, then I was trying opioids, then later meth, both smoking it and then injecting it.
“These are what brought me to Malama. My daughter’s father left me, and my whole world crashed. He left me for someone else, but I was the toxic one. I lost my kids. Then I went to jail. It saved my life. If it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t be clean.
“The day the cops picked me up, I had used a bad needle. I should have died that day. They had to cut the needle out of my hand so the infection wouldn’t go to my heart.
“In February 2021 I make three years clean.
“I have so much gratitude for what I have today, because I saw the very bottom.
“I became involved with NA and church, and I built a foundation of support for myself. All the people I hang out with now are in recovery; I had to change everything. The one thing I’m most grateful for is my change in mindset. The brain does heal, and we do recover.
“It took me a long time, almost my whole life, to stop being angry at my father. I’m free today. I learned to love my scars by forgiving those who gave them to me, including myself. I learned how to love my whole self. That’s what Malama helped me with.
“Since participating in this program, my hope for the future is to continuously be the change I want to see, to be the positive example, as one less drug addict out there.
“I started college in January 2021. I never thought I would do that. And I love my job so much, it doesn’t even feel like work. I’m in this field because it reminds me where I never want to go again. It also allows me to help people because I have my experience to share. I love recovery.”
Spring Taylor, Age 35
Spring now works as a Program Assistant in the Aloha House residential program, and is studying Liberal Arts and Human Resources at UHMC.
Maui Youth & Family Services
“I spent my childhood in Oregon, in a very abusive home. People reported it to CPS, but no one would ever do anything. My mom brought us to Hawaii when she moved here for a guy she was dating. I was 12 at that time. After a couple of years, things got really bad with my mom, I got in contact with my dad, who I hadn’t had contact with for 14 years. He was in Atlanta, and I begged him to let me and my brother come live with him because things were so bad with mom. After two weeks of talking to him we moved there. We really didn’t know him, but we were desperate to get out of there. A few months after we arrived, he sexually assaulted me. When I told my step mother the next day, she didn’t believe me. She told me that it’s not true, I must have been hallucinating, because that would never happen. She said I must be crazy for thinking that. So I kept my mouth shut, and I kept my distance from him too. For over a year after that I was in and out of institutions, because I had tried to kill myself. After a year and a half in Atlanta I moved to live with my sister in Oregon. At this point, I was supposed to live with my dad, as my mom had given up her rights to custody for us to him. But he was going to try to put me in foster care to shut me up about what he did to me.
“My mom was still living on Maui with her drug dealer boyfriend, and my little sisters. I went back to Maui to stay with her. We got in a big fight, and I tried to commit suicide again. I was sent to Oahu for treatment, then put in foster care on Maui. I stayed with several different families. With those families I had to deal with a lot and I really didn’t get the help I needed at that time.
“The homes that I was put into, they were families, but they weren’t the best, or safest places, and often the foster kids were treated differently. In one home, the mom would let her kids beat up on the younger ones, and we foster kids would only get to eat the expired foods. One time, they forgot about me when I was in the County Fair parade for ROTC, and I had to walk home. These foster homes weren’t healthy homes.
“I didn’t get the help I needed in any of the foster homes until I was in a Maui Youth & Family Services program home. I was in a really good foster home for the first time. I was 17 by then. They gave me what I needed, and I was in therapy, which is one of the things that I found necessary. When I aged out at 18 they told me I could stay until I was 19, but I decided to go out on my own. I went back to live with my mom, who was in Oregon. But she didn’t have a stable living situation, and I wound up homeless with my little sister. Here on Maui, Eva, my case manager at MYFS, was trying to help me get into the Imua Kauko independent living program, so I came back to Hawaii. Now I live with a friend. My plans are to start school at UHMC in the spring semester; I want to become an RN and also minor in entrepreneurship.
My case manager Eva, and the clinical director Susan, have made a big impact on me and have been super beneficial for me. They have helped guide me to where I need to be. They helped me get my school transcripts so I could apply for college, they helped me get health insurance. And not just that – through all of that they were trying to get to know me, and to build a relationship with me. They are like my family in a way, they are the people that actually helped me accomplish the goals that I had. When I started working with them, I actually started to get things done. I could count on them, unlike other people in my life. I started getting back on track, I got unstuck.
The biggest impact this program had on me is that it taught me how to be an independent adult, and how to grow as an individual. It taught me not to give up on myself or others, and to keep pursuing the things I want to pursue.
MYFS has really made me want to help others. I would love to travel the world and provide healthcare for those who don’t have access to it. I want opportunities to learn about myself and others, and to take on new lessons. Eva has been a big help with that for me, she’s always there to give me that tough love that I need. Especially not having my parents around, giving me that, it really helps to have her support.
This program would definitely be beneficial for the kids in CPS. It’s beneficial for both the foster parents and the kids. Sometimes kids are angry. Especially as a kid, when you’re like that, you’re not going to know what to do with those feelings, you don’t understand them. In the programs at MYFS, they actually take the time to see how kids are feeling, where they are coming from, why they are being the way they are. I think that’s need a lot more.”
Trinity, age 19
Trinity is enrolled at UHMC and pursuing her educational goals.
“I was born and raised on Maui; I come from being the 9th child of 12. I first went into foster care when I was 4 years old. My dad was very abusive with my older siblings, so me and two other siblings were taken away. Then I got legal guardianship with my grandparents.
“At 14 there were a lot of things going on around me, including the passing of my grandmother. When one of the school-based counselors from MYFS learned I was suicidal, I was put into a therapeutic foster home. Then I had support after that with MYFS’ independent living programs. They helped me find help and resources in the community. Later, I returned to live with my grandpa. But with my grandmother gone, and now was getting too old to take care of me, I was put into a therapeutic foster home again. At 18 went in to Imua Kakou, a support program for youth aging out of the foster care system.
“With the services provided by MYFS, I found that having at least one adult person that I was totally able to trust made the biggest difference. The staff really do care about the people who come into their programs. They actually take their time to get to know their clients, and they care about them not just as clients, but as people in general.
“In the program I learned to make short and long-term goals. And now, as a result of the goal setting I was doing, those things actually happened. I wanted to buy a car, get a job, go to college full time, and start a family. I’m doing all of those things now. My next goal is to make sure I am financially stable and able to buy a brand new house.
“If I didn’t get the help I did, I don’t know how my life would be. I think I would be dead by now. In the past I had tried to commit suicide, and I didn’t know how to reach out for help. Then MYFS found me.”
Aponi continues to move forward in accomplishing her life goals.