Women grateful for Talitha Koum Recovery House

Photo Credit: Tom Russo/Daily Reporter

Safe, secure housing is a necessary piece to recovery support.

Original Source: greenfieldreporter.com

GREENFIELD — For Jesica Dittemore, the past four months have been a time to heal.

Before arriving at Talitha Koum Women’s Recovery House last fall, the 20-year-old’s battle with addiction directed her life. Dittemore bounced from place to place, lived on the streets and couldn’t hold down a job. She started using drugs as a 14-year-old, and then got hooked on hard drugs at age 17, she said.

“I was addicted to anything I could get my hands on,” she said.

Dittemore’s struggle led her to get arrested on her birthday last year. After spending time in the Hancock County Jail, she was accepted into the county’s heroin protocol program and completed it at a recovery house in the region. But Dittemore knew her journey to sobriety wasn’t finished, she said, leading her to apply to be one of the first residents at Greenfield’s only women’s recovery facility.

“I’ve gotten my stuff together, where at that other house I didn’t have a chance to,” she said. “Here I’ve made all those steps.”

Talitha Koum, 527 E. Main St. in downtown Greenfield, opened last October, providing nine beds for women battling addiction. Linda Ostewig, executive director of the recovery house, along with Gary and Carol Wright, thought up the idea in 2015. They rallied support, founded the nonprofit organization Friends of Recovery and raised money in the community to put the dream into action.

The nonprofit took ownership of a gutted house in disrepair on Main Street in November 2016 and started transforming the space into what it is today. They put more than $200,000 of work into the renovation, including $75,000 in seed money given by the Hancock County commissioners and council in 2018.

Not including Ostewig, the facility has a staff of four: two case managers and two residential assistants. Ostewig said an employee works in the house 24/7. The facility also has a “faithful” group of about 10 to 15 volunteers who take residents to meetings and appointments and engage in fellowship with the women, she said.

A blessed house

Talitha Koum is Hebrew for “little girl, rise up.” And it appears to be living up to its name.

Sarah Rice has been sober for about 140 days, and most of that has been because of the progress she’s made in her recovery at Talitha Koum, she said. The 35-year-old has been to various rehab facilities, but there’s something different about this place; she has bonded with other women like never before.

“We’re blessed,” said Rice, who’s from Indianapolis.

Rice first tried methamphetamine at the age of 28 and immediately became addicted to the drug.

“When I tried it, I just fell off,” she said. “I lost my children, and that’s why I’m on this journey to get my children back. I know that when I do good, my children do good. So that’s what I look forward to.”

The women at Talitha Koum — a total of eight starting next week — work through a program called “A Woman’s Way through the Twelve Steps.” They meet with sponsors one-on-one to complete that program, Ostewig said. Residents also have to take courses on healing trauma during their recovery. That program addresses trauma caused at a young age and how to change past coping skills, she said.

Ostewig said when women first arrive at Talitha Koum, they’re “fearful, teary and uncertain.”

“Then what we see is, they start to feel like it’s home” she said. “They begin to feel safe, and they begin to laugh; and then we hear laughter,” Ostewig said. “When you start seeing the layers peel off them, their eyes look different.”

Dittemore said she’s grateful to go through a study concentrated on how addiction affects women.

“We focus on healing those hurts,” she said, “and it really changes things.”

The women wake up each morning at 8 a.m. for meditation and discussion on their goal that day in recovery, Ostewig said. Each resident also has set chores to keep the house clean and orderly.

They sometimes come together for family dinners at a large table in the home’s open-concept kitchen. Other times, they work on puzzles or sit and chat. Quotes hang throughout the room stating, “Our story begins here,” and “Your journey will be much easier and lighter if you don’t carry your past with you.”

After 30 days in the house, Ostewig said, the staff encourages the women to obtain employment so they can start paying their own bills, which includes rent at Talitha Koum. The facility runs a 90-day program for residents, but some have applied to stay longer, Ostewig said; she wants to change it into a six-month stay. Dittemore has been at Talitha Koum since late October, and Rice came to the facility in November.

The facility has a waiting list of women hoping to stay in the facility’s ninth bed, Ostewig said. She’s interviewing for the spot and has gotten calls from Florida and a woman from Mississippi whose daughter is in a recovery house in Indianapolis and is looking to shift to Greenfield. Of the eight women who’ll be in the house soon — one is moving in next week — three are from Hancock County, she said.

Since October, two women have completed the program in 90 days, while two others have relapsed.

“It’s a really crafty, cunning disease,” Ostewig said.

Supportive community

When Ostewig leaves the house to go home after a day working with the women, some days she feels overwhelmed and emotional, thinking back on the years-long journey it took to create Talitha Koum.

“It’s happening. They’re in. They’re living. They’re working. They’re doing the program,” Ostewig said. “For 3½ years, I just felt like it was never going to come through, and now it’s a reality.”

She’s grateful the public chose to support the recovery house. For many months, it seemed as if some people in Hancock County didn’t want a downtown facility assisting addicts, she said. Many put a stigma on the disease and especially on struggling women and mothers, Ostewig added. But as the drug crisis crept more into the region, she said, more people started understanding the importance of recovery.

Ostewig said she hopes to keep growing the program and is always accepting donations to help with costs for the house and to support the residents. On May 14, Talitha Koum is having a coffee and dessert night at St. Michael Catholic Church in Greenfield for its main fundraising event of the year.

“I’m just really thankful that the community said yes, and that we get to be a part of changing lives,” she said. “That’s exciting to me.”

The residents feel it, too.

Rice said she’s seen the house receive donations from the community, people who don’t know know the women personally. Dittemore, who’s originally from Lebanon, said they got a card in the mail from someone in New Zealand wishing them luck, telling them they’re proud of the women. Dittemore said she’s never seen a recovery facility with that much outreach and support.

“It just feels so good that somebody really loves you and wants to see you succeed,” Rice said. “It’s just really amazing.”

And in order to succeed in recovery, Dittemore said they need to feel love, patience and tolerance.

“Addicts are sick, but we’re still human,” she said. “These ladies are trying to make an honest effort to get better. It takes time. We didn’t become addicts in one day, and we won’t recover in just one day.”

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