“Now We Do It Without The Reward”
Last year, after struggling with opioid use for years and losing custody of their young daughter, couple Nick and Jesse enrolled in HFI’s Home-Based Family Recovery (HFR) program, which enables families to remain together while parents recover from substance use disorder.
The two have since completed the program, with Nick finding a good job and the couple regaining custody of their two-year-old during the process. They credit the HFR team for reuniting their family and supporting their sobriety journey.
Both emphasized the important role that keeping their family together played during recovery. “Staying at home and keeping custody of our daughter was my number one priority,” Jesse says. “You have to do this for yourself, but our sobriety also directly affects the little girl upstairs.”
Nick immediately agrees. “It wasn’t easy, but we were determined to get our daughter back,” he says. “I was passing my tests, because I didn’t want to disappoint myself, and I didn’t want her to leave again.”
While many programs give parents an intimidating list of demands and requirements, HFR favors a more holistic approach. Clinicians and support specialists help families set realistic goals, find coping strategies, and build healthy habits.
“You didn’t say: ‘This is how stuff needs to be.’ Instead, you worked with us,” says Nick. “You were flexible and professional, but you also felt like family. We felt comfortable letting you not only into our home but also into our lives.”
That feeling of support and acceptance is crucial for anyone recovering from substance use. “Our caseworker always came out here, met us, and talked to us.” Jesse says. “She made it a point to gain our trust. She always went above and beyond.” She adds, “[We] felt like we weren’t alone, because you supported us and had our back.”
“We come from a background where people in the system are out to get you and don’t want to see you succeed. But we all actually bonded as a team,” notes Nick. “We even went for walks in the park together! You became a part of our family, and we’ll always be grateful for that.”
One unexpected motivator during the recovery process? Giant Eagle gift cards. Last year, HFR clinicians began distributing grocery and gas cards for each passed drug test. “He lived for those cards!” Jesse exclaims.
“It was motivational,” Nick explains. “I would get ten bucks to buy diapers or fishing gear for us or fun things for our daughter. It was a fun reward, but now we do it without the reward. The reward is waking up every morning and seeing her smile.”
Finding this joy has inspired both Nick and Jesse not only to pursue their own happy future but also to encourage others who are coping with the stresses of parenting and the challenges of substance use disorder. “Anytime something changes, it’s a new adventure and a new journey,” says Jesse. “It’s got me thinking that maybe, when our daughter goes to school, I’ll go back too and become a drug and alcohol counselor.”