Recovery House administrative assistant Brenda Long, left, and resident Kimberly Clemons admire the Christmas Tree in the den of the residential rehab center near New Hope. Clemons, who is 10 weeks into her 90-day rehab, will have a day pass to be with her children on Christmas Day. Other residents will be joined by family at Recovery House's Christmas dinner on Monday. Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff
December 23, 2017 10:09:38 PM
Kimberly Clemons and David Hodges have one thing in common. Well, two actually.
First, both are addicts in recovery.
Second, for both Clemons, a 30-year-of single mom of three girls, and Hodges, a 40-year old who has spent half his life battling addiction, this Christmas will be like no other.
Like all previous Christmases, Clemons will be at home in Tupelo with her three girls, ages 10, 7 and 4. But this time, probably for the first time since her children were born, she'll be clear-headed enough to enjoy it.
Hodges, meanwhile, won't be "home" for Christmas. But he will be home in another sense, surrounded by the 20 men who, like Hodges, are living at Last House on the Block, a faith-based sober living residency program.
Clemons is one of six women living at Recovery House, a residential treatment facility near New Hope. Ten weeks into her 12-week residency program, she will soon return to Tupelo.
Hodges has been at Last House for four months. Typically, Last House residents who are successful in the program remain there for nine to 12 months.
For both, Christmas comes at a time that is often perilous for those in recovery.
"Christmas can be a dangerous time for an addict," said Bradley Tate, a board member at Last House. "Old associations, old habits and all the things that come with the season. A social drinker or even a social drug user can partake and be OK. When an addict sees that, he thinks, 'If they can do that, I can, too.' The difference is, the addict can't stop."
Clemons has a day pass that will allow her to spend Christmas day with her children, but confesses she misses many of the things that are a part of the build-up to Christmas this year.
"I do miss being at home cooking, sitting around with the kids, decorating the tree, all those things," she said. "It's sad sometimes."
Indeed, staff and counselors at both Recovery House and Last House on the Block understand holidays can be depressing for addicts.
The key, said Brenda Long, administrate assistant at Recovery House, is to keep residents engaged and busy.
"We'll take them out to the Christmas events around town," Long said. "It's important for them to stay busy, not to have too much time on their hands because that's when you begin to withdraw, isolate and become vulnerable. We'll l have a big dinner on Christmas Day and invite family for the residents who can't be at home."
At Last House, staff and board members pull out all the stops to bring Christmas to men whose past Christmas experiences may be anything but joyful.
"Christmas here is unbelievable," Tate said. "We have a Christmas party on Friday night and we'll have a legitimate Santa Claus. Everybody that lives has to sit in Santa's lap. That may sound corny, but some of these men may be 40 years old and grew up in house that were war zones. They never experienced any of this."
On Christmas Day, more than 100 people, including family members of residents, will be treated to Christmas dinner with all the trimmings.
"We open our doors for families to come and enjoy during the holiday season," said house manager Bill Jordan. "We want the residents to be in a safe environment and try to teach them how to fellowship without using alcohol or drugs. We give them presents, too, and try to display how to be a giver because so many of them have been takers ail their lives."
Clemons said one of the greatest gifts she'll be able to give her daughters this Christmas is herself.
"I didn't really get into full-blown addiction until this past July when I began to really abuse prescription drugs," she said. "But I was a heavy pot-smoker since I was 16. I'm not talking about smoking every now and then. I was going through an ounce every couple of days. I isolated from everybody, even my kids. I had a routine. It was, 'I've got to be high all day, every day.' That's the way I dealt with things."
She is looking forward to a different Christmas experience this year.
"When I think about all the things I would normally being doing getting ready for Christmas, I think, 'Would I have really enjoyed it when I was doing the things I had been doing?' Probably not. I enjoy things now."
Hodges said he's always been a big fan of Christmas.
"I've been a believer for a long time, even when I was in the worst stages of addiction," Hodges said. "I was raised in a Christian home and I was in awe of Christmas when I was growing up. So it wasn't like I had never had some great Christmases, but I've had plenty of bad ones, too.
"This year, the way I look at it, I should be in prison," he added. "So I'm grateful to be spending Christmas here instead of a jail cell. I have a new-found appreciation for what Christmas is all about."
That's one more thing Clemons and Hodges have in common this Christmas.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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