(Marisa R. pictured on the left next to Jaci Smalls (Director of Vocational Services))

Marisa R. first enrolled in CRW’s Pride Site residential program during the beginning of COVID in the spring of 2020. While the first time around Marisa left after a couple of months, she re-enrolled in August 2022 and has been going strong in her recovery since then. She recently completed the rehabilitation level of care and is now enrolled in re-integration, where clients continue to live on-site but are enrolled in the Project Contact outpatient program. We are excited to announce she just started working as a Certified Peer Recovery Advocate (CPRA)! For this Q&A, she was kind enough to share with us about her experiences in recovery and beginning to work as a peer.  

When did you first come to CRW? 

I was here two years ago in 2020 during the beginning of the pandemic. Because of COVID we were limited and it was frustrating. My problem was injecting opiates and cocaine. So I stayed clean for a few months, but then I left and did whatever for like two years. 

What was your experience like in the program so far overall? 

My experience has been really good. There’s a bunch of clinical groups and they also have a bunch of recreational activities. So far I’ve done laser tag, a couple weeks ago we went to the Museum of Natural History, a group just went rock climbing but I didn’t go. It’s gone smoothly for me because I wasn’t resisting the processes this time. Earlier I was not open, but being open and just like, not worrying about the little problems that got in the way last time. And there’s always someone to talk to here, so that’s good. I just have had a really good experience and I love my counselor. 

Has there been anything in particular that has made it a good experience? 

It’s just the structure and the groups, the groups have been really good. They limit the groups to no more than 12 or 15 people. There is a big difference between doing groups over Zoom and in person. They make a schedule of what groups are most pertinent to you. They have Seeking Safety and Relapse Prevention which I thought was super helpful.  

What did they teach you in those groups? 

In relapse prevention, they teach you coping mechanisms and how to identify triggers. It’s not boring, the groups aren’t just the facilitator talking. They’re super involved, people get to share. Most of the time they’ll have a worksheet and say there’s 10 points on the worksheet, we’ll get to number two because everybody’s so busy talking and sharing. Then you get to hear other people’s stories and you can relate to them. You hear them talking and you feel like you’re not the only one. Or sometimes just being able to share, you realize something that you didn’t know was a problem. In the group they’re always like, if need like to talk to them extra about what went on in group, they’re willing to meet with you, even if they’re not your counselor. 

Seeking safety is more for PTSD. A lot of people don’t realize what post traumatic stress is. It teaches you that substance use disorder alone can lead to PTSD. I was worried about drug dreams and my counselor was like, well that’s a form of PTSD. They remind you that you went through something and it’s not over, like it’s something that we have to keep working on. 

It sounds like you’ve been enjoying the recreation program as well? 

Yeah, going to the 14th Street Y gym and working out has helped me a lot. I got super into working out, we did the Spartan obstacle course at Citi Field, that was fun. Now I do Back on My Feet where we wake up at 5:30 am and run, which is awesome. They also have a bunch of benefits, they help with job training, and they help with getting furniture for your apartment. I’m literally always busy, which is good. 

What has it been like to start working as a Peer? 

The job has been great. I’m working in Harlem, it’s nine to five, Monday through Friday. I had enough time to find the right place that I wanted to work. My counselor, Samantha, said don’t take a job that you don’t really want. I was going on job interviews for about a month and a half and I was able to find a job that I actually wanted. I like the job a lot. My supervisor is amazing.    

What do you think has been the most important thing you’ve learned from going through this whole process? 

The most important thing I learned is that the more time passes, the more comfortable I am with myself, the more I accomplish, and the more I learn about myself. I just feel much better than I ever have. I used to think that it would be this horrible process, but I liked the process. I’m more optimistic than I’ve ever been.