FAIRFIELD — When Karen Snedeker finally quit using methamphetamine in August 2009, she needed support.
The Fairfield native had just returned home from a treatment center and wanted to find a 12-step meeting. With help from a friend, she found Unity Hall – and a new purpose in life.
“I knew the moment I walked in there I felt like I belonged. This is where I belong,” she said.
Snedeker soon became a volunteer at the sober facility, 711 Empire St., and with nearly five years of clean time, she completed training to be a peer recovery coach in April.
“I found my purpose in life by helping others,” she said.
Unity Hall Recovery Communities has evolved over the years from just a space to the “bigger dream” of the Solano Recovery Project, said board member Tracey Lee, who recently lead the training for the latest batch of peer coaches.
“We (all) have an idea of what an addict looks like,” she said. “The Solano Recovery Project wants to put a face on what recovery looks like.”
Armed with the downtown facility and a “cadre of volunteers,” the nonprofit strives to fulfill its mission of providing free resources and support for people and families seeking long-term recovery from substance abuse. Services include daily support groups, telephone recovery support services and an Amends in Action community service program.
Lee, who is a supervisor with Solano County Health and Social Services, said volunteers at Unity Hall can help someone with complicated systems such as foster care and the courts. They also offer referrals for treatment, affordable housing and employment.
“We can help someone navigate through a whole bunch of problems,” she said.
Bay Area native Justin White had quit using alcohol and meth for a while but relapsed in 2011, about a year after he moved to Fairfield. He said disconnecting with the recovery community at Unity Hall made it harder for him to stay sober.
“People and support are the biggest things,” he said.
Once you lose the connection is when you can fall out of recovery, he said.
With about two years of sobriety, White also became a peer coach, which he described as “a cheerleader for life’s small tasks.” They can help people work toward lifetime goals and are also equipped to help someone facing consequences, such as jail time or hospitalization, decide whether they are, in fact, addicted.
“The biggest challenge is admitting you are an addict or alcoholic because of the stigma . . . and I think that stigma’s there for a lot of people,” White said. “It’s a hopeless situation. They don’t know there’s anything else.”
The nonprofit recently made strides in its effort to raise public awareness of addiction and scheduled four events for Recovery Month in September – a Walk for Recovery, a Ride for Recovery, a rally at Allan Witt Park and an evening memorial. Board members also hope to reach the area’s public officials by coordinating with the county’s Alcohol and Drug Advisory Board to host a community forum in the coming months with speakers who are in recovery from addiction.
“We are hoping for major decision-makers at the state, county, city, medical, justice and business level to sit on a panel and hear testimony from members in long-term recovery about what works and what doesn’t,” Executive Director Roger Maryatt said in an email.
Poised to lose her job – and her son – Lee already had experienced homelessness and bankruptcy before entering recovery for her own meth addiction nearly 17 years ago.
“I was a mess,” she said.
After getting clean, Lee became a recovery advocate, addressing the issue of addiction at the state Capitol in Sacramento and as far as Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.
“I was so sad that there was this idea that you had to hide addiction, hide the fact that you were in recovery,” she said.
Lee helped advise Maryatt’s founding group of Unity Hall about 10 years ago and eventually joined the team in 2008.
“Where we come in is that recovery support for life,” she said. “. . . I love the hope that it brings.
“Once out of detox or a treatment center, the rubber hits the road,” Lee said. “We’ve walked that path.”
Snedeker’s 30-year meth addiction had her living in Section 8 housing and using welfare. As part of Unity Hall and the Solano Recovery Project, Snedeker said she has become a better mother, a better daughter and a “productive member of society.”
“Today, I am no longer on food stamps. I am no longer on housing. I am no longer on Medi-Cal,” she said. “I am self-sufficient.”
As a member of the workforce and a registered voter, Snedeker, a single mother, said she’s an example of hope for others.
“We recover and we live happy and productive lives,” she said.
For more information, call Unity Hall at 419-4662 or visit www.unityhall.org.
Reach Adrienne Harris at 427-6956 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aharrisdr.