Behind every phone call to Lebanon County Christian Ministries is a story.
On the surface, Tiffany Wade’s story was straight forward. Her apartment building was being sold, and she found herself with a temporary need for shelter for a few weeks.
But there was a lengthy journey leading up to her stay at LCCM’s FRESH Start Emergency Shelter & Resource Center, one she believes God orchestrated for a larger purpose: to offer hope by sharing her life’s story.
'I lost every family member'
On Jan. 17, Tiffany is looking forward to marking a milestone: five years of uninterrupted sobriety from drugs and alcohol.
It’s surreal to think about, she says, as she reflected on her life in FRESH Start’s resource center in September.
Tiffany has had more near-death experiences than she can count. She’s lost most of her family members to drugs and spent years of her life in and out of jail, drug rehabs and halfway houses.
“My mother was one of the first people that I used with,” she said. “She taught me how to use a syringe and prostitute, and all of that.”
During one of her prison sentences in 2011, Tiffany received the news just three weeks before her release that her mother – her last surviving family member – had died of an overdose.
“I’ve been using since a very young age. I lost every family member except for my uncle who is still actively using back home. I lost my mother, my grandmother and my grandfather,” she said.
Not only was she grieving the loss of her mother, but she had to prepare for her release.
She was accepted into Jubilee Ministries in Lebanon in 2011.
“I can see back now in hindsight it was definitely a divine act of my higher power because I got sober in Lebanon,” she said. “A lot of people told me ‘why would you choose to come to Lebanon, but I really didn’t choose Lebanon. This is what was chosen for me, it was the path for me.”
Tiffany was doing well in Jubilee and graduated after six months. She was presented with an opportunity to possibly work for the ministry, but a couple of months later she relapsed.
'I don't want to live that way anymore'
She left the program and used the money she had saved to rent an apartment in Lebanon. But her addiction began to consume her life.
She ended up in a cycle of addiction and prison through 2016. During her last stay in jail she said she got down on her knees and prayed.
“The reality of it was, I was in my early 30s, and I was homeless, I had no family members left I was strung out on drugs even in jail, so I said to Him simply, ‘God, if I can’t get this right, just take me,” she said. “I don’t want to live that way anymore.”
That was the last time she was ever incarcerated.
Road to recovery
After her release from prison, she spent some time at a Salvation Army. She came back to Lebanon in early 2017 but had nowhere to go.
“I got dropped off at a Turkey Hill, and I can remember looking left, and then right, and I was like, oh man, what am I going to do?” she said. “So, I stood there for a minute, and I cried, but I remembered I had this piece of paper in my bag from an alcoholics anonymous meeting on 10th Street. I have one lady’s number on this list and said if I ever needed help to call her.”
The woman picked her up and drove her to an AA meeting.
“They told me I never have to drink or use again, and I didn’t believe that because I lost everybody,” she said. “I had been drinking and using my whole entire life. I’ve used IV drugs, I I’ve smoked crack, I ran for days until my body shut down…I just didn’t think I’d make it out alive,” she said.
Once she entered recovery and began working the 12 steps of recovery, she says her life began to come together.
She became a facilitator at a local AA group, and for the next four years had worked on rebuilding her life. She got an apartment in Lebanon, she was working, and developed a good financial track record. But in 2021, the apartment building where she was living was sold and she had nowhere to go.
A fresh start
In the meantime, she needed somewhere to stay in August 2021, and that’s when FRESH Start entered the picture.
“I was a little discouraged in the beginning, like, how am I homeless after all these years of recovery? I’m not really financially strapped. I was just a little discouraged,” she said. “But when I came through here, they were just so kind and I was like, OK, God, maybe this is the next step I have to take. Just stay humble, keep going, and don’t get discouraged.”
And then FRESH Start staff suggested she talk to a staff member to tell her story.
“I was asking God every day…’What’s my purpose in all of this? Ok, so maybe my purpose is to be able to share my story even through this program to help others know that this is possible. I truly believe this was the link. It was like a blessing in disguise,” she said.
“God is real. And if it wasn’t for him, I would not be sober and these things in my life would not be happening,” she said.
In 2021, not only did she obtain her driver’s license for the first time and bought a car, but she began looking for homes. Though she was prepared to buy a home early into her stay at FRESH Start, the sale fell through, and she spent more time in the shelter than anticipated.
She is now renting temporarily until God reveals the next chapter. Until then, Tiffany feels blessed to be able to celebrate five years of sobriety in January.
“You can change your life,” she said. “You can search for God and He will help you on a journey that is beyond your wildest dreams.”
Lebanon County Christian Ministries