Maria #SuccessBells

February 1, 2018

Maria sat in front of a computer at Chrysalis’ Santa Monica center with her Employment Specialist, someone she had come to respect and trust. This moment marked a turning point in her journey to re-enter the workforce – for the first time in four years, Maria was ready to log back in to the email account she had used for over ten years as a real estate broker.

Referred by CLARE, Maria came to Chrysalis 44 days sober. While she was ready for a change, she was nervous to start her job search. Suffering from high levels of anxiety and still healing from the traumas of her past, Maria needed a welcoming, safe environment where she could get back into a routine. “There was never any judgment at Chrysalis, which allowed me to continue to recuperate,” she shared, “I have never been in an environment that is so supportive…I felt extremely safe.”

The loss of her father at ten years old placed Maria in a position where she became the primary caregiver for her mother, while still struggling to understand and cope with abuse she had experienced. She learned how to be resilient, but that’s no substitute for growing up with even a semblance of security. She found an escape from her troubles at home by dedicating her talents to the one thing she believed could help her shape a stable future: Her education. “At a young age, I knew doctors and lawyers made money,” she shared, “I was always defending my mom, advocating for her, and drowning in paperwork.” It wasn’t surprising, then, that Maria would pursue a career in law, after which time she would go on to become a real estate broker.

For many years, the demands of running a successful firm distracted Maria from the reality that she still lived with the anxieties of her past. But the career and home she had worked so hard to build crumbled around her when she was faced with divorce and later lost custody of her two sons, bringing years of buried anxiety to the surface. With the eventual loss of her home, Maria felt like her sanity was being taken from her as well. For a while, antidepressants and alcohol helped her cope with the stress. Eventually, marijuana became another escape.

A 4-year cycle of substance abuse and unstable housing ended when Maria arrived at CLARE. “I surrendered when I walked through that door,” she reflected, “I had to really learn what it means to start over.” Sober, Maria was ready to start thinking about re-entering the workforce.

At Chrysalis, Maria received a range of resources and support as she readied herself to find work again. She completed our job readiness program quickly, began her job search at her own pace, and met with our on-site counselor. In addition to the emotional support she received at Chrysalis, Maria obtained interview-appropriate attire from our resource room and was awarded a scholarship to renew her broker’s license. “I was able to get a tremendous amount of support at Chrysalis.”

Maria also enrolled in our Women’s Empowerment Program (WEP), a nine-week workshop series that offers Chrysalis’ female clients access to mentors and targeted training on topics such as time management, healthy living, networking, and more. At the graduation ceremony, celebrated at Casa del Mar to honor the program participants, Maria told everyone, “WEP helped me understand my worth. I was so afraid, and it helped me start to face the world again. It is the most loving and empowering program.”

Buried in four years’ worth of correspondence, Maria and her Employment Specialist uncovered an email from one of Maria’s old clients the day they sat down at the computer together. She was ready to open a new door by opening an old email – her first real estate listing in ten years would be right around the corner. A few months later, Maria was in our lobby ringing the Success Bell celebrating a closed deal.

While she knows there is a road ahead of continued healing and rebuilding relationships with her sons, Maria is grateful every day to be sober, housed, and to have balance at work. She explained that setting healthy boundaries and maintaining an attitude of humility have given her more confidence as a businesswoman. In addition to running her own firm again, Maria mentors women on self-care, speaks at AA panels, and volunteers. Chrysalis is especially thrilled to welcome Maria back to this year’s Women’s Empowerment Program where she will share her inspiring story of survival, surrender, and healing with mentors and clients who need to hear it most.

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