When she first walked through the doors a few years ago, Linda weighed just 90 pounds. Years of drug and alcohol use coupled with untreated HIV had taken their toll on her. Desperate to make a future for herself and rejoin her family she joined a recovery home and began her journey towards sobriety – and it stuck.
“I was at my lowest point when I reached out for help, but that’s when I was really ready to make a change,” she says. “I didn’t want to live like that, I wanted to get healthy. So when my recovery home had us meet with Heartland Alliance’s nutritionists and food pantry for people who are HIV positive, that was perfect.”
It had been a long time since she’d felt like she was part of a community, or since she’d had real friends. During her years in addiction, so many of her loved ones had turned their back on her. She’d found something special, and she wanted to bring it to others – to those like her who may have forgotten what it was like to have somewhere you belong.
“As soon as I started getting my food there, I began volunteering too,” Linda says. “Many of the people who come [to Heartland Alliance] are in recovery like me, or some are very sick or depressed. They’re my friends now, and they need someone to just come listen to them or cheer them up. And you know what? Sometimes I feel like that too. But just knowing I’m going in to volunteer I liven up. Because it’s not about me anymore, or how I feel, it’s about how can I make someone else’s day or moment better.”
“A few years ago, I was drinking and drugging and with my HIV and my cholesterol, I was really sick. I’m not that person now. I’m helping others, and my family is happy to see me and they invite me over,” Linda says. “I’m sober, Heartland Alliance helps me stay healthy, and I help other people stay healthy too. And now, I’m going to school to be a medical assistant – just two credit hours left. But most importantly I’m just loving on my grandkids. You know, life is really good now. Really good.”