My name is Stacey Pum, I am the HR Director at the Coffee Connection. As you are considering your end of year giving, I’d like to share my story with you, in hopes that you will consider supporting the Coffee Connection this year. This incredible program has empowered and assisted myself and so many other women who are in recovery from addiction. It has contributed to the Rochester community in so many ways, including preventing women in recovery from using and potentially overdosing, and/or going back to prison (A $60,000 cost to tax payers).
As you may know, we are in the height of a terrible epidemic in the United States. According to the CDC, 91 Americans die every single day due to opioid use. I am lucky enough to be in year 11 of my recovery journey from heroin, cocaine, drinking, and more. I owe it to the support of my counselors, family, friends, significant other, and of course, the Coffee Connection. I have a very extensive criminal record, and finding a job with my background was a challenge. The Coffee Connection welcomed me, complete with my history, my pain, and my pursuit for repairing my life and relationships. This has allowed me to contribute back into our community in ways I had lost hope of ever being possible.
My life started out with a wonderful, middle-class upbringing. It was complete with family vacations in our classic Americana-style wood-paneled station wagon. I tell you this because it’s so important to be aware that addiction can and does affect all classes and families.
My well-being started to unravel in 1990, at the impressionable age of 15. I had undiagnosed clinical depression and was overweight. I was constantly teased in school. In order to gain some semblance of control, I developed a serious eating disorder that almost killed me. By the age of 18, I went from starving myself to alcoholism. From there it was cocaine, and eventually, crack.
I’m ashamed to say that I stole thousands of dollars from my family. I felt like I didn’t have to think about my mental anguish if I was high. It was a false sense of peace, but I was too entrenched to see it for what it was. I was killing myself and hurting others in ways I never wanted or imagined.
My parents finally kicked me out of the house when I was 21. I moved in with a friend who introduced me to heroin. I started stealing from stores and prostituting myself, eventually becoming homeless. I had hit rock bottom, the first of many times. I sought help, and was finally diagnosed with clinical depression. Yet, for the next ten years, I was in and out of in-patient facilities, jails, and halfway houses. Finally, I found the right medications for my mental health and I was able to achieve a sustainable sobriety. I went to college from 2000-2003, and graduated with a 3.65 GPA. I secured a job upon graduation, but it did not have health insurance. I was unable to keep up with the expense, and I lost my mental health medications. My depression came back with a vengeance, and instead of seeking help I thought I could manage it all on my own. By 2004, I had lost everything again with a needle in my arm. Another two years were lost.
On July 9th, 2006, I woke up completely sick from drug use. I was depressed, lonely, and just plain exhausted from living. I was crying while wondering how I had let this become my life again. Suddenly, I had a moment of clarity. The sense of peace that came over me, I hadn’t felt in years. I personally credit divine intervention with this revelation because I looked up and was shocked to see a friend of mine who had passed from throat cancer years earlier, standing in my bedroom. She was someone I was very close with before she died, and unfortunately, we had used drugs together. But there she was, looking healthy and vibrant in a way I had never seen her before. I was in shock as she gently spoke, “Stacey, please get clean.” Then she was gone. I knew in that moment I was going to get clean for good. I went directly to an in-patient detox facility that very day. I struggled, I still struggle, but I haven’t used since. Not all recoveries look like this. Every recovery story is different, and I’m thankful that there are many ways a recovery journey can start. I am also grateful that I was given repeated chances, until I finally got it right. I’m very aware of how increasingly rare that is.
Looking back over my life, I have a lot of guilt for the pain I’ve caused others and myself. But I am doing my best to rectify those wrongs. The Coffee Connection has helped me make my mental health and recovery journey my number one priority. The program has also played a huge role in my healthier sense of self.
As the HR director, I’m a full-time, salaried employee. I handle financials, sign paychecks, and help with any other issues that may arise. If I need to borrow a car, our Executive Director lends me hers. The Coffee Connection allowed me to earn their trust when no one else would, and it has meant the world to me and so many other women who have come through our program.
When you support the Coffee Connection, you help women right here in our community who are otherwise destined for complete poverty, potential relapse, and worse. When you give, you’re helping a woman earn a living to put food on her table, you help keep her children safe from the world of drugs and alcohol, and you help her realize that she CAN live a life free from the strains of drugs and alcohol. I know I can, and it feels amazing!
Thank you for your support, without it, we couldn’t continue saving lives.