I remember seeing her on her first day here. It was hard not to notice the ankle monitor. I caught myself assuming she’d have an attitude to match, but Yesenia and her appearance posed an interesting juxtaposition. Although her wrap sheet wouldn’t reflect it, turns out, she’s sweet as pie!

When Yesenia got here in June of 2022, she was facing two years in prison. She had just gotten her 5th DUI and had already done 6 months in county jail following the previous one. Instead of taking it as a warning, she used it as ammo—an excuse to keep drinking.

“When I got out [that time,] I just got worse. I got more aggressive. I had really bad anger issues,” she reflects. “Nobody could say anything to me without it making me want to drink even more.” She felt like everyone in her life was against her, that nobody liked her or could understand her. As she states, hispanic culture often treats getting sober with disdain, seeing it as unnecessary—a sign of weakness. She didn’t have access to resources to get help. “I tried to get therapy, but it was too expensive,” she recalls. Even then, she knew somewhere deep in her heart that she needed help. “I was living in a really dark place,” she relays solemnly.

A Los Angeles native, Yesenia is the oldest of five sisters. Her mother raised the girls pretty much by herself. Yesenia’s father and his side of the family are all alcoholics. She was reluctant to admit that she might have a problem with alcohol because she didn’t want to be like her dad—a man who left his family, and chose alcohol over a relationship with them. Often, she’d even get phone calls to pick up her dad from people who’d spotted him drunk outside a liquor store.

Yesenia received her first judicial consequence for drinking when she was 22 years old. Since then, she’s racked up four more DUI’s. A handful of times, while in a blackout, she’s ended up in the hospital. One particularly bad accident landed her with a broken neck, and she now has screws holding together some of her upper vertebrae.

“Even though I was never, ever able to get sober on my own, I really thought I was just able to stop,” she remembers, the powerlessness still palpable in her mind.

So that I could get a full scope of where her alcoholism has taken her, Yesenia showed me the report of her last citation, involving several destruction of property charges, including stop signs, two street signs, multiple cars, and a city tree. “I thought I was too fast, too furious for a second,” she laughs, in astonishment of herself and her recklessness. But she knows the seriousness of it is very real.

“The next day after the accident when I got out of jail, I went to the scene and was like ‘Woooow, what did I do?!’” Her fiancé, Oscar, and her mom had taken her back to follow the trail of destruction she’d caused; they used the opportunity to hopefully give her perspective on how detrimental her drinking had not only to her own life, but also to those around her. ”’You see, Yesenia, you need help. What if it had been worse? What if you killed someone?’ they said to me.” It was exactly what Yesenia needed to open her eyes to her alcoholism, as a matter of fact. “That’s when I knew I truly needed help,” she admits. “I was done with alcohol after that.”

With the help of Oscar, her family, and a pretty big nudge from the judge, Yesenia discovered Beit T’Shuvah, and agreed to come. “The last thing I ever wanted to do was go to rehab. When I got here, I was…really going through it. Emotional, but quiet. I really hated myself, hated my life. I lost everything; I almost lost my family, but I just wanted to feel better and get better,” Yesenia tells me.

Yesenia reports: “[My friends] were just there for the drinking, they only reached out to me when drinking was involved.” Classic case of fair-weathered friends. But her mother, sisters, and fiancee stuck by her, giving her the encouragement and love she needed. She remains close to them, and incredibly grateful for their continued support. Her father is also sober now, and she is getting to foster a new relationship with him.

Since she’s been at Beit T’Shuvah, Yesenia has grown leaps and bounds. “Finally, I feel peaceful. Finally, I feel happy,” she says with earnestness. “I remember the last time I was actually happy was when I was 12 [years old.] I’ve never felt this kind of peace. That’s why I just keep trying to do positive things now, and to help people; because when I needed help there was no one really there.”

Yesenia’s desire to help others lends itself well in her internship as a program facilitator at BTS. “You won’t repeat what you repair,” she’s learned. She takes this mantra forward as she looks toward her future, and starts a family of her own with fiancé, Oscar.

“It’s like my second family,” she exclaims of her people at Beit T’Shuvah. Yesenia would like to become a staff member here, and stay close to the community. Eventually, she plans to become a therapist, now that she’s seen first hand what that kind of work can do for a person, and for the world.

Her treatment team has helped her address both her legal and emotional issues so that she can proceed in life: a free woman. She continues to do her part to maintain that freedom and peace. She has a sponsor in A.A., an 88 year-old-woman, whom she works the steps with. “I think I can learn a lot from other people’s experiences, and an older lady sure has a lot of those!” she explains. She is also training to run with our Running4Recovery team, which has given her even more motivation to stay sober.

Despite her hardships, Yesenia possesses a positivity that’s absolutely infectious—as is her laugh! She’s a “let’s get down to business” type of girl. She’s reliable. She says “yes” to the Universe—and it rewards her faith. Yesenia is another fantastic reminder that people are more than just what they appear as on paper. Remember that.

Click here to donate towards her Run 4 Recovery 

Spotlight on Yesenia R. by Samantha H.

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