Michelle Pace, an employee here at Light of Life, began her journey here as a client. She has used her experiences to pour into other women struggled for the past 20 years as a Case Manager. In this episode, you get to hear from Michelle about her journey, struggles and how she gets to show the grace and love of God to others every day.
Kate Wadsworth:0:01Hi, I'm Kate Wadsworth. Welcome to Light of Life Rescue Mission's Podcast: Hope Unveiled, where you hear stories of hope and change from clients, staff, and volunteers today you'll hear from Michelle, a case manager and the women and children's program. She first came to light of life as a client in 1997 and we'll be celebrating 20 years on staff this year. Hi Michelle!
Michelle Pace:0:28Hi Kate.
Kate Wadsworth:0:28I'm so happy to talk with you today. Um, I'm really excited to hear about your journey through Light of Life. So, Michelle, will you describe what you do today for Light of Life?
Michelle Pace:0:41Um, I work at Light of Life as a case manager, just helping a women through struggles, resources, just recovery, all sorts of things like that.
Kate Wadsworth:0:51All right. And you're the perfect person for that because you actually have experience coming through the program.
Michelle Pace:0:56Yeah, I was a client in 1997 and I completed the program here at Light of Life, which was a very wonderful program to me at that time of my life. Um, and then from there I work two part time jobs and then I heard a Light of Life was hired and I came and put it in the application and did an interview and I've been here every since. Um, I started working here in November of 1999 and I've been working with the women ever since, so I started off as a program aid in the program made actually really just helps all the staff members and the program aid do all types of jobs and but her main job would be yarns and keeping the fouls up and things like that. And then from there did some training and became a case manager. So I've been a case manager every since.
Kate Wadsworth:1:54So something that you bring to this job that's so valuable is your experience as a client. And so I'm wondering if we could spend some time now just talking about, you know, what was it that first brought you to Light of Life as a client,.
Michelle Pace:2:07Okay, um, I came to Light of Life from rehab. I went to sojourner house rehab for four to six months. And what got me to Sojourner house was, um, just drug and alcohol, um, and just hit rock bottom, um, and just needed help getting the structure put back into my life and that's when I decided, um, I actually used to sit and talk to the hotline a lot and then from there to hotline got me connected to Sojourner House and then from Sojourner House I stayed there and then came over here to Light of Life, um, for the housing piece. And the reason why I chose light in life with the housing piece was because um at all the programs I looked at light life, um, was the only group that really meant four days a week and help you still work on your recovery and life skills, um, and that it was a Christian organization. So that's why I came to Light of Life.
Kate Wadsworth:3:06Would you be willing to share a little bit about, um, your life in addiction? Like when did that start? What did that look like for you? You said you hit rock bottom and he kind of information about that to give us a bigger picture.
Michelle Pace:3:18My addiction really started off in high school really when I looked back, it started off in high school, might have been like little things, but um, it just progressed, like it started off just maybe these drinking, smoking some marijuana, taking pills, and then from there as I got older just progressed to other things and I continued to still drink and smoke marijuana. But at the same time I met, um, the drug that's called crack and from smoking crack then that's what brought me to my knees over the years. It took years to progress, but after so many years, just when I look back, I used to just sit and look at my life. It really, it brought me to my bottom where I owed housing authority money, um, kids really didn't have much. We're struggling for food or whatever it may be just from your addiction, you know, because you use all your money and everything to get the drug. And just one day I used to talk to the hotline every day on the phone and just one day, you know, they was like, well, we can get you in somewhere and you know, that was, I didn't take it right then and there was another 30 days from there. And then that's when I went into Sojourner House rehab for seven months.
Kate Wadsworth:4:40For those of those who are listening that have never had an addiction that they've struggled with, would you be able to describe what that's like to be in the midst of active addiction? What does that feel like? What are you thinking? Like what's that experience for those of us that don't know?
Michelle Pace:4:55Being in addiction to me at that time when I was in it, I didn't feel like there was any way out. Um, I usually just wonder how I ended up where I was at. I kept saying, this is not me, but I felt like there was no way out and not just what's happened to be sitting there getting high. And I just looked at the telephone book and it just had this hotline and I just start calling that number every day.
Kate Wadsworth:5:19What is this hotline?
Michelle Pace:5:20I'm not sure because back then and that was a long time ago, but it was like a hotline that you could call and just talk to people. I'm still have hotlines where you can just call, like if you're struggling with something or like like such, like the suicidal ones, but it's like drug addiction or anything that you're going through. And I used to just call and talk to that hotline and just I guess poured my heart out to them and I guess they get to know me just from over the phone because I would call them every day and kind of get me to where I'm at today. You know, they started me off.
Kate Wadsworth:5:52So to have a person there to just hear you, to listen to what was going with you, to understand, trying to understand what you were experiencing. That was a really powerful piece.
Michelle Pace:6:02Yes, it was, needed a lot of direction. I needed a lot of help. I felt like I couldn't do it on my own, like going to meetings or anything like that that wouldn't have worked because I had came home and did the same thing. I just knew deep down in my heart that I needed the structure put back in my life because I kept saying I need the structure back in and I felt the only way to do that was to go somewhere and live there for those months to get that structure put back at my life. And sojourner house. It's one of those places when you have kids that you get, you know, you can take your kids, you get an apartment in their ability and then you get the rehab and all the requirements that for treatment and all that there.
Kate Wadsworth:6:46So you had kids, you have kids during this time, like how many kids do you?
Michelle Pace:6:51I had three kids but two were with me as her house. Um, my two youngest ones were with me and my oldest one was with my mom at the time because it's like harder for older kids and places like that. So I had the two younger kids and I don't remember their exact age, but they were young somewhere like six, seven, somewhere like that. So.
Kate Wadsworth:7:10So how long would you say that you were in addiction? Like how long were before your recovery for you in addiction?
Michelle Pace:7:20I would have to say maybe like it didn't really, like I don't consider high school being at being an addict I think as an adult, like in my thirties, so I will have to say somewhere like maybe six to eight years being in that addiction before I got out.
Kate Wadsworth:7:39And then you went to sojourner house and you had your two youngest with us and they gave you the structure that you needed to start to make positive changes in your life.
Kate Wadsworth:7:50And how long were you there again?
Michelle Pace:7:52Seven months. Actually. Seven months. Um, theres a little story to that too. There I was there for seven months. Like their program is really four to six at that time that I knew of, but I was there seven, um, because actually they ended up, um, like kinda like not putting me out but booed me, like pushing, pushing me a little bit because I was comfortable there and they knew that because they made a statement before that they knew that I could live there, um, and run the place, um, but I needed to step out on faith and so just from them having that talk with me as a whole telling me I had to step out on faith that I couldn't live there, that I needed to step out and try this out there and that's when I started looking for a housing program. Um, because I had nowhere to go going, I have family, but you don't want to put that burden on your family when you have two kids. So I look for housing program and Light of Life was one of them and I just liked the Light of Life the way it was laid out, and by being a Christian program. Um, and I did that program for what, 18 or two years?
Kate Wadsworth:9:00Eighteen months to two years. Yeah. So, okay. You apply for Light of Life. You get accepted. What were the next steps for you?
Michelle Pace:9:06So the next step was, um, had my housing and get comfortable with that. I lived over here on the north side because when I was in the program you had to live on the north side and um, so I will walk from the kids' school, from my apartment to over here to the program. So coming here four days a week for those two years, that may just put it back into me because right before I got ready to graduate and they had just started the welfare reform. So with the welfare reform, you know, you either had to work or go to school and so I had to work. So like I said, I had two part time jobs and that was a struggle with two kids and trying to work two part time jobs and I just started praying about a full time job and I applied here at Light of Life and ended up getting a job and I've been here ever since.
Kate Wadsworth:9:59And I definitely want to get more into that because I know again, you just added so much, um, stability and, and wisdom and life into the women that come through the program because of your experience. But to just think a little bit more about your experience here. Um, so you went from the structured program has so, Sojourners House where you were living in their housing to your own apartment with the support of Light of Life. You and your kids were there and then you guys would come to our buildings for programming throughout the weeds. What was your experience when you first came in with the program?
Michelle Pace:10:35Um, my experience, I loved it here. Um actually, that was one of those types of clients they couldn't get rid of me. Um, and I guess by me living so close to the program, I would actually like do a lot of volunteer work here also while the kids were still in school even after our program are over, sometime would leave and go get my kids and come back to do stuff here. So I don't know, like even at Sojourner House, I always hit the willingness to do above and beyond. Um, that's just me.
Kate Wadsworth:11:06I see that. So can you talk about the impact on you and your kids from being in the program with them?
Michelle Pace:11:17Well, um, I believe the impact from being in the program, it has taught me a lot, especially with my relationship with Christ, um, because that's where my relationship with Christ really blossom. To be truthful, um ,coming here and just hearing the word I knew about God, but just coming here and learning more about Jesus and having the Bible studies and things like that, like open my heart up, um, because that was, I guess I'd have to say I was like this angry person but didn't really know why. Um, but as I stayed here and did those type all types of groups working on myself along with the Bible study, eventually, um, I was in a relationship and I guess I would have to say my heart got broken and it was like, it was a good thing because it was like once my heart got broken, then it was like, um, my heart just opened and I guess I was able to receive Christ even more. And that's when my life began to change. That's one of the biggest impacts in my life from here, from Light of Life because it like really, really just opened my heart to say to say people wouldn't believe it, but a broken relationship was the part of the opening up my heart. And that was where Christ was able to come in and shadow me. I think that makes sense to me because when you're having to have so much protection around your heart than there is no way for Christ to get in. But when you have allowed yourself to love and then it's broken, you're vulnerable. And so there is that, that space for God to come fill in those cracks. I used to listen to this song called, um, my funny Valentine, I used to play it over and over and over, and I can remember Sherry who runs the program used to always be like, oh, take that, take that. It was a tape. They'll take that tape off for her. Then she didn't took it. Likes to play that song over and over and over.
Kate Wadsworth:13:18And that was something to me. Yeah, that's a relationship. Be Sad.
Michelle Pace:13:22They kind of helped me through. That just helped me to open up my heart.
Kate Wadsworth:13:27Can you talk about the relationships that you formed in the program?
Michelle Pace:13:31Yeah. I have, uh, made some lifelong relationships. A lot of women that I'm still close with to this day, um, we still communicate, talk on the phone. We might not get together as often as we would like, but I have a lot of relationship with other women that came off the program with me and even from women who came after me. I have built relationships with a lot of women
Kate Wadsworth:13:54Yeah, and relationships are so important in life, especially in recovery.
Michelle Pace:13:59Yes, exactly
Kate Wadsworth:14:00To those people you can call on and share your feelings and your thoughts and emotions with um, to support you when you listen to give support when they need it.
Michelle Pace:14:11You need those type of relationships because a lot of times like family, if they're not in recovery and not going to understand like your feelings are what you're going through. You're not gonna fully understand that exact thing.
Kate Wadsworth:14:25So you, um, have been on staff for 19 years. You started as a program aid as you said, and now you have moved into the case management position for years. What is a case management position in a women and children's program at Light of Life look like?
Michelle Pace:14:39Case managment, um, help the women with a lot of different resources. I try to get them connected. If you're not connected to get them connected to all the different types of resources. They can use water, living water in program and we're helping them with housing so they can get connected and be into the communities. So when I help them walk through certain situations, things like that,
Kate Wadsworth:15:03What is, I mean, even as you were saying like you needed guidance when you were at your bottom, you needed someone to give you guidance and it sounds like that's kind of the role you're playing for others now. They're at a really tough point and
Michelle Pace:15:15Giving back what I was given. It was so freely given to me. I'm giving it back.
Kate Wadsworth:15:18Yeah. Yeah.
Michelle Pace:15:20And as I empty out I have to fill myself back up.
Kate Wadsworth:15:23How do you do that?
Michelle Pace:15:25By going to church and fellowshipping with other people, other Christians at church and everything like that.
Kate Wadsworth:15:32Yeah. Um, so how many women are typically like on your case load at a time?
Michelle Pace:15:38Well, right now, um, I think I have a 11, but I'm the lead case manager so I kind of help them all. But for the most of it I have 11 because I take majority of them and then they have a few other ladies have a few.
Kate Wadsworth:15:55How many case managers are there total?
Michelle Pace:15:58Well, I'm the only case manager really? Um, but then as, as we are growing in a program like our family counselor, um, she's becoming uh, Bay one, um, our um, educational person is in to be a case manager also.
Kate Wadsworth:16:16Yeah. So it can all fall just on you amymore. Yeah. Um, I wanted to know
Michelle Pace:16:21Too many clients
Kate Wadsworth:16:25You love to give each other a hard time. Um, I'm wondering, do you think or how do you think your time in the program has shaped how you do case management for the women currently in the program?
Michelle Pace:16:39Hmm. I guess from what I learned from when I was in the program, I do use a lot, but I know over the time, over the years things do change, time change, people change. So you do have to like kind of tweaked things sometimes because it's, it's like the time changes. It's like it's a different breed of women this coming out today than it was when, when I was in the program or you know, or my early on years of working here. Like now I'm just like a totally different breed. I don't know how to describe it, but it,
Kate Wadsworth:17:12It's, well, 20 years is a generation, so it's a different generation coming through.
Michelle Pace:17:17So you have, you do have tweak it, we do things a little different than you did from in the past, you know, because at the time changing and just things just changing.
Kate Wadsworth:17:27Do you think, do you know what to attribute that change to you? Do you have any ideas what it is or just time?
Michelle Pace:17:34No, I have no idea.
Kate Wadsworth:17:37Yeah, I was curious.
Kate Wadsworth:17:39Um. Oh, I have another question in my head and it just went out. Well, I guess I'll ask you, what is one of your favorite things about working at light of life?
Michelle Pace:17:55I guess I would have to say one of my favorite things is of working here is that I'm doing God's work. I'm God has placed me here to help these women and that's exactly what I do. All the rest of the stuff I could care less about all the residents up to be truthful. No, and I, I can kind of keep that vision because he's placed me here and I know he has. It's my passion, it's my gift. I did it in rehab and um, it just came over and took it over to here. Um, I enjoy it. Um not like a job. It's like these women helped me too daily. Um, I tell them all the time just like they are. They help me to stay clean and sober also, while I'm helping them God continues to help me. So
Kate Wadsworth:18:46Could you describe an average day or a typical day? I know they're all different, but like what are some things that
Michelle Pace:18:52An averafe day it can be anywhere from. I'm doing a class, whether if it's a 12 step to, um looking at some resources for someone to pray with someone and ending it with prayer also. That's a typical day here at Light of Life.
Kate Wadsworth:19:13And what would be one of the more challenging aspects of your job?
Michelle Pace:19:18Um, I guess it would have to be the most challenging. Somebody that's still in denial or somebody that's not getting it and you want them to get it. You want them to see what you're talking about and they just haven't grasped it yet. That's the most challenging thing for me and I have to remind myself. You were there before too, so be patient.
Kate Wadsworth:19:43Yeah. What advice would you give to someone who is out there struggling right now?
Michelle Pace:19:48The advice I would give to someone that's struggling, that you're not alone. God is with you and there are programs and out here to help you. You just have to find them. Um, you could always call it Light and Life. If you call Light of Life. We will help them guide you. If you don't meet our requirements, we will give you some ideas or some places that you could call to get the requirement for here, for here, you would need 90 days and if you don't have anything then obviously you need a rehab or a detox or something like that. So we were appointed person in the right direction. So I just would like to let people know that there is a way out and God loves you.
Kate Wadsworth:20:35Yeah, and you're definitely an example of someone living a full life after, you know, having gone through the difficult experience of addiction and so to be able to give that message to from a place that you've come from, I think means so much and I see how the women respond to you, they love you and you really encourage them and hold them accountable, but do it in such a loving way. Is there anything else that you'd like to share or say that you didn't get a chance to?
Michelle Pace:21:04Um, the only thing I can say is anybody struggling or needs help, just call Light of Life and we'll point you in the right direction if we're not the place to help you, um, to start you off. Um, the other thing is, is to keep your head up and there is a way out and God loves you.
Kate Wadsworth:21:22Yeah. Awesome. Michelle. Thank you. I love spending time with you. You're such a fun person to be around and bring joy to me so much so I hope everyone that's listening can feel, feel that presence that you bring into a room and the joy that you have. And thank you for your time today.
Michelle Pace:21:38You're welcome, anytime.
Kate Wadsworth:21:41Thanks for listening to Light of Life Rescue Mission's Podcast: Hope Unveiled. We hope you join us next time for another story of hope and change.