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Barbara found solace through the Healing Families program

Barbara's feelings of self pity were replaced with a sense of empowerment and a willingness to redirect her focus to helping others.

Somewhere in the city of Indianapolis there are three teenage girls who have been fatherless for the last six years. Barbara Samuels thinks about these three girls every day. She wonders where they are, what their lives have been like and whether they have yet been able to forgive her. It would come as no surprise to Barbara if she learned that the girls have not forgiven her, as she was able to forgive herself only within the past few months. 

Barbara is not the typical Theodora House resident. She was from a well-to-do background. She is happily married, and was looking forward to a retirement filled with travel and excitement. Never in a million years could Barbara have imagined that her dream of traveling to Hawaii and going on cruises with the love of her life, her husband of 26 years, would seem so far out of reach. Several years prior, after a heated argument with her husband while they had both been drinking, Barbara stormed out of her house, hopped into her car and sped away. Within the next hour Barbara was in the hospital recovering from severe injuries and an innocent young father of three was dead. 

Barbara’s earliest memories of her parents were of their drinking and her father’s physical abuse of her mother. “He would drink, and then he would beat her” she said. Later as Barbara recounted her story, she realized that her life had become a reflection of her mother’s. She too had become an alcoholic and had twice married men who were also alcoholics. 

Barbara came to Volunteers of America Theodora House as a private placement client. She was scared, shaking uncontrollably, and unsure of what would happen next. Up until now, Barbara had never even had a speeding ticket. Other residents willingly took Barbara under their wings. Nevertheless, Barbara struggled as she came to terms with the fact that life at VOA held no special privileges for her. Accountability is an important part of a client’s re-integration into the community. “Clients are required to comply with their individual program goals. I was impressed with how eager she was to participate in our Healing Families Program,” said Faith Posley, Facility Manager at Theodora House. “She participates in a number of classes including one-on-one counseling sessions.” The Healing Families Program focuses on issues such as grief, trauma recovery and abuse. “When I first met Barbara she was dealing with a tremendous amount of guilt and I never dreamed she could forgive herself,” said Michelle Luallen, Treatment Counselor at Volunteers of America. 

Barbara sobbed as she talked about that fateful day when she took the life of an innocent man. “When I was drinking I would not stop until I passed out…I had to drink until I was in oblivion.” Now Barbara and her 2nd husband of 26 years attend AA meetings on a regular basis. “…She is a member of our client leadership team and has a more positive outlook on her life.” said Michelle Luallen. 

Gradually Barbara’s initial feelings of self pity were replaced with a sense of empowerment and a willingness to redirect her focus to helping others. As a part of the agency’s client leadership program, Barbara acts as a mentor for other women in the facility and can represent them in facility matters. She speaks publicly to outside groups on a regular basis as a court mandated part of her sentence. 

“Barbara may not always see eye to eye with us,”said Faith Posley "but she has become a more introspective person…this is just the beginning of her growth to again becoming a responsible member of society.” 

“I will continue to speak out,” said Barbara. “It has been an awful journey, but I know God has a plan for me.”