Larese Isaacson spends her Saturdays building ramps as a way to help others — and to help herself recover from drug and alcohol abuse.

“It gave me purpose,” she said of her volunteer work. “For me, it made me feel like I was a person again. I was back in the community.”

Isaacson is a client of Fairview Recovery Services in Binghamton who volunteers for the Ramp It Up program, which builds ramps for people who use wheelchairs and may not be able to leave their houses. She also volunteers for Faith in Action, which provides visits, transportation, grocery shopping and other services for older people. Both programs are run through the Broome County Council of Churches.

Volunteering is part of the treatment for Fairview clients, said Kelli Morris, vocational program coordinator for Fairview Recovery Services. They can choose between 20 different volunteer sites including the council of churches, the YWCA and Trinity Memorial Church in Binghamton. Many clients eventually get paid jobs through the agency they volunteered at. Or they can get references and experience to help them get a job elsewhere, Morris said.

“It’s important for them to gain additional skills and experiences,” she said. “It’s great for them to be able to give back to the community and help out agencies that may have helped them get on their feet.”

That’s why Isaacson was eager to join the Ramp It Up program.

“I love working with my hands,” she said. “It was a perfect fit.”

But getting to this point wasn’t easy, she said. She started drinking at the age of 10.

“My home life wasn’t great,” she said. “I just wanted to escape and not feel anything.”

As she grew older, she eventually began using drugs as well, including cocaine and heroin. Still, she was able to graduate from high school and work as a manager at Target for 10 years.

But while she functioned well for years, her addiction kept getting worse. Her wake-up call came in May 2015 when she overdosed on heroin and was twice revived through Narcan.

“That’s when I knew I had to stop because I was going to die,” she said. ”I had to change my life.”

Isaacson tried to get sober but relapsed. Then she turned to Fairview for help, starting last November.

Today, she is looking for a job in a nursing home. She hopes to eventually return to school, earn a degree in social work and do recreational work with the elderly.

“That’s what I love to do,” she said. “I love helping people and making people smile.”

Isaacson said she is grateful for all the help she receives from Fairview, and to the Council of Churches for allowing her to volunteer with them.

“There’s such a stigma with addiction. Some people have a hard time looking past it,” she said. “But we do recover. We can help in society. We can be normal people again.”

To see the full article, go to:  http://www.pressconnects.com/story/news/connections/giving-back/2016/09/25/one-path-recovery-addicts-helping-others/90837738/


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