Vicky’s Story: The Power of Persistence

September 12, 2023

Something about going back to prison for the fifth time changed everything for Vicky. She learned about FareStart while incarcerated. A friend was going through FareStart’s job training program, which was adapted from in-person to virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Vicky enrolled as well. 

“I didn’t start adulting until I was 48 years old,” says Vicky, who sold drugs for most of her adult life. “I decided I’m too old for this. I’m not going back to prison again. I’m going to do everything I can to stay out, and I’m gonna take advantage of any kind of schooling I can get.”

Every day, Vicky logged in eager to contribute. She appreciated learning food safety basics and other culinary fundamentals, which boosted her confidence in her role as the main cook in a prison kitchen, where she was employed through a work-release program.
She welcomed FareStart’s focus on employability and self-empowerment, budgeting, how to build a strong resume and carry yourself calmly in a job interview. “I’m kind of rough around the edges, so I learned how to properly sit and talk and answer questions appropriately,” Vicky explains.

FareStart Case Manager Gail Sjodin helped Vicky practice settling her nerves and slowing down. “When we’d have meetings, I’d sign on and she was ready to go!” Gail recalls. “I’d say, ‘We’re just going to take a breath. I’m going to say hello. I’m going to ask you how you’re doing, and we’ll go from there.’ We had to practice how to be patient.” 

Vicky appreciated Gail’s straightforward and honest feedback, which helped her calm down and become more grounded. “Gail had no problem checking me when I wasn’t acting right. That’s a big deal for me because I have to be held accountable.” Vicky thrived at FareStart and felt her life turning in the right direction. Then in July 2021, about two weeks shy of graduating, an outstanding warrant from years back — an old charge that had apparently fallen through the system’s cracks — forced her to pause her training and serve several more months of prison time. It was devastating. 

“When that warrant popped up, Gail was there. She was the first person trying to call and say, ‘What the heck is going on?’” Gail assured Vicky that FareStart would welcome her back. “I would’ve had a pity party, but not Vicky,” Gail recalls. “She was bound and determined.”

Vicky served her time and returned to FareStart in June 2022. She was hoping she could pick up where she left off and finish the last couple weeks of the program, but that wasn’t possible. She raised no objections about having to start over. “I’m very resilient,” Vicky says with matter-of-fact pride. “Once I start something, I like to finish it. I’m very persistent about things like that.”

Vicky graduated from FareStart in August 2022 and now works as a housing facilitator at Destination Hope & Recovery, helping people in need find supportive housing in Grays Harbor County. “It feels like I’m giving back, and that feels really good,” Vicky says. “Part of my giving back is trying to help people that are where I was at.”

Vicky is continuing her professional education, one credential at a time. She’s a certified peer support counselor, recovery coach and crisis specialist. She’s trained in CPR, nonviolent crisis intervention, suicide awareness, and has her sights set on becoming a certified substance abuse counselor, like the brother whom she lives with in Hoquiam.

“I want to be able to have regular clients coming in [to a clinic],” Vicky says, “like working in a methadone clinic or something like that, where people continuously come back … and you can see the growth in people.”

A lot of the people Vicky works with now are in the early days of recovery. When she shares her story, many find it hard to believe she’s in recovery, herself. “People say, ‘You look like a soccer mom!’ and I say, ‘Looks are deceiving sometimes, you know? … I’m one minute away from being where you’re at if I relapse.’”
Gail admires all the progress Vicky has made over the last two years. “It’s like night and day.” And she’s impressed with how well Vicky sets healthy boundaries. Though it’s her instinct to help friends in need if they’re trying to get sober, she’s clear with them: if they relapse, they have to find somewhere else to live. No exceptions.

There’s a big focus on self-care at FareStart, which Vicky embraces every time she heads to a bowling alley with friends, walks her dog Bella along the beach, rides motorcycles, or makes earrings, pendants, and other crafts out of tiny, ornamental beads. It reminds her how far she’s come, how far she’s going, and how grateful she is for every opportunity she embraces.