She had been a drug addict all of her adult life.
Addicted to methamphetamine since she was 17, Kimberly Connolly had been in and out of recovery programs. She’d be clean for a three years. She would tell her family that she was done with drugs forever and that she was going to change for good.
Then she would relapse.
“It was like I was in quicksand,” Connolly, 35, said with tears in her eyes. “People are trying to pull you out and you’re trying to pull you out, but you feel hopeless.”
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Most programs didn’t work for long.
TROSA, she said, is different.
Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers, is a two-year residential substance-abuse recovery program. It emphasizes job training, education, counseling, mentoring, leadership training, and continuing care. Connolly is one of the more than 500 residents in the program.
“It’s a work program,” Connolly said. “You’re not just going to class here, class there, and sitting, then maybe doing a chore, and then going back to classes and learning about your drug addiction. And all those things are wonderful and for the right person they’re the right program, but this program makes you work for what you want.”
She said she sometimes works six days a week and 18 hours a day.
The program, which was founded in 1994, has continued to expand and had a grand opening for its second thrift store in Durham at 11:30 a.m. Friday (Nov. 7) Mayor Bill Bell joined more than 200 TROSA residents, board and community members, and staff for the celebration.
Kevin McDonald, the company’s CEO said the new store will help provide extra vocational training for residents.
The store, in the Oxford Commons Shopping Center on North Roxboro Street sells clothes, furniture, electronics and other household items. Redeveloped from an older model Wal-Mart, it may be one of the biggest thrift stores in the world, encompassing 113,000 square feet, according to TROSA.
Residents will learn about sales, customer service, retail management, warehousing, inventory management, and transportation logistics. Some will drive delivery trucks for the thrift stores, gaining experience leading to commercial driver’s licenses.
According to TROSA, 1,350 people have graduated from the program since 1994. One year out, 85 percent remain sober and off drugs, 90 percent have a permanent home and 95 percent have jobs.
McDonald said the program has changed over the years. The residents today are younger, and when the program started, most of the residents were addicted to crack.
Now it’s heroin.
“It’s a hard drug to get clean from,” McDonald said.
A former addict, McDonald said he started drinking and doing drugs when he was 13. At 32 and facing 20 years on criminal charges, a lawyer persuaded him to join a treatment program in San Francisco if he wanted to avoid prison time. He agreed, but the day he got out of jail he reverted to his old ways.
“The first thing I did was went to drink, and scored some heroin, and the heroin was no good,” McDonald said. “It was the best thing that happened to me in the world because it was no good. That piece showed me the futility of the life going around doing all this different stuff. It just hit me in the face.”
He made it a point to change. So he did.
From then on, he has wanted to help others just as some have helped him.
Durham County Commissioner Ellen Reckhow said TROSA had been a valuable resource for Durham.
“The reason we provide them funds is because we know that their program works,” she said. “What’s great about TROSA is they get their residents involved in a variety of businesses so that they have employment experience.”
Connolly said she still thinks about her struggle with methamphetamine but no longer craves it.
She will graduate from the program next year but plans to continue her work with TROSA to help other alcoholics and drug addicts recover.
Sixty percent of the staff at TROSA are graduates of the program. When asked what exactly she’ll do after graduation, she paused.
“I don’t know,” she said. “The sky is the limit.”
When she graduates this time, she says she won’t tell her family that she is done with drugs forever. She won’t tell them that she going to change for good. She’ll just do it.