It’s Friday afternoon, close to what would be “quitting time” for most people. But Matilda Everman, Administrative Assistant at Addiction Recovery Care’s Outreach Services division shows no signs of quitting. “Tilly,” as her friends call her, is desperately working the phones trying to help a potential client.
The client has had a short stay in a hospital in Louisville: she’s from a rural community nearly 3 hours away and the family has no idea how she got there, or even the exact nature of her medical condition. They report that she does this sort of thing frequently. Tilly works the phones, bringing in lawyers, family members, intake specialists, and medical personnel, all in a desperate effort to find the client a bed before she’s discharged and turned out in the streets of Louisville. “I don’t want her to be homeless”, Tilly says.
Between calls trying to help the client in Louisville, she’s busy with other missions. She’s trying to help a client in jail in Greenup County. She’s working on a plan to get “Peer Support Specialists” into the court system in Ashland. And she’s planning her Sunday; a day of worship beginning at Better Life Church in Morehead and topped off with a contemporary Christian music concert in Huntington with some of her ARC family.
Tilly is flourishing and leading an abundant life. If you traveled back in time and met her as a child, you wouldn’t be surprised. She grew up in a good home in Olive Hill with both her parents. She did gymnastics. She was a cheerleader making straight A’s and going to church every Sunday.
Then, at age 13, she started down a darker path. She started drinking and smoking marijuana. She ran with older guys. Her new friends were always there for her, egging her on and helping her find booze and drugs. Somewhere along the way, Tilly was sexually assaulted. The pain and shame of that incident caused her to accelerate her drug abuse. She was self-medicating, but still functioning. She wanted to please her parents, and for a while it seemed to work.
Then, at 18, she lost her dad to cancer and with him, what was left of her moral compass. She turned to harder drugs. She did cocaine. She found opiates. Even simple medical problems like kidney stones were enough to get a prescription for Oxycontin.
By now, Tilly was hooked. She was an addict. If she wasn’t using, she was in agony. “When I was in addiction, I felt horrible about myself, but when I was using I was numb,” she says. Her addiction wasn’t just about making her feel better about herself anymore. It was physical. “I was sick when I didn’t have it. I’d do anything to get it.”
Eventually, all this drug activity caught up with Tilly. She was indicated for a felony, and her first charge landed her in Federal Court. She didn’t stop there, and she didn’t stop using, either. There’s a sad cycle to many an addict’s life: use, abuse, get caught, catch time, and repeat. That was Tilly. By 2012, she had been in active-addiction for 19 years. She was lost, and she was hopeless, it seemed. Then, someone stepped in and advocated for her.
Tilly credits Robin Webb’s intervention with saving her life and starting her on her path to redemption. Webb, an Attorney and State Senator from Carter County, had known Tilly for years. She’d tried to get her help before, but Tilly wasn’t ready, then. “Robin always kept pushing me and never gave up on me.” She helped Tilly get into Karen’s Place, Addiction Recovery Care’s first treatment center. Tilly made it into a 100 day program, and after all those years of attempted treatment, things clicked.
After her treatment, Tilly didn’t have a lot of options. She was a four-time felon and not many people were willing to take a chance on her. She started working at various rehabs. For 5 years, she worked other places. But her heart wasn’t in it. She missed ARC.
“The other places, they were good,” Tilly says, “but they missing the God piece.” “For 5 years I applied for every job opening ARC had!”, she recalls with pride. At first, she was hired to help with Addiction Recovery Care’s Outpatient Clinics. She started working in Northern Kentucky, helping the company open its first clinic in the suburbs of Cincinnati. But she longed to be back in eastern Kentucky.
When ARC started an Outreach division, she leaped at the opportunity to transfer. With Outreach, Addiction Recovery Care takes rehab beyond its various facilities and into the community where the needs are greatest: jails, courtrooms, sober living facilities, churches, and more.
One of Tilly’s first assignments with ARC was helping Outreach work in Whitesburg, in Letcher District Court. With that assignment, Tilly knew she’d found her calling. Men and women would come into the courtroom, practically broken. She and her team would meet with them there and at the jail, and they’d line up treatment. After a few weeks, she’d run into those clients at company convocation. It was amazing for her to see their progress, both physical and mental, and it validated what was for her a central lesson about recovery: never give up.
Tilly opens up about what family members need to do to help get their loved ones treatment. “It doesn’t have to be the end. No matter how far down you go, there’s always hope. And even though family members will break your heart, don’t ever give up on them. Stop enabling them! But don’t give up on them.”
Tilly knows God’s not through with her. She’s 38 and has many years left in her career. She wants to stay at ARC, move up the chain and continue to help others.
She talks about the company that led her to recovery: “At ARC, Christ is at the center, and this company is all about servant leadership and teaching people to lead themselves… not just be led around. I love it! I would never have thought that someone as bad a junkie as I was would ever be anything. I thought I would die with a needle in my arm and I was ready for that. Now, I have my kid back, people that I work with who love and support me, and I have trust… it’s amazing to have people who trust me! It’s pretty amazing to not have people look down at me.”