Recovery by example
Voice of experience leads people out of addiction
Kim Bailey is an open book. Ask her a question about her life, and she’ll respond without hesitation. She shares her story frequently, often to women who’ve lived through similar circumstances and come to the same place she’s reached.
Bailey grew up in Nevada County, in and around Grass Valley. She got exposed to substance abuse during childhood.
“The only stable person around me was my grandmother, and she was a shut-in, a hoarder,” Bailey said. “Didn’t have any drugs or alcohol involved, but there was a whole other level of dysfunction there.”
In that environment, with alcohol accessible, she began drinking at age 11. Bailey was an alcoholic by eighth grade; at 24, having moved to Clear Lake, she quit drinking but became addicted to methamphetamine.
From the first time she tried Black Beauties (pharmaceutical amphetamine, aka speed), she “loved the rush, loved going faster, being able to stay up longer; the adrenaline.” That ride—with peaks and chasms, including brushes with the law and a brief stretch of sobriety—lasted until her arrest two years ago.
Having moved to Butte County to be closer to her adult son, she fell in with a bad crowd in Forbestown, east of Oroville, where she was living. She used meth, aware of stolen property and weapons stored on the premises. When officers served a search warrant on June 23, 2016, they took her into custody.
Bailey faced charges on three felonies; after jail time, she received probation with the stipulation she receive treatment. Bailey chose that requirement—she’d spent 39 years addicted to drugs and alcohol; she wanted to be clean.
“I was basically setting myself up to get caught,” she said. “I’m stubborn, so if I set myself up for failure, to where I’m backed into a corner …
“I knew the police were coming, I heard them coming from a long way away, I could have run. I was just tired of it.”
The court mandate worked. Now 52, Bailey has two years of sobriety under her belt. She works full time in Chico overseeing the Salvation Army’s kitchen crew and is house manager at “The Cottage”—the women’s residence operated by Paths Straight to Recovery, a faith-based nonprofit that provides transitional living quarters for adults recovering from dependence.
At the Cottage, she relays her experience regularly. She’s lived there since November; the facility has had as many as 10 residents at one time, its limit. She currently has seven housemates.
“I really feel this is my calling,” Bailey said, “to be able to show women that are still new in recovery that you can be successful, that you can move forward without drugs and alcohol in your life—and there are safe places to be, with people who care about you.”
Bailey will spread that message more widely tonight (Sept. 20). She’ll wear a staff shirt for Paths Straight to Recovery and greet visitors at an event downtown called Celebrating Our Voices of Recovery (see infobox), coinciding with National Recovery Month.
Terrye Lucas, women’s coordinator for Paths Straight to Recovery, spearheaded the event—modeled on a similar gathering at City Plaza several years ago, which she missed due to travel. She helped forge a partnership between the Coalition of Northern California Recovery Residences—of which her organization is a member—and the Butte County Department of Behavioral Health.
Organizations will have booths to explain services available locally; two speakers will describe their experiences in recovery.
Bailey’s journey toward Paths Straight to Recovery started with Lucas, whom she met at church. Bailey achieved sobriety the first time—four years ago, for eight months—with the support of a ministry program called Celebrate Recovery, which she discovered at her mother’s church in Grass Valley.
Here, she again sought faith-centered recovery. She completed a Salvation Army treatment program in six months, then got hired as kitchen manager at the Rehabilitation Center. She joined Celebrate Recovery at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, where Lucas belongs.
“I was kind of doomed to fail the first time because I really didn’t want to quit, but when I quit I really liked it,” Bailey said. Once she relapsed, “having that clean time behind me, for the first time in my life I realized what it would be like without drugs and alcohol, and what kind of life I could have.”
Lucas encouraged her to pursue leadership at Paths Straight to Recovery, in applying for the house manager spot. The group, which also runs a men’s residence in Chico, has been a passion for Lucas, who “struggled with alcohol for many years.” She’s “retired—supposedly” but spends numerous hours working with the women at the Cottage.
“My heart is for people, especially women, struggling with all the issues that are so common, whether we talk about them or not,” Lucas said, “and being able to assist those close to us when those issues come up.”
Both houses operated by Paths Straight to Recovery have government certification. Tonight’s event will feature secular and spiritual service providers “to cast as wide a net as possible,” Lucas said. “People have a choice of how to get sober, and we don’t want to lose any between the cracks.”
If just one person finds help, both Bailey and Lucas said the event will be a success; “but I expect more than one,” Bailey added. Regardless, she will continue to “work in recovery 24/7” at the Salvation Army and at the Cottage.
“For my recovery,” she said, “for as much time as I put in getting high, I need to put that much time into being sober.”