Meeting the Needs of Women in Recovery

By Jonita Davis 05/19/17

The Worthy Women Recovery Home provides a soft-landing after incarceration, one that is designed to help women deal with the social, cultural, and mental issues that usually lead to re-arrest.

Women Ribbon Cutting Outside New Building
Ribbon cutting ceremony of the Worthy Women Recovery Home

After a few greetings on the porch, we entered the building where I was directed to a long communal table inside what I think is a dining area. I waited while Troche spoke with one of her “ladies,” as she calls the women the home serves. I could tell that there is still business at hand, so I sit and take in the surroundings. The Worthy Women Recovery Home is a residential facility where women can recover before re-entry into the community. It’s like a soft-landing after incarceration, one that is designed to help women deal with the social, cultural, and mental issues that usually lead to re-arrest.

I heard Sonshine Troche’s husky but vibrant voice before I saw her come around the corner. D. E. Sonshine Troche was born in Germany, but came to the US in 1973. She spent her younger years working with her hands, learning the ins and outs of construction. Too many of those years were spent in the throes of addiction.

“I was high-functioning,” she begins in her story of drywalling, framing, and drugs that kept her up for 20 hours a day at the height of her addiction. She ended up narrowly escaping an attempted murder charge. When she finally recovered, Troche went to school to earn her degree in business administration. She would also begin volunteering in the LaPorte County prison system in the prison ministry programs and substance abuse counseling, using MRT or Moral Reconation Therapy. She would later explain that the high re-arrest rate amongst the women she encountered in the LaPorte County jails was what led to the idea for a recovery home.

“As I started applying that [MRT] in the jail, I noticed that one young lady had come back four times in four months. So, when she came back the fourth time in four months, I said, we need to do something.” She considered her background in construction, and thought “well we need to buy the building and somehow we need to talk the community into helping us out. So, that’s pretty much where it started.”

Troche dug a little deeper and found out why other recovery homes in the state were not working for the women in the LaPorte County area.

“I found out the main reason that women in Laporte County were failing the programs they were being sent to is because they were being separated from their kids. So, if they had to go to a program, they had to go to Fort Wayne. How hard is it for the kids to visit them in Fort Wayne? They can’t leave from Fort Wayne to come here and visit. So, you have a huge obstacle, a huge barrier wherever you got sent.”

At the Worthy Women Recovery Home, the women could have calls and visits according to the rules they agree to upon arrival. In fact, the woman I met before our interview was preparing for a visit with her children later the same afternoon.

Recovery homes and centers for women are created to help addicts and offenders who have just been freed from incarceration. The goal is to re-enter life with the tools, skills, and goals needed to succeed. Re-offense and relapse are expected. These situations become learning experiences for the entire group.

The Worthy Women Recovery Home uses the MRT method for the women in recovery. According to Troche, the MRT program “is on the best practices registry for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration… one of the best programs around…It works!” The program is designed to be a well-rounded approach to recovery from addiction and incarceration and a therapeutic process for re-entry into the community. “It teaches time management. It teaches healing relationships. It teaches goal setting. It definitely teaches how to give without expecting anything back…They learn how to set goals, break them down, and readjust the goals according to what they can accomplish. Instead of setting lofty goals that never get anywhere.” Anger management and addiction classes are also a part of the courses. MRT also includes caring for the women’s mental health issues, many of which were self-medicated with drugs.

“Women have the disadvantage in that a lot of them are dealing with emotional issues, especially if they come from a home where they’ve had addiction issues…they have a hard time being educated because they live at home, see all this chaos. They leave early. They quit school and end up living in that same chaos.” Troche gathered this from her nine years of work in the jail system. She paints a scenario of the sexual assault victim that she has encountered many times in her jail ministry and MRT work: “And then the moms don’t believe it when their fathers or grandfathers, or uncles have sexually abused them. They leave it all, say, ‘screw the crunchy mom, screw them all’ and they leave, get into horrible relationships. They don’t have an education or they are at least undereducated and they have no way to get back up on their feet.” This type of girl had no way to keep from being re-arrested once she was released from jail. That is, until Troche went to work.

Troche also states that many of the women find themselves victims of our society’s rape culture as young children and teens. The RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) estimates that 70 percent of rape and sexual assault victims experience mental distress that is moderate to severe. Many of those victims find themselves wrestling with PTSD, depression, anxiety and other mental conditions that require treatment. The National Institutes of Drug Abuse have been addressing the connection between these abused women and their tendency to become addicts. Women are disproportionately more likely to be a victim of sexual abuse, making their psychological needs a bit different than that of a male addict, hence the tailored MRT sessions and therapies.

The Worthy Women Recovery Home is a 13-bed residential facility that houses women from the jail system who have requested to be a part of Troche’s program. Although her home is Christian-based, Troche relies heavily on the tenets of the MRT program. But her program only picks up where MRT leaves off.

The facility opened in November 2016. In addition to the 13 bunks, the facility also has two laundry rooms, and a clothing closet to assist women who come to the home with nothing but the clothes they were sent to jail in. There is also a large recreational area for the women and their families to use, along with an exercise area stocked with Troche’s personal machinery for the ladies who want to get fit. The center has bathrooms that are maintained as part of the chores each resident is required to do as one of the conditions of the program. The large kitchen and communal/dining area top off the home’s offerings. It is a home, but there is no mistaking the work that is required of the women physically and mentally in order to make it through the home’s program.

After we talk about the challenges women face in recovery and re-entry, troche takes me on a tour of the facility. There, I see the care and respect that is put into the place. I watch as her hands touch a wooden wall panel that was a part of the original house, and as her voice breaks a tiny bit as she points out a flaw on the glass door that serves as a reminder of a fire that gutted the entire first floor of the three-floor facility just days before the first launch. Troche has built a home to help women who need help in finding their way back from addiction. She did it with the help of her faith. The center she built is just the place to treat women and their special relationship with addiction. Troche is just the person to help guide these ladies out.

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Jonita Davis is a writer, avid reader, and writing instructor based on the southern shores of Lake Michigan. Her work has appeared in Washington Post, Creative Nonfiction, Redbook, and Romper. Follow her on Twitter at @SurviTeensNtots or check out her website