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Jefferson County woman survives addiction, becomes recovery specialist

The faith-based recovery program Rescue 180 received a $125,000 grant in January. With the money, the group hired someone who knew about addiction firsthand.

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Tenn. — The team over at the Jefferson County faith-based recovery program Rescue 180 wants to help people recover from addiction.

The program was awarded the $125,000 Drug Free Communities grant in January. Program leaders said they needed people on their team who had lived life through addiction -- so they found a woman who can speak through experience.

Addiction can affect anyone. Alesha Graves said she's proof of that.

"Most people don't look at me and know that I'm an eight time felon and I've been to jail several times," Graves said. "They do not know that I'm an addict. They may look at me and just think I'm a normal mother."

She said she was an addict for 15 years. But, through faith, determination and help from resources like Rescue 180, she's been living in recovery for seven.

"I will never forget where I came from," Graves said. "I feel like if I forget, then I'll go back."

Now, she's able to help people who are standing where she once stood.

"I probably thought my biggest accomplishment was graduating high school," Graves said. "I never knew that I would ever be able to accomplish as much as I have."

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Graves is now a certified peer recovery specialist. She said her new qualification was made possible through the grant awarded to Rescue 180.

The progam's executive director, Debra Shultz, said Graves's insight will help save lives.

"The funding is the answer to our prayers, because it's just one more person that we would not have been able to help, and if it's just one person that we help, then it was worth it to me, my time and my energy," Shultz said.

She said ending the stigma of what life looks like after addiction is the key to more community support and success.

"We're not going to have change until we all change our thoughts," Shultz said. "[Alesha is] out there in the field working, so it's pretty awesome -- and watching her morph into all that she dreams that she can be is what it's all about."

The Rescue 180 program is also using funds to aid in prevention in the younger generation by participating in programs like D.A.R.E. in schools.

"Rescue 180 is a Prevention Coalition that provides Prevention education for our community, we have two Prevention Specialist on staff who provide these services for our community. Our ministry provides ministerial counseling and advocacy for families dealing with addiction, and adding a CPRS to our staff gives us greater opportunity to reach those who need recovery advocacy,” Shultz clarified.  

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