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Celebrations

February 13, 2012

Community gathers to raise money to assist women battling addiction

JEFFERSONVILLE — The weekend death of singer Whitney Houston has again put a spotlight on what alcohol and drug addiction can do to a person. As a celebrity, the media pays her addiction and passing a lot of attention, but addiction can happen to anyone.

On the day of Houston’s death — although entirely unrelated — the Bliss House of Jeffersonville held its annual fundraising event at First Christian Church with the theme of Valentine Bliss. While the Bliss House residents and its graduates may not be super stars, they do share a commonality of addiction with Houston. However, the clients at the Bliss House are on a mission to beat the addiction.

“Recovery is a difficult process. It takes commitment and dedication,” said Judge Steve Fleece, who served as emcee for the event. “I think it can rightfully be considered heroic. Addiction is an equal opportunity disease.”

Part of the mission of the annual fundraising event is to raise awareness.

“Maybe the community can be aware that we are down-to-earth and real people, and not just so far and out of reach. We can sit down and talk to them and be on their level,” said a client of the Bliss House.

The Bliss House is a place that helps women in a time of need.

“It’s about the rebirth ... that’s what Bliss House is all about. It’s all about fostering long-term recovery for women addicted to drugs and alcohol,” said Julie Schwerer, the organization’s director. “That long term depends on a lot of support. Women come to us in a state of mind and body that withstood a lot of devastation. When they come to the Bliss House, their problems have problems. We open our doors, we open our hearts and we give them hope. We let them know that there is a way out of this, and we’re here to help,”

Board of Director member Jerry White explained that the long-term sobriety goals are met by alumnae meeting frequently, and the alumnae help those currently in the program, which uses a 12-step method and features 12 beds. Also, the group operates Bliss House Too, which is a three-quarter way house.

“They are a network with each other for long-term sobriety, and they help the new women as they come in with new social skills, and how to have fun sober,” White said. “We have programs for the alumnae after they graduate and continue because our ultimate goal is to foster long-term sobriety.”

Schwerer shared a recent story, saying one evening she overheard one of the residents singing, which was a big deal because four months prior the young woman had zero self-esteem and zero self-respect, but finally sang.

“This is the truth about what we can do for women. We have accomplished what we set out to do, and that was to bring the dying back to life,” Schwerer said.

Bliss House helps women throughout Southern Indiana, Indianapolis and even had a client from Georgia. Several alumnae were present and shared stories of success. One graduate explained that since her Bliss House graduation date in 2007, she has married, has held a job for five years and will be returning to school. Several other women presented their success stories, which included the reunion of family and the discovery of self and strength.

“The Bliss House has changed my life. It gave me things I never thought was possible for me. Just going to work every day, and waking up in the morning and not being ruled by drugs and alcohol — it has introduced me to a higher power that I call God,” a graduate said. “I am eternally grateful to Bliss House and all the people involved. It completely changed my life and family’s life. I get to have my children today.”

Leatha Jackson was recognized with the 2012 Sue LaRue Award because of her efforts with Centerstone Mental Health and Addiction. She works directly with men and women who are discharged from the Indiana Department of Correction.

“She has worked tirelessly to help women at the Bliss House,” Schwerer said.

Jackson said she does what she does because she was raised in a family of volunteering and giving back to the community.

“Because I care, and I want to see you get your life back,” said Jackson to the women.

Jackson said she wants to  start another group so she can teach men and women skills to become self-sufficient and confident.

The event was indeed a success with a silent auction, raffle tickets and live entertainment.

“It’s good to see so many people come out and support a good cause. I hope it brings a lot of money, support and awareness,” said Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore. “I think you can tell by the size of crowd. It’s always a nice event. There are a lot of good feelings in here, and I know there are some sad stories and recovering stories. It’s inspiring to all of us. Just because you’re down on your luck, doesn’t mean you can’t bounce back.”

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