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Olivia wrote her story with intent to share when we launch.  Unfortunately, this was only the first draft, unedited.

Written February 9th, 2021

First thing you should know about me is that I am not a writer. I am not some marketing exec trying to convince you to buy something either. My name is Olivia, and I am a grateful recovering addict.  I had my great moment of clarity back in 2018 while incarcerated for what felt like the thousandth time. That decision brought me into the Dupage County Drug court program, a program that in all honesty saved my life. I went to Women's Residential Services for treatment in Vernon Hills. When I first decided to get sober, I felt so amazing, that pink cloud was really carrying me. After completing treatment, it was onto a halfway house; for me it was Lake County Haven. The program was amazing and I was eager to get my new life started. I wanted to work, eat well, and be productive. My counselor informed me that I would have to wait 2 months before I could start working. Slightly disappointed, I conceded. When the time came for me to rejoin the workforce, I was a little worried. My background is about as extensive as my using career. I had spent the last ten years in a life of crime, smoking and drinking my way across Illinois. So now that I had nothing but good intentions and I was clean I felt as though the world owed me something. I mean, you go into an interview prepared more than qualified but when that background check comes back the answer was always no.  After 2 months of interviewing with no possible prospects I felt defeated. The whole idea seemed impossible and overwhelming. My pride had stopped me from applying to places like fast food restaurants and measly $10 per hour jobs but the time had come to put my ego to the side and keep going forward. I landed a job in downtown Libertyville as a expo manager at a restaurant (don’t laugh) called Clucker's Charcoal Chicken. God really must have a sense of humor. All jokes aside, the small ma n’ pa establishment welcomed me with open arms. I was promoted quickly. It felt good to be recognized for something positive. So, I kept on. I graduated from The Haven and made it to stage 2 of their program. I mean, I felt good. I had a year sober -- longer than I ever had in my life. I wanted recognition like most do. I guess that things just moved too fast for me because shortly after my transition I was drunk. I had started dating one of my coworkers and working at The Haven as a flex overnighter, not to mention traveling back and forth to the city by train so I could see my family. By the end of 2019 my big brother had co-signed a car for me and I was on the road. Still working at Clucker's I was finding myself more and more unhappy and in a dangerous place. I showed up to work drunk and confessed. I was sent home to return the next day to the owner wanting to talk with me about the day before. HOW DARE SHE! I was furious. Who did she think she was prying into my personal life? I realize now that that was the disease talking but at that moment I had had enough. I quit the job then and there.

Almost immediately after, I called my brother and his wife to tell them the great news, “I'm coming back to work with you!” At first, I was a little nervous. I had done nails before but that was while I was using, and I felt like I was not too good, but I persevered. I started out only doing natural nails and then after the initial pandemic shutdown it was go time my sister told me. She had big plans for me. Bibi is my sister-in-law's name and beauty is her game. The word "quit" does not exist in that woman's vocabulary. When she saw me, she saw potential, endless possibilities, and her sister not some ex-addict. After starting work in Chicago, I had stopped attending meetings and was yet again dissatisfied with life. Not too long after, I was in full on relapse. That's how it started, me telling myself "well, my DOC isn’t liquor so I can drink here and there and be fine" but in all actuality, liquor is my gateway drug. During the first few months of the pandemic, I went into a drug induced psychosis for the second time; the first was what brought me into sanity. Yet there I was high, terrified, hearing voices, and desperate to die. Everything was shut down so the time off from work was much needed. After that relapse I decided it is time to move on to the next phase. Leaving stage 2 and moving to Chicago full time. With my family's full support, I made the move. Again, my background gave me some problems, but I managed to find a cute little garden apartment in Jefferson park. Luck swung my way again. My family's love and support were being tried with every relapse. The thing about it is, I knew with every f***ed-up choice the consequences and stakes became greater. Still. through it all my family soldiered on with me. There were many tear-filled talks and solution sit-downs. The same painstaking question presented, “Why did you do it?” I do not know what’s worse, the disappointment in their eyes or not being able to answer that question in the fashion they were looking for. I could not tell them why exactly, it was the obsession (which they could not grasp), it was the loneliness, the lack of social life and the time old it seemed like a good idea at the time.  Truthfully, it never is.

After yet another relapse it was time to act—location tracking on the phone, check ins, random drug tests, all under their watchful eye. I understand all of it. That is love, the only way they could give it at the time.

All the while I'm getting better and better at nails. Building my clientele and learning as much as possible from Bibi. I understood the need for reliability.  Much was relying upon me staying sober and functional.

But in October 2020, I totaled my car under the influence and then after Thanksgiving I went on another bender which landed me back in rehab. It was a much-needed refresher. It is coming down to the final months before Bibi’s One Stop Beauty School will be open, which means that I will be managing the Salon. One Stop Salon is my home, and I am equipped with the tools and skills I need to run it, thanks to my sister-in-law Bibi. This million-dollar industry is for everybody. It is giving me the means to make bonds, create accountability webs, as well as grow. I am taking it one day at a time, remembering, we practice progress not perfection.

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