“Every day I wake up, the first thing that I do is thank the Lord for letting me see another day clean and sober.”
Crystal Lincoln has certainly come a long way from where she in her life before coming to Project HOME: struggling to avoid the streets and to overcome a mean addiction. She had transitioned between residing with her sister and family to living in recovery programs and homeless shelters. She was unable to provide for her two youngest daughters and could not keep them under her care.
Although the West Philadelphia native reflects fondly upon her childhood, as a teenager Crystal had to drop out of high school due to a surprise pregnancy. She found herself caught up in the wrong crowd. “I miss my childhood,” she reflects. “I wish I could go back and just take away the drugs and alcohol.”
While it is impossible to change the past, since her arrival at Project HOME’s Rowan Homes, Crystal has certainly done all that she can to take charge of her future. She has cut drugs and alcohol out of her life, and she is proudly fifteen years sober. “I thank God that he gave me the opportunity to be a resident at Project HOME,” she says.
Crystal appreciates all that Project HOME had to offer her: her job at the weekly Farmer's Market, parenting classes, education for her children. But most of all she is thankful for the people who gave her the love and support she needed to get back on track. She speculates that she would not be where she is today without the motivation of her strong-willed case manager at Rowan Homes, Shirley Hale. “At first I said, why did they give me Shirley? She was so tough… But now I know if they give you a weak case manager, they’ll make you weak. You get somebody strong who will give you the support and who will push you and put their foot down. They are the ones who will make you say, ‘No more!’ ”
Crystal also notes that while Shirley was tough on her, she was compassionate. “I have a lot of respect for her and the program. She gives her heart. She gives her support. She gives her love, and she gives everything she has into Project HOME. They gave me the determination and the motivation, because I didn’t want to go through it again.”
Crystal is proud of herself and her accomplishments. As much as she realizes that she could not have gotten back on her feet alone, she is aware that she was the one who had to fight to stay clean, and she was the one who had to change her behavior. “I’ve had my ups and downs,” she states. “It’s so hard to overcome that drink, that addiction. You’ve got to make a step too. Some people go into there, Project HOME, thinking the work will be done for you, but you have to help yourself.”
And Crystal has. After working hard with Project HOME for nine years, she is finally living an independent lifestyle. She now has a place of her own, and she proudly asserts that her bills are paid on time. In addition, Crystal is on her way to finally earning her GED. When she was thirteen she worked at a senior center, and it was there she discovered her passion to help others.
“All my life that’s what I wanted to do, reach out to people who couldn’t take care of themselves.” So, once she finishes her last math test, she hopes to aid those who are in shelters struggling to get clean. What’s more, Crystal has regained custody of her two youngest daughters and can take care of them on her own. “I’m moving on and I’m taking the time to spend with my kids. Now my kids they tell me they love me. My daughter says, ‘Mom I got so much respect for you today.’ ”
“Right now” she exclaims, “I feel happy and overjoyed. I really do. My self-esteem is much higher than it was.” At this point she begins to get choked up, “I’ve been through a lot. But I feel overjoyed, because I know what path to walk, and I know what steps to take, and I’m taking it one day at a time.”