1994 was a transformative year for Vanessa Thompson. She was 30 years old and often felt defeated. Thompson found herself in a rough position; much of it admittedly was the result of her own actions. Thompson was on drugs at the time. There was even a point in time where she chose dope over her own children and family. [At that time] “I felt like I wanted to die” said Thompson.
In the midst of her darkest hour, Thompson vividly remembers one particular night where she made a special prayer. In that prayer, she asked for her drug addiction to subside and for it to cease to exist altogether. Thompson scoured through the phonebook desperately looking for help. Then she came across The Salvation Army.
In the summer of 1994, Thompson started treatment at The Salvation Army. Slowly but surely, Thompson began to see her life changing in a positive way. As her drug treatment continued, Thompson began to enjoy the time spent with her counselors so much that she considered becoming one herself. Thompson started volunteering in the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) by sharing her experiences through poems, singing and other creative ways to encourage others going through tough times. “After I finished my own program, I just wanted to continue being in the positive environment at the Salvation Army” said Thompson. Thompson volunteered for seven years after completing her own treatment program.
In 2004, Thompson got a call to work for the Salvation Army. She eagerly accepted the offer and has been with the Salvation Army ever since. Now Thompson has worked her way up to the title of IOP coordinator. “This is my passion. I love giving people hope. It gave me something to do other than drugs everyday” said Thompson.
Proudly displayed on Thompson’s Salvation Army office wall, hangs her Associates, Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees along with certifications. But of all her accomplishments, Thompson’s IOP completion certificate she received in 1995 is her proudest accolade. “It represents a beginning because before then I wanted to die” said Thompson. Thompson admits earning her degrees wasn’t easy, but a resilient spirit is what encouraged her to keep pushing forward.
Today Thompson is very much involved with current clients coming through the Salvation Army doors looking for hope. She doesn’t hesitate to share her struggles from the early 90s with newer clients in an effort to forge a bond with them. “I still struggle even at 21 years clean, but I have a faster way to my solution” said Thompson and candor like that is what she hopes gets through to clients seeking help.
Personally, Thompson now has a great relationship with her family. She recalls as a little girl in the first grade she envisioned herself having a daughter, a son and a dog by age thirty. But life takes us through many twists and turns, some of it unexpected, before we reach our final destination. Thompson’s no exception, but her twist and turn have now become her passion – helping others recover.
Thompson offers this word of advice to people struggling to turn their lives around similar to her own experience two decades ago. “If you find yourself in need of help, find a treatment facility. Grasp the key of gratitude; it helps you stay focused on the positive. Know that you’re not alone, it’s what helped me get over the hump to success” said Thompson.