Recovered addict helping at-risk homeless women
BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — It wasn’t even 4 p.m., but the sun was well on its way down. So Teresa Scheie made sure to plug in the lights on the Christmas tree in the St. James Episcopal Church rectory to brighten the quickly dimming room.
She then cozied up on a couch in the room that helped her transform her life.
The 45-year-old has worked hard to recover from addictions that gripped her for years.
Today, she’s been more than four years clean. And Scheie uses her experiences to help others who have walked in her shoes.
But more than just her experiences, Scheie shares her Christian faith with others in hopes of helping them and continuing to help herself while she walks on her path to recovery.
“Church to me is home,” she said with a bright smile. “Home and love.”
Drug use started at an early age. Growing up in Bozeman, Scheie said the only kids she felt comfortable with were the “bad kids.”
“I always felt like a black sheep,” she said.
So she started smoking cigarettes and marijuana and drinking alcohol. Over the years, that progressed to prescription pills to heroin to meth, which she tried for the first time when she was 15.
With the drug abuse followed legal troubles — charges for writing bad checks, for obstruction and more. And most of those crimes were either because she was under the influence or trying to cover for a friend.
All told, she said she spent nearly two years in the Gallatin County jail.
It was there that Scheie reconnected with her faith.
Baptized Lutheran as a child, she attended church off and on but fell away early in her teenage years.
“I felt my soul had washed away,” she said.
But while in jail, she started attending morning devotionals with Rev. Roxanne Klingensmith of St. James. And she knew that faith was going to be more than something to pass the time while she was behind bars.
“I wasn’t just a jailhouse Christian,” she said. “I was finally giving my full faith to God in jail. I had that faithful feeling that I was being taken care of.”
After her release from jail, Scheie started attending the weekly survivors group hosted by Klingensmith at the church.
After coming to St. James twice, Scheie said she decided to follow Klingensmith’s advice.
“If I just opened my senses, I would get everything I needed right here at St. James,” she said.
For the last year, Scheie has served as the “house mom” at the Canterbury House, a transitional home that houses three at-risk homeless women at a time.
The women are often working on their own recovery and Scheie is able to mentor them as they work on finding jobs, long-term housing and whatever else they need. And it’s a role that is ideal for Scheie, who has gone from the “ultimate bottom” to success herself.
As house mom, Scheie is a mentor, a peer counselor, a resource for the women in the program.
“I enjoy the look on any woman’s face who has experienced a sense of success and accomplishment,” she said. “There’s nothing like watching that butterfly come out of the cocoon.”
And the relationship goes both ways. Scheie said some of her own recovery comes from her work with the women as well.
“They trust me. That’s beautiful,” she said.
Scheie also continues to attend the survivors group, which includes other recovering addicts. She said the goal of the group is to show each other it’s OK to lean on one another, and to get advice from those in similar situations.
Like with the women at the Canterbury House, Scheie enjoys seeing the progress and accomplishments of the group.
“I do it for so many reasons,” she said. “I do it for the greater good. What would Jesus do?”
And Scheie lives in the rectory of St. James where she helps host homeless families who stay some nights as part of programming through Family Promise.
“The families are quite awesome,” Scheie said, gushing about the cute kids and their parents who she said are wonderful to be around.
Scheie is currently going to school online to become a medical billing and coding transcription specialist. She will finish school this year and looks forward to starting her career.
Klingensmith, who has known Scheie for the last four years, sang her praises.
“She’s a hero. Plain and simple,” Klingensmith said.
Klingensmith has walked alongside Scheie throughout her recovery and watched her “completely turn her life around.”
“She lives out the power of vigilant recovery,” Klingensmith said. “She has a very strong faith in the Lord...She so appreciates the joy and the peace that her walk with the Lord has brought her.
“Those struggling with addiction often find themselves drawn to her — someone who has been there and will speak a forceful truth to ‘getting clean.’
“I have worked with addicts for over 10 years; Teresa is the best reason I continue to work with this special group of people,” Klingensmith said.
Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com