Once a week in Nashville, Dorothy brews a pot of coffee and then opens the weekly meeting of a small support group by reading aloud the “Serenity Prayer”:
“God, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Few people besides Dorothy have ever struggled so mightily to receive that blessing, and none is more qualified to share it with others.
For most of her life, Dorothy lived in Hohenwald, the small Tennessee town where she grew up. Her father worked in construction, and her mother had a manufacturing job. At a young age, Dorothy landed a good position stitching boots in a local shoe factory. She got married and had children, but ended up raising her two sons on her own. For the most part, she was content.
“I had a home, two cars, kids — everything was the way life is supposed to be,” she recalls.
Then, in 1994, the shoe factory closed. Dorothy was 46, and her world came apart at the seams.
“I was devastated and didn’t know what to do,” she says. “My life started going downhill completely.”
Deprived of a job and the company of her former co-workers, many of whom were lifelong friends, Dorothy slid into alcoholism and drug abuse. She went to Nashville seeking help but ended up living on its streets. She fell out of touch with her family and began a nightmarish period of occasional homelessness, run-ins with the law and failed attempts at addiction treatment that dragged on for more than a decade.
In 2008, Dorothy decided to make a change.
“I just got to the point where I couldn’t stand it any more,” she says.
Dorothy entered long-term residential treatment and over the course of several years began to emerge from the ravages of addiction. She found a part-time job in a cafeteria but struggled to land a full-time position because of her age and background. Other residents of the treatment facility who had found jobs with Goodwill recommended Dorothy give it a shot.
She visited the Goodwill Career Solutions center in Madison and was placed into a paid training program as a donations processor at Goodwill’s downtown warehouse. Soon, she was hired on full-time as a garment tagger — a position she has now held for five years.
Dorothy’s job has helped her to stay sober and on track. At age 64, she once again has a place to live and a car. More importantly, she has re-established a relationship with her sons and their four children.
“Goodwill is my safe haven. They gave me a job when I couldn’t get one anywhere else,” she said. “Everything in my life is going back up. It will never be like it was … but it’s better.”
One measure of Dorothy’s recovery is that she now helps others who struggle with addiction. By sharing leadership duties for the weekly support group meetings, listening thoughtfully to participants and sharing her own story, Dorothy changes lives.
“She’s always there for us, and she’s always concerned and committed,” said one member of the support group, who wished to remain anonymous. “She is one of the most genuine people I have ever known. Dorothy has definitely had an impact.”
— By Chris Fletcher
Prior to joining Goodwill as its PR & Communications Manager in 2014, Fletcher was a professional journalist for
more than 25 years working at media outlets in three states, including the Associated Press.