TROSA graduates celebrate two years sober
On Sunday afternoon, 19 people looked back at the past two years of their lives and smiled.
About 400 friends, family members and former graduates gathered in Durham to help celebrate the milestone of two years of sobriety and the graduation ceremony that accompanies it.
Thanks to Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers (TROSA), the graduates now have vocational training and hope for the future.
“I’m feeling very confident in myself,” said Thomas Kee, one of the 19 graduates. “It’s a good feeling knowing I’ve accomplished something that means so much to me.”
He rattled off a list of skills he learned during his two years as a TROSA resident: he worked as a supervisor in a medical clinic, learning supervisory and people skills; he made sure all resident paperwork was processed correctly; he obtained his commercial driver license.
Kee participated in one of many job options offered at TROSA, including lawn care, custom framing and a moving company.
He also met friends along the way and said he plans to continue building those relationships. Because participants in the program are different ages and come from different backgrounds, he said, “you realize people are individuals. Everybody has their own story.”
Kee calls his time as a resident “the TROSA experience.”
“It’s not something you can put in words; it’s something you have to feel,” he said.
At the 21-month mark of the program, residents can decide to either stay at TROSA or leave the campus and get a job in the community, although TROSA is still there to provide support.
For Kee, the decision was clear. He moved to Charlotte to be with his daughter, who will give birth to Kee’s first grandchild next month. He plans to use his TROSA training “as a catalyst to push me forward.”
Angela Warren, a May graduate, chose to stay at TROSA to study medical office administration.
“TROSA has been an astounding program that helped me find my way back to myself,” Warren said. “They believed in me so I could believe in myself.”
She said she chose TROSA because she had heard it was a long, intensive program with the kind of structure she needed.
Warren hopes to one day become a TROSA staff member. TROSA’s staff is made up of about 50 people, and about half are program graduates.
Elisha Gahagan, who graduated in August 2012, is one of those staff members. She is now assistant to Kevin McDonald, TROSA’s founder. She says her work is rewarding, and she’s thankful to TROSA for allowing her to rebuild her relationships with her children, who are now 11 and 12.
Carolyn Montgomery voiced similar sentiments. She graduated in 2002 and now lives in her native South Carolina but travels back to Durham for many of the graduations.
“I know I was wrong, but my kids always stuck by me,” she said. “I know I messed up, but I done good on my kids.” She now has 12 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“I said, ‘Enough is enough,’” Montgomery said of her decision to come to TROSA. “I’m not going to prison. Find me a place.”
That simple call for help prompted her probation officer and her counselor to set her up with TROSA.
“Anyone who wants to change their life and meets certain criteria can come in,” said Jeff Stern, TROSA’s director of special projects.
Both recent and former graduates show that with determination, those changes can be made.
“I thank God for coming here. I really do,” Montgomery said.
Warren agreed. “TROSA rocks,” she said. “It’s just an awesome, awesome program.”