For more than two decades, Angela “Angie” Valdivia struggled with substance use disorder, but soon she will be recognizing an incredible milestone — one year in recovery.
She attributes a significant factor in her success to the support she received through Blue Water Recovery and Outreach Center (BWROC) which empowered her and taught her the tools to create a new path.
“The people that they have at BWROC, employed or volunteering, they not only project a life of recovery, but they live a life of recovery,” Angie said. “They’re not just telling you to do something, they’re actually doing it themselves.”
BWROC is a nonprofit recovery community organization (RCO) based in Port Huron, Michigan that was established in September 2017. While it’s not a treatment provider, BWROC is a peer-driven organization led by people in recovery and offers non-clinical support and coaching to people who are struggling with addiction.
Angie first came to Michigan in 1983 when she was two years old. She and her mother lived in Casco Township for several years before her parents remarried and they moved back to southern California. Angie developed a talent for dance and as a student at a performing arts high school, she was involved in a wide range of sports and extracurricular activities with a bright future ahead of her.
“My parents had high hopes for me and I had very high hopes for myself,” Angie said. “I graduated with a 3.3 GPA, was going off to college, and had placed fifth in the nation for dance in 1997. I was Miss Temple City for two years, had my certificate to teach professional dance before I even graduated high school … I just excelled.”
The pressure for the 18-year-old athlete to stay fit was immense. One of her friends who was also a dancer acquired crystal methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth, for them to try under the impression that it would help them lose weight.
“I never thought that I would go down this path,” she said. “I was going to school, still doing all my activities like volunteering for the church, and thinking that this isn’t a big deal because I was never educated about what I was actually doing to myself.”
The experiment sparked a decades-long on-and-off struggle with addiction for Angie who also had periods of difficulty with pills, alcohol, and crack cocaine over the years. Today, both she and her friend are in recovery.
“Looking back, I wasn’t overweight, I was extremely fit,” Angie said. “It was ridiculous … we were so naive to what we were actually putting into ourselves not realizing at the end that it was going to, honestly, almost cost us our lives.”
Angie moved back to Michigan following a traumatic event in 2010 and after several more years of struggling with addiction, Angie found the support she needed at BWROC. There, she met Barbara “Barb” Landry, a Certified Peer Recovery Coach (CPRC) with BWROC who Angie worked closely with from day one.
“As soon as I walked in, she gave me this big ole hug,” Angie said. “She has so much love. She understands and she’ll meet you where you’re at. She’s not going to tell you what to do because it’s your recovery, it’s your journey, but while she might not like what you’re doing, she will absolutely let you know in the most non-subtle, loving, and nonjudgmental way.”
An early step in BWROC’s work with people like Angie who are seeking help with recovery is to establish goals around topics such as emotional health, recovery, spiritual health, living accommodations, employment, education, and physical health.
“We help them realize things are not anywhere near as bad as we make them out to be in our catastrophe of the mind in early recovery because everything is super dramatic,” Landry said. “We’re feeling things for the first time, so something that would just slightly annoy you is going to rock their whole world. Our brains were programmed to go drink about it, go use, we don’t want to feel this anymore.” And all the goals Angie made when she first came to BWROC nearly a year ago, she has since accomplished.
“She’s really self-driven and once her mind got clear and she got out of that addiction fog and away from toxic people that come along with that, she just bloomed and it is absolutely beautiful,” Landry said. “She’s excited about life, she is driven, her heart is in the right place, and I think she’s going to do amazing things. A lot of us really do have a lot to offer, but we were just really broken. Now that you can see that she believes in herself again, she’s unstoppable.”
Joey Wright, BWROC Recovery Support Specialist and Outreach Coordinator, has been another avid supporter for Angie during her recovery journey. She says she is proud to see Angie thrive and that it helps to keep her motivated as well.
“She is so driven, she has dreams and she’s going after them,” Joey said. “She wants to open a nonprofit organization for teens and it’s just awe-inspiring, it really is, and it makes me want to do more.”
Today, Angie works as a utility for Plastic Dress-Up Service in Port Huron and is also in the process of establishing Cornerstone Recovery Group, a nonprofit whose work aligns with that of BWROC and focuses on preventative support for youth in St. Clair County. She says her three teenage children — Sarah, David, and Joseph whom she co-parents with her ex-husband Jose — motivated her to not only do better for them but to help other youth who are facing a range of anxieties in today’s society.
“Traumatic events that happen to us, happen to them as well and they’re absorbing because they’re sponges,” said Angie, co-founder and executive director of the organization. “Now, they’re growing up to be adults where the time is going to come where someone’s going to offer them the same offer that was given to us saying ‘Here, this will make it go away.’ So I want to help teach the tools to have healthy boundaries and help them live a life of integrity and purpose in the life of recovery without having to become an addict.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, learn more about what you can do by contacting the Blue Water Recovery and Outreach Center at (810) 689-4858 or firstname.lastname@example.org.