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After Surviving 8 Years Living on SF Streets, North Bay Woman Now Helps Others Recover From Trauma

Understandably, Lisa Marie Riley still remembers many of the details about the night her life diverted from one of misery to one of purpose.

She remembers the time (four years ago), the place (San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood), and she even remembers the weather (rain).

“There was a weather advisory,” Lisa Marie said. “I knew I shouldn’t have been out in that weather, but I didn’t care.”

There was, in all honesty, a lot Lisa Marie didn’t care about. Battles with abuse and addiction had led to Lisa Marie living on the streets in San Francisco. By the time that storm arrived, she had been there for eight years. Lisa Marie had been seriously considering ending her life.

"I was a shell of myself. I lost the essence of who I really was and at that point, I no longer knew myself as myself. I was just empty running on E,” said Lisa Marie.

Realizing that she was never going to be capable of fixing her life, Lisa Marie turned to a higher power to help.

“I asked God to help me and to save me from myself and to save me from this misery," she said.

What followed were four years of hard work in drug court and recovery programs. The work paid off. Lisa Marie began to put her life back together, staying sober and reconnecting with her family. When she eventually found herself living in a sober living environment, Lisa Marie began to befriend others recovering from trauma and helping them along the path she had so recently walked.

What Lisa Marie didn’t realize at the time is that she was engaged in job training.

“I was doing it without noticing that that's what I was doing," she said. "I was just doing it because I thought I would be a good friend and do those things."

A friend then told her she would be perfect for the position of peer counselor at Carmelita Women’s House in Marin County. A partnership between Catholic Charities of San Francisco and the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services, the home provides eight women with a supportive home and services. Their newest program is centered around the treatment of trauma through holistic healing experiences for their residents.

Lisa Marie helps the residents with, “spiritual stuff, with going to meetings and helping them with their hair, and showing them fashion, cooking.”

In essence, Lisa Marie sees herself as a “professional friend.”

Helping other women achieve a similar success story as her own has become Lisa Marie’s life purpose.

“My mission in life is to now help other people that have gone where I've gone and have been where I've been and know that it's OK and there is a different way,” said Lisa Marie.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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