Pushing aside the anger - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Pushing aside the anger

Darleen Haff was sixth woman admitted to UGM program in Cd'A

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Posted: Saturday, February 2, 2013 12:00 am

COEUR d'ALENE - Darleen Haff first kicked her drug habit by replacing cocaine with alcohol.

That was in Florida, the state she fled after her mother died.

She landed in Coeur d'Alene, to live with a relative, who eventually kicked her out.

"I didn't know where I was," Haff said Friday. "I was walking the streets of Coeur d'Alene."

She was still drinking, and each can or glass slipped her further into depression. It didn't take away the anger that had built up.

"I could hear my mom go, 'Really? Do you really need that drink?'" Haff remembered.

She decided, in unfamiliar Coeur d'Alene, she needed help.

"You're right," she wanted to tell her mom. "I don't need it."

Homeless, she went to St. Vincent de Paul. Alone, she went to church. She was still angry, but she wanted to explore God. Why did He do what he did? Abuse. Dependence. Pain. God?

"I still had that anger in me," she said. "But it was something I was willing to push aside to get to know what else I could do. Because being angry - I've been angry all my life - that's something that hasn't worked out for me."

Getting off the street, seeking help, is how she heard about the Union Gospel Mission's women and children center, which officially opened its doors in early September after years of planning.

Haff was the sixth woman admitted.

She kept her guard up. Walls, she called them. It was hard to trust.

The UGM has three rules, according to Debi Pauletto, UGM community relations director. They don't like to call them rules even - guidelines, criteria.

You can't hurt anyone. No lying, cheating or stealing and no addictions.

Everyone who can follow that is welcome, Pauletto said.

"We don't screen them," she said of perspective new residents. "They screen us."

But UGM will help women like Haff who enter the 2-year, faith based recovery facility by surrounding them with a positive environment and support system, offering classes and exercises that revolve around self-reflection.

Over two years, it will build a new foundation.

It disengages residents from an environment of self-doubt and disrespect - common among new arrivals - and replaces it with education, prayer and reflective thought.

Walls, Haff called the old environments.

But when she arrived after the September opening - there were only five before her - she was still angry.

"Those walls definitely came down," she said. "I'm four months in and I feel like I've done two years already."

She still has a ways to go, she admitted.

Around the corner sits a liquor store and she doesn't trust herself yet to go walk by.

She would rather read her Bible, inside. But in about 18 months she will be among the students in UGM's first graduating Coeur d'Alene class. The $8.5 million facility, funded through private donations and with the help of a $1.8 million tax credit, is the first in North Idaho for the Spokane-based organization. It houses 30 women now, and seven children. Its capacity will fill out at 100 people in the future.

"I love to see new women as angry as I was," Haff said, of the new residents, as the center is starting to fill. "I see it clear as day. I say, 'I know exactly where you're coming from ..."

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