Renee Banton was a familiar face in the New Directions accounting office before moving her way up to being the Women’s House Program Supervisor. Although many people know that Renee is a graduate of NDI’s Women’s Program, few would have guessed that Renee spent a decade on Skid Row, suffering from addictions to alcohol and cocaine.
Today, Renee not only works full time at New Directions, she has recently earned a Master’s degree in psychology. Once she becomes licensed as a clinician, Renee plans to use her education and experiences to help others recover from substance abuse.
A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Renee began her foray into heavy drug use shortly after leaving the military.
“It wasn’t until I got out of the service until I knew what crack cocaine was,” says Renee.
After being stationed in New Hampshire, where she had lived with her husband and two young sons, Renee returned to California alone, uprooted from a life of family and routine. She held accounting jobs, and even took care of her elderly grandmother, but the lure of drugs soon got the better of her.
“I began to see my behavior change,” Renee says about her relationship with cocaine. What started out as infrequent “recreational” drug use became a daily habit. “By 1990, it was hard to hold onto a job,” she says.
Renee began a cycle of sporadic employment, working short stints when she needed money for drugs and alcohol. Finally, she lost all interest in going to work, and resigned herself to life on the streets.
“I really believed that God had put me on earth to be an addict,” she says.
It was only after Renee began having thoughts of suicide that she realized she needed to get help. She sought counseling at the VA, and they referred her to New Directions. On Mother’s Day, 2003, Renee entered NDI’s Women’s Program, and began working on her recovery.
“To me, being at New Directions was like being in school,” says Renee. “I learned a lot about myself. Once I understood the fact that I had a disease, it all made sense.”
Renee learned how to treat her disease, and in the process she discovered a deeper self.
“I fell in love with the process of recovery – and I decided that I wanted to help others.”
Not only has Renee discovered a new calling in life, the recovery process has allowed her to repair relationships and reconnect with her family. Today, Renee is able to be there for her sons (who are now grown and live in Atlanta) and she maintains close ties to her parents. She claims that none of this would be possible without her experience at New Directions.
“They provided me with information to save my life,” she says. “New Directions gave me an opportunity to be everything that I am today.”