Giving women control over their own lives


Become Empowered is a non-profit organisation that believes in helping women chart their own recovery at their own pace. Photo: Pixabay

Angela Gilgallon has sought to create a space from women who are in recovery that was as unique as each woman's journey.

Through her own experience and work as a certified recovery specialist, Gilgallon noticed a regional gap in resources specifically for women in recovery. She went on to found Become Empowered as a way to help women overcome addiction through peer-to-peer counselling and connections with resources, employment services and more.

The state just approved the organisation as a nonprofit, and Become Empowered is awaiting tax-exempt status from the IRS. In the meantime, it has acquired space approved for transitional housing for women in recovery to help them get back on their feet and take back control of their lives.

The biggest mission for Become Empowered is to give each woman control to map out her own recovery journey and what that means to her, Gilgallon said. She noted that when people hear the word "recovery," most have an idea of what that means. A few years ago, however, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration began to define recovery as "a process of change through which people improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life and strive to reach their full potential."

The multi-faceted word can include all physical, mental and emotional challenges.

Different roads

Gilgallon believes people should treat the road to recovery this way, too.

"Everyone is uniquely different, and what recovery looks like to one person may not look the same to another," she said. "We're all in recovery from something if you think about – substances, people, situations. You should define your own recovery. It's your journey."

Inherent differences between men and women as far as addiction is concerned exist as well. And there's more of a stigma placed on women who use substances, especially mothers, Gilgallon said.

"I felt we needed a place that was specifically designed to help women in recovery thrive," she said.

Gilgallon became a certified recovery specialist four years ago through a grant from the local Community Care Behavioral Health Organisation. During that time, she found the all-inclusive approach to recovery refreshing. Each person could define his or her recovery through personal growth, Gilgallon said. For instance, while someone may set a goal to go back to school, another's person's idea of recovery could just mean stability, like holding down a job for a consistent period. Neither goal means more than the other.

"I thought I would love to offer peer-to-peer support and more that would focus on educating, engaging and empowering and really just meeting that person where they're at," she said.

Become Empowered will offer peer-to-peer support, including counselling and small group sessions, and the transitional housing space gives women in recovery a place to live while readjusting to life. Photo: PixabayBecome Empowered will offer peer-to-peer support, including counselling and small group sessions, and the transitional housing space gives women in recovery a place to live while readjusting to life. Photo: Pixabay

Role model

Gilgallon also was inspired to start Become Empowered through her role as chief executive officer of Turning Point Alternative Living Solutions. The state-licensed Scranton outpatient facility offers counseling focusing on chemical dependency, anger management, gambling and family issues. One of TPALS's cornerstones is that each client should have an individualised treatment experience.

Gilgallon has been on her own recovery journey for the past 16 years, and the CRSs at Become Empowered will be others who have fought addiction.

"This way, the client knows (we're) not looking at them with any judgment, because we've been down the same road," Gilgallon said.

Elle Massetti has been friends with Gilgallon for the past 12 years. As a woman on her own recovery journey and as a CRS and addictions counselor at TPALS, Massetti jumped at the opportunity to help with Become Empowered. During her time at TPALS, Massetti has watched the all-inclusive approach to dealing with addiction help those in recovery find success. It's especially beneficial to people working on sobriety for the second time around, as they're now defining their own paths.

"There are so many women who may feel discouraged that recovery can only be one thing or look one way, but it's so personal to you," Massetti said. "It's empowering to take back your own life and to know that you can create what recovery will look like for you."

The big picture

Defining one's own recovery also can help clients focus beyond their addiction but look at the whole picture. After a setback during her own journey years ago, Gilgallon knew it was a lesson to learn but not the end of the world – she wouldn't need to abandon all the work she had done. Many others can't look past their mistakes to feel worthy of recovery, though, and that's part of what Gilgallon hopes to inspire through Become Empowered.

"Had I not had those tools that taught me that I had the power to overcome, I don't think I would have been able to have that positive mindset," she said. "I remember taking it in stride and realising, 'Life happens, and I can only control how I react to it.'"

Become Empowered will offer peer-to-peer support, including counseling and small group sessions, and the transitional housing space for women in recovery will give them a place to live while readjusting to life. The housing will be paramount to clients' success, Gilgallon said, noting that transitional housing also helps hold those in recovery accountable without placing any burden on their families.

While family support is important in some people's recovery process, she said, returning people in recovery to their families too soon can create stress. Transitional housing gives everyone a safe environment where they can heal themselves, Gilgallon added.

Though Become Empowered is in its early stages, the support already has blown away Gilgallon. She pointed out that its board of directors includes strong community members with prominent jobs and military backgrounds. She hopes it will fill a much-needed gap for local women in recovery.

"I'm so excited to be able to offer something like this for the women in this community," Gilgallon said. "My heart is with the women." – The Times-Tribune, Scranton/Tribune News Service

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