McCrabb: Extreme makeover mom of 5 ‘not perfect by any means’

Arlene Williams became detoured by drugs and her addiction was her Atlas.

She wanted to quit using, she honestly did, but each attempt ended with heroin up her nose.

“When you have a problem like that, you do it once and it just…it’s like a snowfall,” Williams said. “You think, ‘Oh just one more time.’ One more time never comes.”

But for Williams, thankfully, there was a last time, at least for the past six years.

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On a summer night in 2012, Williams was at a friend’s house and heroin was available. She was experiencing “a rough time” with relationships and she felt isolated. She dialed up heroin, her best friend.

“Lots of bad choices that took me to a place I didn’t want to be,” she said.

So as she had done countless times, Williams snorted heroin, but this time, she collapsed on the floor.

What could have been the last chapter in her obituary became the opening sentence in her new life. The 35-year-old decided she was done. She was tired of being high, depending on her next fix to get her through what she called “the bad times.”

No more crutches, she decided after that night.

“That was enough,” she said of her near-death experience. “It was a huge reality check.”

Then she added: “That was God telling me to get my life together.”

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Those who knew that Arlene Williams probably wouldn’t recognize Arlene Williams today.

Williams checked herself into the Hope House Women’s Center in 2012, and told Melissa Schwarber, the executive director at the time, “I need help.”

When asked to describe her heroin addiction, Williams said: “It’s a sad life to live. You still care, but you’re so numb you are only worried about your next high. You just lose track of the important things.”

Or the important people, like your children.

“I didn’t want it anymore,” she said of the heroin high. “I hit my rock bottom and it scared me and I said, ‘I’m over wanting this. I don’t want this for me and I don’t want this for my kids.’”

For six months, Williams enrolled in every class and treatment program offered at the women’s center. She erased her list of influential friends — especially those who shared her addiction — and started over.

She now lives in a Middletown home with three of her five children and the biological father of one child. She also works full-time, averaging more than 50 hours a week, at Spinning Fork Restaurant on Verity Parkway.

When Berachah Church announced it was going to award three Middletown mothers with “Extreme Mom Makeovers” in time for Mother’s Day, Jim Lusk, a church member, former Hope House board member and chaplain at the women’s center, nominated Williams.

She was one of the three women selected and was treated to day-long pampering and shopping spree on Friday.

Lusk said when he led a weekly Bible study at the women’s center, Williams never missed.

“Quiet leader” Lusk called her. “I think the other women kind of looked up to her. They wanted guidance.”

He said Williams was “very deserving” to be recognized this Mother’s Day because her children remain her main focus, the driving force behind her every decision.

“She knows they’re gifts God has given to her,” Lusk said. “She wants to do things right and be the best mom she can. Being a single mother is quite challenging. She has lived up to the task.”

But that doesn’t mean her life is getting any easier. Because of what she called years of “bad decisions,” two of her children — a 7-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son — are in their grandmother’s custody. Williams said she rarely sees those children.

As she talked about the scenario, the pain was evident on her face, even in the dark dining room at Spinning Fork.

“Kids are the biggest victims in this,” said the 2000 Lebanon High School and Warren County Vocational Center graduate. “It’s hardest on them the most. Hopefully they learned from me.”

Eventually, if Williams avoids a relapse, she will be reunified with those two children. The Williams family will be whole again.

Until then, she’s thankful for what she has, especially on this Mother’s Day.

“I don’t consider myself perfect by any means,” she said. “I always consider myself a work in progress. There is always something you can do to improve your life. My kids know that mommy loves them. I hope what they saw me go through leads them to not want to go down that road.”

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