ARC grad gives back after program ‘found her’

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By Patty Zamora – 

Last November, Shannon Brown-Cervantes was addicted to alcohol and was housing many of her family members. When her niece told her she and her boyfriend were moving in as well, it pushed her over the edge. That night she had already drunk five boxes of wine, and during the screaming match, she grabbed a cast iron skillet and threw it, meaning to hit the wall. 

She missed and instead hit her 13-year-old daughter. Her husband called the police. Because Brown-Cervantes was on probation for a third DUI, she had to spend 90 days in jail. “I went from hero to zero overnight,” she said. 

While she was at the Las Colinas Detention Center, Norman McKenzie, a former beneficiary of The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC), visited Brown-Cervantes and told her about The Salvation Army’s rehab program, which she didn’t know about. She decided to give it a try. 

“I was a monster I didn’t recognize anymore. I lost who I was,” Brown-Cervantes said. 

When she was picked up from Las Colinas on Jan. 29, 2018, and brought to the rehab facility, the first thing the counselor asked was, “Why are you here?” Brown-Cervantes tearfully replied, “I need help. I can’t do it by myself.” 

Through the program, Brown-Cervantes went to counseling, work therapy, attended church services and accounted for her faults. She took personal inventory of herself, which was not easy. It took her two-and-a-half months before she made a breakthrough at a women’s retreat.

“I was supposed to go ziplining with some girls, but I wanted to go to the chapel,” she said. “Something drew me in. A ray came down on me and gave me warmth.” She poured her feelings out in a notebook and finally purged everything she had been feeling. 

Brown-Cervantes also realized the role that watching family members turn to alcohol and drugs throughout her childhood played in her addiction.

Brown-Cervantes particularly credits San Diego ARC Administrator for Program Major Iva West for helping her become accountable. “Major Iva is good at making me answer questions honestly,” she said. “I have no doubts that if The Salvation Army had not found me, I would have died in my addiction and I would have been alone.”

Brown-Cervantes has now been sober for a year, and remains married to her husband of 17 years. She is a full-time employee for The Salvation Army in the ARC’s brick-and-brac department, sorting and pricing items that are sold in the Family Stores. 

“I love The Salvation Army. I really do. It’s an amazing program. The guidance they give you, the support they give you—they make sure you find a sponsor and go to the meetings,” Brown-Cervantes said. “They want you to dig deep inside and find the root causes of what got you here in the first place. I didn’t know about the program. It found me. I was lucky.”

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