Rebekah Faridi is a Care Coordinator at GRIT Ridgewood, MHA’s newest residential rehabilitation services program in Springfield for young men who are 18 to 26. Among her roles, Rebekah researches and connects Ridgewood youth to community resources and helps coordinate the continuation of needed programming, which is key to a successful life in recovery, in the community.
“When you witness leadership that is all about teamwork and helping others,” Rebekah says, “you know the people pointing the way are true leaders. I see that every day at MHA.” As a U.S. Army veteran, Rebekah knows a thing or two about leadership. And as a woman living successfully in long-term recovery, she knows a thing or two about committing to a lifelong journey.
“As a teen I struggled with addiction,” Rebekah recalls. “I was hit by a car and broke my right tibia. I was given narcotic pain meds, so you may know where this story is going. When it was time to ween me off the meds, I was addicted. I was also still dealing with unresolved trauma. For the people around me, cocaine was their drug of choice and it became my drug of choice. Instead of going to a residential program for help, I chose to live on streets. I literally ran away from my problems – I hitchhiked to Mexico! I found myself in some bad situations and did whatever it took to get home to Indiana. I made it back, somehow. I’m a walking miracle.”
One day when she was 17, Rebekah drove by an Army recruiting station. She didn’t stop, but it caused her to evaluate where her life was heading. “The next day, I drove by that recruiting station again,” she remembers. “Something inside my soul pushed me to turn around, walk inside and join the U.S. Army. The following Thursday I was on a bus to Chicago and the rest is history. It saved my life.”
Rebekah says counseling was important in her military experience. “A two-week stay in a program got me counseling to stay narcotic free and get assistance with unresolved trauma. Then I trained to be an Army Chaplain Assistant and commanded the highest-ranked performances for Cadence and Singing on Post at FT Jackson, South Carolina. I was lovingly referred to as the Cadence Commander for my resounding and easily identifiable voice.”
Following three years of active duty and eleven years in the Reserves, Rebekah endeavored to give hope to others in recovery. “I have served struggling communities and populations. Recently my journey led me to MHA’s GRIT Ridgewood residential program. My job is to meet the young men we serve where they’re at, and I can do that because I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. I also know what it’s like to stay sober and stay active in recovery. It’s hard, but it’s possible. I’m proof. I’m worthy and so are these young men. It will be hard, but when they are ready to move ahead, they won’t just know it, they’ll feel it. They’ll be willing to scream from the rooftops, ‘I’m worthy! I’m good enough! I’m ready to move ahead to the next stage in my life!’ The Army helped me find strength and will I didn’t know I had. It meant the difference between giving up and rising up. This is exactly what GRIT is. It’s the start of a lifelong journey.”
It’s a journey that Rebekah herself is taking, one day at a time, as she helps others begin theirs. “I’m a religious person, ordained but non-denominational,” she says. “I believe that God determines who comes onto my path and we figure it from there. Is it a calling? I think so. I was raised to be the kind of person who has a servant’s heart. It may be scary, it may be difficult and uncomfortable, but you do it anyway. You help. That’s why I’m here.”
About MHA GRIT Ridgewood
GRIT Ridgewood is a Residential Rehabilitation Services program for young men ages 18 to 26 with a co-occurring mental health and substance use diagnosis. Of the 26 residential recovery programs in Massachusetts, Ridgewood is the only one designed specifically for this underserved population. Ridgewood is an historic home in a quiet Springfield neighborhood. Ridgewood feels like home, because for the 16 young men in the program, it is. MHA’s staff, most of whom have lived experience with addiction and mental illness, help the young men served to discover who they are, interact productively with others, and build confidence and self-esteem to live successfully, on their own terms, as members of the community they choose.