A calling to come home

Rena-Wade-Positive-Directions-Equals-Change, A calling to come home, Culture Currents
The beautiful Rena Wade is a case manager at San Francisco’s No Violence Alliance. She returned home from patterns of addiction and hardship around 13 years ago and now finds joy in helping others get the support they need in the recovery process. – Photo: Positive Directions Equals Change

by Rena Wade, Positive Directions Equals Change

Children who had a parent struggling with substance use disorders were more likely to remain in foster care longer and had lower reunification rates than their peers whose parents did not have a current substance use problem. Parents who sought treatment for substance use disorders are often unable to find programs that addressed the twin struggles of both parenting and recovery, as most programs require they complete treatment outside their home and without their children in tow. 

These challenges created barriers to accessing and completing treatment, increasing the likelihood of child welfare interventions and removals and negating the motivation that parenting could provide in the recovery process. 

After searching for the right program, eventually Rena Wade found two that provided substance use treatment, individual and group psychotherapy, parent-child support and developmental guidance, comprehensive case management and peer support. She found the No Violence Alliance (NoVA), partners with the Sheriff’s Department and other organizations to provide reentry services and intensive case management for offenders in San Francisco. 

NoVA’s case management includes violence prevention services, family reunification, employment skills, housing, transportation, substance abuse treatment and medical services. Positive Directions Equals Change is a culturally responsive, peer-led, abstinence-based, therapeutic teaching community (TTC) and transitional housing program. 

The mutual self-help community has a recovery orientation, focusing on whole-person care and overall lifestyle changes, not simply abstinence from drug use. These programs were a life saver for Rena.

Her father was an alcoholic, her mother a drug addict and at age 7, Wade was taken from her parents and placed in foster care.

Wade, 46, who now works as a NoVA case manager, had a rough upbringing. Her father was an alcoholic, her mother a drug addict. At age 7, Wade was taken from her parents and placed in foster care. She lived in foster care and group homes until she turned 18. She dropped out of school in sixth grade and first tried alcohol and marijuana when she was only 12 years old. 

Wade moved on to crack cocaine when she was 24. Before Wade decided to change the trajectory her life was on, she had been arrested up to 17 times on charges such as writing bad checks, possession and sale of narcotics, robbery and battery. The last time she was incarcerated, she was sentenced to three years.

About 13 years ago, Wade was determined to turn her life around. She also attended and graduated from the Women’s Recovery Association in San Mateo County, which is now a part of HealthRight 360. “I had to do 60 days inside the jail in the program, then 30 days in residential,” she said. 

“My whole way of thinking about life changed.” She then became a NoVA client. “That’s when the ball really started rolling,” she said. “Being in NoVA helped me. I became gainfully employed while at NoVA. Cedric Akbar, the person who is my boss now, played a big part in the change. Cedric and case manager Calvin Johnson planted the seed by helping me get back in school, helping me with money management and supporting me in groups and classes.”

Positive-Directions-Equals-Change-Zoom-Recovery-Network-meetings-November-2021, A calling to come home, Culture Currents
PDEC’s Zoom Recovery Network meetings for November 2021 – all are welcome! 

“It’s rewarding because I really like helping other people,” she said. “The best part is when I see people able to accomplish their goals. That’s where the real reward comes in.” Wade has three daughters and two sons, ranging in age from 22 to 30 years old, and six grandchildren. Recently, she lovingly reunited with one of her sons, who is in the military. 

“The message I give them is that they can grow up to be productive and have anything they want in life,” she said. “And, as for any obstacles, they can get through it.”

If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorder issues, please give us a call. Positive Directions Equals Change, a community-based organization in the Bayview, offers classes and support groups each day of the week. 

If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at 415-401-0199 or email our team at recoverycorner@pd4life.org. The schedule is below and all are welcome.

Rena Wade was born in San Francisco, Calif., in 1975. After being abandoned by both parents, she became a ward of the state in and out of foster care homes. Her transformative and heroic journey from trauma to triumph speaks truth to power. She is the recipient of the In the Trenches Award for community service. Rena is a leader in the recovery community with a calling to help others overcome their substance abuse.