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AN EXTRAORDINARY STORY OF SURVIVAL, RESILIENCE, AND HOPE

November, 2011

On a crisp blue early January morning, Sheri G. sat on the railing just outside her boyfriend's fifth-story apartment, her feet dangling over the street beneath her.

SheriAlienated, angry, and depressed, she’d done drugs most of the night, and a day after escaping yet another recovery program. She pleaded to no one around, "Why can't I stop doing this?" Whether a cry for help or an act of spite, she scooted forward… just inches… out into the cool mid-morning air.

And 50 feet down.

Few people survive a three-story fall, let alone a five-story plunge. Sheri shattered her ankle, fractured her back, ruptured her spleen, and lacerated her liver.

Miraculously, she lived. Even more miraculous is what she's done since, overcoming her addiction and the mental illness that fed it. Sheri suffered what was diagnosed as bipolar affective disorder.

Sheri’s father was a truck driver, her mother a homemaker. Her older brother excelled at sports. Her elder sister wore a homecoming queen's crown. But at the young age of 11, Sheri started cutting herself, using self-torture to sedate her already emerging inner demons.

At 14, her parents divorced. Not long after, her grandfather died. Her father became despondent. Sheri "self destructed."

In junior high, she started drinking. In high school, she began using hard drugs. She dropped out, seeking drugs even at the cost of selling herself. For a time, she lived in her Ford LTD. At one point, she weighed only 98 pounds. She eventually landed in prison for two years.

Despite her seemingly bleak situation, Sheri earned her GED while in prison. She won a "Spark Plug Award" from her fellow inmates for being optimistic and the one among them who always seemed so willing to help. She emerged from prison with hopes of turning her life around in the outside world.

But those hopes dimmed, and quickly. She worked, but had trouble keeping a job. With her mental state on a perpetual roller coaster, she filed 10 W-2s with the IRS in one year alone. Over time, she was in and out of 22 different recovery programs. She was, as she described herself, "a time-bomb ticking."

Finally, during one holiday season, her employer sent her to a 30-day inpatient recovery program. In early January, she wound up in mental lockdown. She escaped, relapsed into drugs within hours, and sought refuge with her boyfriend. While he was in the shower, she went to—and then over—the railing.

She woke up in intensive care to discover her father crying at her bedside, a faint awareness she was loved, and a feeling that things were going to be fine.

Her survival may have been astounding, but her recovery wasn't. She spent a month in intensive care and the next six on her back. She underwent four surgeries. She managed a series of part-time jobs but chronic pain kept her from working much.

Now, years later, thanks in part to Caminar, the 49-year-old owns a hopeful future instead of a troubled past. In 2005, she attended Caminar's Transition to College program. There, she met Jobs Plus program director Michael Schocket, who saw in Sheri someone who was eager, intelligent and, most of all, who had lived the experiences of so many Caminar clients.

Sheri is now an employee of Caminar’s Jobs Plus employment program, helping individuals get established in new jobs even though, once upon time, she couldn't keep one of her own. She meets with each of her clients at least four hours a week, to make sure they understand their duties, their schedules, and the life skills it takes to make it in the workplace.

One client with a severe stutter and learning disabilities had trouble looking people in the eye. Sheri spent time coaching her how to make personal contact. Today the 21-year-old is a courtesy clerk training to become a cashier.

Despite her desperate leap into oblivion, Sheri has become a testament to the human capacity to overcome adversity. She’s enormously grateful to all those who helped her along—like Caminar—and she’s focused her energies on helping others turn the corner as she did.

You, too, can contribute to rebuilding lives, by giving generously to support Caminar. People like Sheri will be forever thankful.

Watch video on Sheri's story