For Hannah Landers, 30, and her sons George, 4, and Oscar, 1, this Christmas will be peaceful and joyful – for the first time.
In previous years, Landers used to spend most of the holidays – and most regular days – drinking.
Thanks to Blue Monarch, she has now been sober for months.
Landers has restored relationships, created new friendships, gained professional experience, and she is looking forward to a bright future.
Blue Monarch is a residential recovery program in rural Coffee County with the stated mission “to help mothers who are struggling with addiction to find healing and to restore their lives through Christian values.”
Landers grew up in Nashville “in a privileged environment.”
“When I look back at my childhood, I remember a lot of happy times,” she said.
However, under the surface, the situation wasn’t that rosy.
“From the outside looking in, it looked like we had a lot of privilege, but there was a lot of undertones of family issues,” Landers said. “I grew up with a very unstable mom. My dad had anger problems.”
As a child, Landers was also sexually abused, and that lasted several years.
“In my teens, I started using alcohol,” she said. “I thought that was the answer to anger, anxiety – to everything.”
She barely graduated high school and enrolled in college, but “wasn’t able to do well there,” she said.
“When I became a mother, things got more serious with my alcoholism,” Landers said. “I just couldn’t put it down. And I was being enabled to an extent I had never been – I was basically rotting.”
For the last 15 years, before joining Blue Monarch, Landers had been in about 30 addiction treatment centers, but she wouldn’t stay sober for long.
However, she found a way to fight addiction through Blue Monarch.
“I had been at many rehabs,” Landers said. “And I stumbled upon Blue Monarch, which I had never heard of, and that was weird, because I knew every [rehab] place – been there and done that.”
“I called and I told them ‘I am pregnant, I have addiction, I am homeless, I have to get in,’” she said. “I, fortunately, got in.”
Landers has been at Blue Monarch since October 2017.
“When we got here, George was 2,” she said. “Oscar was born in January 2018, three months after I got here.”
George has blossomed, said Landers.
“Before, he didn’t interact a lot with other kids,” Landers said.
At Blue Monarch, George found friends.
“He experienced happiness and things he hadn’t experienced before,” Landers said. “He had been around a lot of sadness and chaos. Oscar was born here, and that’s all he knows. He is super social and gets to grow up in such a healthy environment.”
Through the program, Landers has found emotional steadiness.
“I am emotionally stable and aware, and I can pass [that] down to my children,” she said.
“The other day, we were talking about Christmas, and I explained to my children what it really means,” she said. “I hadn’t done that in the past because I hadn’t thought to do it.”
Landers has also grown professionally, gaining experience through the Out of the Blue Granola program.
The granola program, in which granola is baked and packaged onsite, provides financial means and job experience for the residents of Blue Monarch.
She also recently graduated a work ethics class.
“We learned what we are passionate about and what we want to do, and what impact we want to make,” Landers said. “Eventually, I want to own my business. Out of the Blue Granola is a small business, and I just got promoted. Now I am working for a small business and I am getting to experience it. It’s been amazing. I have confidence now.”
Landers was recently promoted to marketing specialist, which is a management position.
Looking forward to Christmas
“I am thankful for getting to experience happiness and be present with my children,” Landers said. “I’m thankful for my journey and for the restored relationship with my father. I am thankful for the girls at Blue Monarch and for our relationships. I wish for the next year to be full of learning experiences and growth.
“I wish for happiness for my boys and myself. This will be my best Christmas yet.”
One of the best changes to witness has been the improved relationship of Landers with her children, according to Blue Monarch’s Vice President of Programming Ashley Gainy.
“It is hard to sum up in just one sentence the change in Hannah’s relationship with her oldest son, George, because there have been so many positive changes, but the most profound difference is the way George views and looks at his mom,” Gainy said. “He loves and trusts her now.”
Blue Monarch’s Founder and President, Susan Binkley, has also enjoyed seeing the transformation.
“One of the most remarkable changes in Hannah is her sense of peace,” Binkley said. “When she first got here, she didn’t trust anyone and always seemed full of anxiety and fretfulness. I tease her now because even her appearance displayed the same out-of-balance presence.”
Some days, Landers was “simply a mess,” said Binkley.
“When we compare her earlier photographs to ones we take now, the dramatic difference is quite tangible,” Binkley said. “But now she carries herself with a sense of peace and grace, and a beautiful sense of style.”
Replacing bad memories
“Sometimes I feel like we are in the business of replacing bad memories with good ones,” Binkley said. “Christmas is a time when many of our women and children recall some pretty heartbreaking and disappointing events they have experienced in the past. But through Blue Monarch, and all the wonderful people who support us, our families are able to replace those hurtful memories with really beautiful ones.
Christmas at Blue Monarch is very special, said Binkley.
“Best of all, the day begins with the story of Jesus’ birth, so we don’t forget what Christmas is all about,” she said. “The gratitude is simply overwhelming sometimes. It’s a very special time for all of us. I feel blessed just to sit back and watch.”
Elena Cawley can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.