Recovering women addicts build strength at home in LO
by: Cliff Newell, Nancy Engeman has welcomed many women who wanted to turn their lives around at Come Rest Awhile. Engeman has helped 150 addicts since the home became established in Lake Oswego in 2001.

Recovering from addiction to drugs or alcohol is a hugely difficult challenge.

But Come Rest Awhile makes it easier.

For 150 female addicts since 2001, the Lake Oswego home has been a community for women in recovery, building strength and sobriety and enabling them to return to a normal life.

'We've seen many success stories here,' said Nancy Engeman, the home's director and co-founder. 'We've also seen tragedy.'

Still, compared to similar programs, the success rate at Come Rest Awhile is quite high, at about 45 percent. Women ranging from ages 18 to 69 have found CRA to be a place where they could recover and rejoin the world.

'We're building quite an alumni here,' said Engeman, who currently shares the home with 10 recovering women. 'This is a safe place to gain strength. It's a safe place with nice people. It's a home, not an institution.

'The average stay here is nine months. They stay here until they're stable financially and emotionally. It's different for everyone. Women are so vulnerable to social situations or sexual assault. Here, they're safe from it.'

Certainly, a quick tour indicates that Come Rest Awhile is a place to achieve an all-important sense of well-being. The home is large, but definitely comfortable, cozy and inviting. Rooms are spacious and every room has a deck. The TV room is blessed with many cushions. The kitchen is nice and big, big enough to accommodate the preparation of meals for 11 residents.

Outside there are many bikes parked, a vegetable garden that now boasts a luxuriant crop of lettuce, and a couple of special spots. One has a statue of St. Frances - 'I love it,' Engeman said. 'It's not too big or too cheesy' - surrounded by flowers. The other has 12 stones marking the 12-Step Recovery Program, which each woman at the home is required to follow.

However, it is from each other that the women gain the most strength to turn their lives around.

'When I came here I was alone,' said one resident. 'I needed the support and encouragement I could get here instead of going into an empty home by myself. Here, we're held accountable for whatever we do and we work with women who have similar struggles.'

'Women are taught to be competitive,' Engeman said. 'Here we can learn to deal with different personalities and set common goals. We can relate to each other on a day-to-day basis and deal with problems as they come along.

'Recently, unfortunately, we had to deal with grief. One of our women lost a loved one and we helped her to get through it by supporting her and loving her. She was glad she was here.'

Although she is a pillar of strength for recovering addicts and a role model, Engeman only says of herself, 'I'm a recovering addict. I'm in my 32nd year of recovery.'

Engeman was once an alcoholic. At the time she had four children and that was about all she had.

'I started from the ground up,' she said. 'People in the 12-Step program I was in gave me everything I had. I went into recovery because I no longer wanted to live the way I was living.'

Engeman began her successful recovery. What's more, other people saw in her the qualities to help other recovering women addicts.

'They said I would be a good advocate,' Engeman said. 'I went home and had to look up what the word 'advocate' meant.'

Engeman found that the definition really did apply to her, and for the past 27 years, in various capacities - counselor, business manager, executive director - she has been helping women seeking to turn their lives around.

Her saga in Lake Oswego began in 2001 when she met Mickey O'Connell. O'Connell wanted to open a posh bed and breakfast for recovering women. Engeman wanted a retreat house. They compromised and came up with Come Rest Awhile. It is a place that is truly needed.

'In the Portland area there are 48 Oxford Houses (homes operating under the Oxford House Model for a community-based approach to addiction treatment) and only eight of them are for women,' Engeman said. 'That seems to be the way it is all over. There's a ratio of 5-1 of homes for men over homes for women.

'A big reason for this seems to be an idea that hangs on - that women will be taken care of by their own families.'

Come Rest Awhile has been able to thrive in Lake Oswego, through donations, grants, rents paid by the residents and benefactors like homebuilder Roger Pollock, who is holding a barbecue fundraiser for CRA at his home on July 27.

'This is a good place to work things out,' Engeman said. 'We're known as a positive place where women can go from treatment to independence.

'The first year of recovery is the most difficult. When women come here, they're not alone. We're a family.'

To find out more about Come Rest Awhile go to the Web site .

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