Iris Leary has a message for women who think they’ve used up all their chances: It’s never too late.
Addiction had taken over my life.
I looked up and all of my 30s had passed me by. I was caught up in the disease of addiction and could not, of my own accord, stop. I had to go to jail numerous times and ended up in prison.
Getting older, I knew that I had to do more to save my life. I was 41 years old when I got out of prison. At the age of 43 I got a job that actually used my past as an advantage. I would be able to work with others just like me; the homeless, substance-abusing, formerly incarcerated, and mentally challenged individuals.
Shortly after gaining employment, I decided to go back to school. I say go “back” because I had taken classes when I was younger, way before the drug addiction. At that time, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. What made me go back was the desire to learn more, do more and be more. It seemed as though most recovering addicts were going to school for drug and alcohol counseling, and at the time, this seemed to be a good fit for me.
I attended a community college part-time. It took a long time, but I finally got an A.A. in Human Services, with the Drug and Alcohol option. I continued to work at the Homeless Outreach Program for many years, gathering enough knowledge and experience to enter a master’s program without a B.A. I learned about this program from another recovering addict, one of my best friends, who is the same age as me. I gained my master’s degree in in Marriage and Family Therapy in 2008 at the age of 55. I am now in the licensing process, studying to take the exam.
My point is, it’s never too late. You’re never too old to soar! Life is available … so allow yourself to participate in it.
Iris Leary, 63, cycled in and out of jails and prison on charges of substance and drug related charges until December 1993 when she got treatment and has been clean and sober since. Despite bouts with homelessness, incarcerations and other poverty-induced traumas, she gained a Master’s degree and provides counseling and case management support.