It's a late morning in August as Verenice Lopez leans against the passenger seat window of her boyfriend's pickup truck, watching the leafy residential streets of Houston's Fifth Ward speed by. They're on their way to Riverside General Hospital's drug treatment center on Lyons Avenue, which had been Verenice's home for the past three months. She isn't talking much, so her boyfriend cranks up the radio to Country Legends 97.1.
Photo by Daniel Kramer
Verenice's mind is on the certificate waiting for her at the hospital, proof of all the work she's put into an intensive 30-hour-a-week drug treatment program to kick her crack addiction. She's proud of that, but she's also worried about where to go next. What she needs is just a little more help, this time to find a halfway house that will ease her into living alone.
A part of her is afraid that if she returns home to old friends and falls back into an old grind, she'll want to use again. Detox and rehabilitation were only the first steps on the road to recovery. It's like what a tech told her when she graduated from Riverside just the day before: "Get ready for your new life to be uncomfortable."
The recovery campus looms up around the corner, a four-story, 100,000-square-foot facility tucked behind a metal wire fence that runs the length of the block. As they pull into the parking lot, maneuvering around potholes cratering the gravel, Verenice sits up. There's a thin cluster of patients gathered outside, arms full of their personal things.More »