Forty-eight-year old Cherise arrived at Interim House's residential program in January, a crack cocaine addict for twenty years. After going through the trauma of loosing her husband, Cherise says she was "ready to give up on life." Unable to maintain relationships with her son and daughter, she allowed her addiction to dominate her life and pushed away family and friends. "With drugs, it's hard to maintain relationships," says Cherise. "Feels like it's just you and drugs in a box. No friends. Just drugs and me."

Cherise came to Interim House after seeing a friend graduate from the program. Watching her friend achieve a milestone in her recovery inspired Cherise. "I knew Interim House was the place to be. When I started in January, I came needing to change and wanting to change. My life was at a standstill. I was doing the same thing every day. I wanted my mind and life to blossom. I didn't want that relationship with just drugs anymore."

Once at Interim House, Cherise began to work through her issues and manage the anger she felt after the loss of her husband. Instrumental to her recovery was her affiliation with Gearing Up, a local non-profit organization that uses bike riding as a means to empower women during periods of difficult transition. According to Cherise, Gearing Up has "allowed me to challenge myself and build my confidence."

Cherise's willingness to challenge herself was not her norm. In the past, she considered herself an "incompleter." She says, "I was a procrastinator. When I started something, I didn't finish it. But Kristin saw that I liked riding and pushed me to keep riding." Gearing Up's founder Kristin Gavin recognized that Cherise's desire to ride would prove to be a key turning point for Cherise. Before every ride, Kristin would ask each person to identify something that they wanted to let go of through biking. Cherise chose to let go of her anger. Three times each week, Cherise released her anger in a positive way. She says, "Riding a bike allowed me to let go. It opened up a whole new world. It was a good part of my recovery. it made me realize how I missed so much of life." For Cherise, riding a bike has meant so much more than getting exercise and improving her physical fitness. Before Gearing Up, Cherise never exercised. She says, "I never thought about it. It was the last thing on my mind. Biking was about a change for my life. Healthy mind. Healthy life. Healthy living."

Now 18 months clean, Cherise has begun to reclaim the moments she lost while she was in active addiction. As a Gearing Up alumna, she now leads rides for peers. "It feels nice that Interim House has that kind of trust in me," says Cherise. She is also making full use of all the resources that her community and Interim House offer. She is a part-time weekend peer mentor, training to become a certified recovery peer specialist, and she attends a local high school to earn her diploma.

More important, she has rebuilt those relationships that were once distant. She now has a close relationship with her two older children and her grandchildren. She can be seen on the road riding her bike with her twelve-year-old granddaughter or indoors knitting with her. Cherise has a message for anyone thinking about addressing their addiction. She says, "Life is simple. Give yourself a break. If you want to change, come on over to Interim House. We're waiting for you."