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Finding Identity: Robin's comeback from meth addiction

See Robin's story as recently shared by the Quad City Times on Feb. 5, 2024

By Tom Loewy

Robin Hunter lost everything to drugs.

By late 2021, Hunter was looking at a 10-year prison sentence for possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine. It was a drug she had used for 18 years.

"I did crack (cocaine) for 21 years and freebased cocaine for about 14 years," Hunter, now 50, said. "I'm a long-time addict.

"There was actually a seven-year period in there where I got sober. I got three college degrees. I had a house and a car. I had a pretty good job. I had a life for a little while."

Then Hunter was hurt at work and she said she got addicted to the pain pills she was prescribed. That led to methamphetamine use.

"Once I started using meth, I lost everything. I lost my job. Then I lost my house," she said. "I was living in my car, on other people's couches. And, eventually, the car was taken away and I was out on the street. I was homeless for about four years. I would do just about anything to pay for drugs.

"And along the way, I lost my daughter."

Hope on Marquette Street

Instead of prison, in late 2021 Hunter was offered a chance to enter the faith-based residential rehabilitation program at One Eighty.

She found recovery, a place to live, and a new career. Most importantly, Hunter found a community and a way back to the family she lost.

Located at 601 N. Marquette St., One Eighty sits in the heart of Davenport's west side. It became a nonprofit in 2009 and has grown over the years to much more than a place for people with addictions to live while they grapple with getting and staying clean.

Recovery is the first step at One Eighty. Along the way, the agency has helped unhoused people find secure, safe places to live.

"Our mission is to equip people who face crises like poverty and eviction to start a new life," said One Eighty Director of Engagement Jenny Halupnick. "We primarily work with adults in destructive life cycles — addiction is most often the underlying cause."

One Eighty offers a 14-month residential recovery program that offers life training, job skills, mentoring, and — most crucially — housing and a supportive community after the 14 months end.

"A person who completes the recovery program can be eligible to enter into what we call stability housing," Halupnick said. "In stability housing, they pay rent and they live with other graduates of the program and that helps people maintain their sobriety.

"We feel that stable housing is a key part of recovery. People desperate for housing are often forced into unhealthy situations."

In December of 2023, One Eighty housed 55 people in its residential recovery program, a total of 30 in stability housing, and another 18 in an affordable housing program.

Most of One Eighty's staff are people who came to the agency to get clean and find stable housing. Hunter has served as the assistant supervisor in the women's home and recently moved into a tiny home.

Dakotah Smith, One Eighty's director of operations, lost seven years to heroin addiction. The 33-year-old found the agency and found her way back to a life of helping others.

Smith said Hunter has much in common with her peers at One Eighty.

"Most of the staff members here are former meth users," Smith said. "Over the past four years, we have seen our focus shift from multiple substances to primarily meth. Meth is readily available to a lot of people."

No longer 'mad at God'

As the women's home assistant supervisor, Hunter said she is part of a community "that is a big support system."

"I'm here to listen to the women in the program, making sure they have the support they need," she said. "We talk about staying sober, but we also talk about a lot of life stuff. There's dealing with going back to work, about how to leave behind the people in your life who were a part of your addiction."

Hunter said leaving a life behind is not easy.

"You lose everything that isn't part of the drugs," she said. "So you lose your possessions and your job. Then it's your friends and your family. When I was using meth, I would just disappear. The people who loved me, like my daughter, had no idea where I was, whether I was alive or dead.

"You lose your identity. You're a person with one purpose: find the drug. When you get here, you have to find your identity."

Hunter is trying to find herself and her family — especially her daughter. She said it is something she owes to someone she left behind.

"When you disappear from a child's life, you abandon them," she said. "My daughter's name is Athei. It means 'blessing from God.' She's a dancer and she's going to college in DeKalb, Northern Illinois University.

"I would disappear, and as Athei got older she told my mother that it would be better if I was just dead, because then she would at least know where I was. It's hard, because being sober means I have to face the fact that I really hurt my daughter. We text every day now. I try to talk with her and let her know I love her."

Hunter said the religious aspect of One Eighty's recovery program has helped her.

"I always believed in God, but I didn't pray," she said. "I was probably more mad at God. But I'm not mad at God anymore. I pray and know he had a plan for me.

"I work here and I'm safe, and I can try to pay off debts," she said. "And I can try and find who I want to be without using drugs. When I crave them, I pray. I pray and I think about my daughter and how I don't want to disappear again."

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