By Dwight Hobbes
If you’ve got to believe in something to get you through the tough times, it may as well be God. Sure works for Mildred Flowers, anyway.
She arrived in Minneapolis some 20 years ago in about as bad shape as anyone can be, beat down by drink and drugs, trying to start life over for herself with five children in tow. “It was Labor Day night in 1989. It was drizzling. With my daughters. The youngest, Diane, was six months.
“I came here,” she flatly states, “so I wouldn’t die. Had I stayed in Chicago, that is what would have happened. I was lost.” Not that relocating was an instant cure. “I was still in my addiction,” she acknowledges.
The up-and-down course of recovery is seldom accomplished without struggling over time. Hers finally stabilized. “I was introduced to Christ in the summer of 1994, received Christ as my savior. I’ve been clean since May of 1995. It [was] a struggle, but it’s been easier with Christ than without [Him].”
From miserably subsisting to managing to survive to eventually prevailing, Flowers has found meaning in giving back and helping others. It has also been part of her employment: Presently, she works at Tapestry, under the auspices of Meridian Behavioral Health, Inc., which has as its mission to promote recovery and offer solutions to those facing mental illnesses, addiction and other social challenges.
“It’s working,” Flowers says, “with women with MICD, which means Mental Illness Chemical Dependency issues. I’m a chemical health technician.” She now has an associate’s degree in addiction counseling and is working toward being a licensed chemical dependency counselor.
Previously, Flowers was at Healing House under faith-based Metro Hope Ministries, which states its mission as “providing help and lasting hope in a grace-filled environment through Jesus Christ.” During her tenure there, she lived on-site as a residential house manager.
“The women were able to come and bring their children and live there, those seeking sobriety. You saw hurt, you saw growth, frustration. You saw smiles. You saw God at work in the lives of women and children,” says Flowers.
“To have been an instrument to be used in [those] lives was really encouraging for me. Because someone had worked in my life, was instrument to God’s goodness, to [His] love. I enjoyed that.”
Mildred Flowers manages, on a modest income in this lingering recession, to hold down the financial fort — pay her basic bills — and that’s about it. Which doesn’t bother her. She’s finds great fulfillment in pursuing her spirituality and isn’t all that concerned about at least one area many women hold as a spending priority.
“Fashion,” she readily states, “ain’t all that it’s cracked up to be. I don’t feel I have to keep up with the Joneses.” Her wardrobe is functional, clothes to wear to work and clothes in which to relax at home.
Once in a while she’ll need to hit the food shelf. Flowers purchased an MTC Go-To card, which she adds to on a biweekly basis to get around on the bus. She sees to it the electricity bill is paid, the heating bill, telephone bill.
Recently, however, Flowers hit a snag. The ravages of addiction, particularly the penchant for impulsive, immediate gratification, can be long-lasting, having effect on one’s ability to responsibly toe the line even when in recovery. Hence, she sometimes experiences trouble organizing a monthly budget and recounts that it has kept her from always paying the rent on time.
While this hardly makes her unique, Flowers recognizes that, unchecked, it can become, to say the least, a significant problem. Before things got any worse, she went to her landlord and let him know he wouldn’t be getting his money on time. “Fortunately, he is a brother in Christ, and he has graciously allowed me to have an extension. That’s mercy.”
He is still charging her the late fee as per his policy, but refraining from proceeding with eviction. She regretfully admits, “I’m not financially [savvy]. I’m not good at budgeting. That has caused me to run into some trouble.”
She is, though, working to do something about that. “I need lessons in managing my money to be a good steward with the resources that God has given me. I am working with one of my spiritual mentors. She is counseling me. I have a friend who [keeps] the two credit cards that I need to pay off. She holds those for me.”
America itself doesn’t seem to have done all that much better a job of fiscal management considering the economic quagmire in which it’s immersed. Asked how she feels President Barack Obama is doing at digging the country out a financial hole, Flowers answers, “I believe he is doing a very good job. The problem was there long before he got into office. It just wasn’t as evident as it is now. So, I think that given the circumstances and the individuals he is working with, yes, he’s doing a good job.”
There are those who would say, considering what she has come up from and where she currently is in life, Mildred Flowers hasn’t done too badly herself. After all, as much credit as she understandably gives Jesus Christ, He didn’t twist her arm to seek Him out and accept His saving grace. She had to do that.
Are those daughters she brought with her from Chicago, now all grown women, proud of what she has personally accomplished, how she’s maintained her sobriety and is working to sustain a productive lifestyle? “I would like to think so. I would say, yes, they are proud of me.”
They have reason to be.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.