At the age of 51 Deborah Green would not have expected to be in Walden House’s substance abuse treatment program. As a young adult she had battled drug addiction, but quit using drugs when becoming pregnant with her first child. Being a loving and responsible parent was something that Deborah took very seriously and she was determined to provide a safe and healthy life for her child.
Deborah’s life moved forward. She went on to have a second child and was fortunate to land a good government job that promised job security and years of steady income to support herself and her children. The hidden reality of Deborah’s seemingly average life is she was growing increasingly unhappy as the years progressed. She felt trapped in her job and unfulfilled as a human being. This situation was worsened by bouts of clinical depression that required medical attention. And, after more than 20 years of sobriety, Deborah relapsed.
Deborah’s spiral back into drugs was apparent to her family and friends. In fact, it wasn’t a jail sentence or dangerous street encounter that provided the wake up call telling her she needed help. Deborah’s wake up call came when her daughter asked, “Where is my mother?” Deborah had always put her children first and prided herself on being the strong foundation they could depend on, but she was not that supportive parent while in this chaotic state-she knew she needed help.
On November 18, 2008, Deborah voluntarily admitted herself into the Walden House program. As a programming option, she had the opportunity to attend the new “charter school” on Treasure Island. Reflecting back on that first day, Deborah said she had no idea what to expect, but had often thought about completing her high school diploma. Little did Deborah know at the time, but this charter school also included her favorite pastime-cooking, through Nextcourse’s culinary arts training component.
From the very first day Deborah was hooked on school. She loved to learn new things, and she rediscovered her love of food and cooking. For the first time, she began to dream that food could be her life’s calling. She had brought up her children to know how to cook and eat healthy foods, and she wanted other children to have those same lessons. But, she admits it’s hard for parents to teach their children about healthy eating when they weren’t raised with that knowledge.
Deborah says her favorite day of the school week is “Demo Day”, when culinary arts instructor Rania Long demonstrates the week’s menu. She learns a great deal from having every step and technique shown and explained in detail. She says it teaches you to really respect the food and the skill involved to make something healthy and delicious. Deborah was so inspired by a recent recipe that on her very first weekend pass from the program she went directly to the closest market and bought the ingredients to make Rania’s White Chili. The dish was a big hit with Deborah’s mother!
Deborah believes that everyone should have a niche and she has found hers. Her priority now is a strong commitment to recovery, obtaining her high school diploma, and continuing her culinary education. One day she would like to have a children’s center in the Bayview Hunters Point community where children can come to learn how to cook and eat healthy food. Of her motivation Deborah says, “I want kids’ brains to be open, and their stomachs not filled with sweets.” Deborah has the passion and determination to realize her dream, and we know she will go on to inspire others through her passion!
Follow up Note: We are thrilled to report that after this interview Deborah was selected by Tante Marie’s Cooking School to receive their annual cooking school scholarship! Many thanks to Rania Long and Walden House Executive Chef Danny Higginbotham for recommending Deborah for this amazing opportunity.