Erin Lackner was born and raised in Arkansas. She came from an abusive household and at a young age, she started to hang out with people who were a negative influence. Erin began drinking alcohol and using marijuana at 12. By 14 years old, she started to use hard drugs. “I was trying to escape my feelings,” Erin says. Erin hung out with people much older than her and would run away from home frequently, often going to Kansas City. She went to prison several times in her life, the first time being when she was a minor. Erin spent the majority of her adolescence in and out of prison. With support from her parents and her grandmother, Erin was able to graduate from high school on time. However, Erin continued to experience recidivism until early adulthood.
When Erin was released from prison for the last time, she visited her friend Francisco. “I told him to call somebody so I could get some drugs and he just talked to me.” After talking for a few hours, Francisco asked her if she really wanted to get high and Erin realized that she didn’t want to anymore. “My recovery journey started unexpectedly. It wasn’t something I was planning on. It just happened.” Unfortunately, Franciso is no longer with us, but he helped Erin immensely with her journey to sobriety. “He helped me see that I have support and life could be different for me.” Therapy was also an essential part of Erin’s recovery journey. “I started seeing a therapist soon after my release from prison to help me understand addiction, behavioral health, and trauma. I learned about developing my identity without the label of ‘addict.’” During this time, she successfully completed her parole for the first time.
After starting her recovery journey, Erin decided that she wanted to help others struggling with substance use disorder. “I wanted to break the stigma on addiction and I wanted to help others.” Erin enrolled in classes at Kansas City Kansas Community College. One of her instructors was former Benilde Hall Executive Director, Kent Jewell. In 2011, Erin became a practicum student at Benilde Hall. After Erin finished her practicum, she continued to volunteer at Benilde Hall in her spare time. Since then, Erin has earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Social Work from Park University. Erin became the Clinical Director of Benilde Hall in September 2019. “I’m really grateful for Benilde Hall and all the men that we help in the community. I’m really proud to be here.”
Erin’s advice for individuals in recovery is to “have at least one person you can call whether it’s to tell them how great your day went or how bad your day went.” She also believes it is crucial to find a support network, ask for help, and to redefine who you are without substances. “People in recovery have talents, hopes, and dreams. A healthy support system, self-love, and a desire for a positive future have been the backbone of my recovery journey.” As of November 2020, Erin will have been sober for 12 years.