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If you go back on your side of town, you will die.”

Dallas, Texas - September 2020

I am Zella Richards, a grateful recovering addict since October 18, 1995, and a licensed chemical dependency counselor since May 2000. I have worked with numerous addicts, alcoholics, veterans and individuals with mental health disorders, including both federal and state offenders. My purpose is to assist individuals in their own journey with right living principals based on a rigorously honest program.

I began using drugs and alcohol from the age of 15 to 32. My life progressively grew out of control. I became an unfit mother, made many poor choices and engaged in several dysfunctional relationships. I could not be trusted, was depressed and so tired of my life choices. Though I made many attempts to quit smoking crack cocaine, I could NOT stop.

In 1994, weighing 98 pounds, I was arrested three times. Fortunately, my last arrest was October 1994. All alone in my cell, I was made to clearly see the devastation of my choices and warned, “If you go back on your side of town, you will die.” I was then willing to release my children to someone who could better care for them, but I was not ready to die.

Through an opened door, I was admitted into All Saints Hospital and a week later, I transferred to Volunteers of America Texas residential substance abuse program from October 18, 1994 to December 6, 1994. Today, I am still grateful for the wonderful mentors and role models. I believe the hope and love staff provided greatly contributed to my sobriety, especially when my children’s dad died of a heart attack on December 9, 1994. The VOA TX support system and the team within the First-Choice component of Salvation Army program, in which I transferred to on December 6, 1994, helped me and my children learn to stand as a family.

My new life was not easy and I relapsed after nine consecutive months of treatment. However, my life was truly transformed once I became honest, literally accepted the fact that I cannot stay clean alone, as well as committed my life and recovery to Jesus, and worked the 12 steps with my sponsor.

Since 1997, I have worked in the field of addiction, earned my bachelor’s degree in social work and have held various leadership positions. I am also a very proud mom of my daughter who completed some college and my son who earned his Ph.D. in English.

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