Faith Put to the Test

Recovery as Spiritual Awakening: Kristine and Rachel Runfola

First Recorded

April 24, 2015


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When Kristine Runfola's drug addiction became unmanageable, it forced her mother, Rachel, to tell her she could no longer come home. That experience forced Kristine to reckon with her addiction and head to rehab, a path that had to take her through the prison system first. In this conversation, Kristine and Rachel discuss Rachel's recovery and its effect on her spirituality.

This story was produced by StoryCorps.

This story is a part of the American Pilgrimage Project, a conversation series that invites Americans of diverse backgrounds to sit together and talk to each other one-to-one about the role their religious beliefs play at crucial moments in their lives. The interview was recorded and produced by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.

Recovery as Spiritual Awakening: Kristine and Rachel Runfola

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Rachel: How would you describe your identity?

Kristine: I am an addict. I've been sober for five years now. I wasn't myself for a very long time. And I was homeless for a little bit. That, I think, was really when my spirituality started. I was just like, "Look, it's either got to change, or this is where I'm going to be for the rest of my life, is homeless, going from house to house, not having anybody who really loves me in my life, or I can start to get better."

Rachel: I absolutely remember that moment in time when I had to tell you couldn't come back, and then you were gone for ... It was a short period of time, maybe two or three-

Kristine: About three months.

Rachel: And you called and asked if you could come back. We talked about it and you came back, and you said, "I'm going to go to rehab, but to get there, I'm going to have to go to jail, and I've been told I'll be there for probably 30 days." That was probably one of the most sobering moments for both of us in that it was real. It was very, very real, and you were on your own.

Kristine: It was the first moment in my life where I was alone-

Rachel: You were totally alone.

Kristine: ... and had to do this, so-

Rachel: All by yourself.

Kristine: Yeah.

Rachel: And that probably, for both of us, was actually a huge turning point because I couldn't save you, and you had to save yourself.

Kristine: I had to save myself.

Rachel: Absolutely, and you have. You did very well through the program. You've excelled. You've come out of it and are continuing with school. And even as a single parent, you've excelled at that. I mean, you've got a lot to be proud of. You have a lot to continue to live for. Have you ever had a profound spiritual moment?

Kristine: Yes, I have. I'm going to say it was probably about five years ago. I think I had maybe been clean for three months. And in all of the meetings that I had talking about having a higher power and I just couldn't ever grasp that, but I finally came to the realization that my higher power is whoever I want it to be, whatever I want it to be. No one else can define that but me. I don't know. It was literally a spiritual awakening where I don't have to have anybody else tell me how to do this but me.

Rachel: So that started to get you through the process of recovery?

Kristine: Yeah, and you were involved in that. It's kind of moved me forward in doing what I want to do now in life to become a social worker so I can help those who are suffering in life, struggling to find their way on their own journey. That's really all I can hope for.

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