A Transformative Mission in SUD Recovery
Paula Niemeyer is an SUD (substance use disorder) Counselor at ECS’ ACCORD DUI Treatment Program. Although she has worked in the SUD field for 28 years, Neimeyer is no stranger to addiction. She struggled with a substance use disorder for many years. The challenges her clients deal with are often challenges she faced in the past. And it is her lived experience that makes her a compassionate counselor. “I did things that I would have never imagined. Who am I to judge anybody that sits here [at ACCORD]?” Neimeyer shared with GB Magazine.
After she left home at 18, Niemeyer got married and gave birth to a daughter who passed away at 88 days old. This event would be the catalyst that sparked her heroin addiction. “I needed something that numbed that,” Neimeyer said, pointing to her head, “and numbed this,” pointing to her heart. Seven years later, to the exact day that her first daughter was born, Neimeyer gave birth to her son. However, Paula still struggled to break free from addiction. She described the moment everything became clear as an “out-of-body experience.”
“Looking down, I can see the table and myself sitting there. And it was like two movies that went frame by frame,” she added. She gestured to one side of her head. “I could see myself being led back into CIW (California Institution for Women), which is a prison,” she said. Then, gesturing to the other side, “I can see a casket and a man, and to me, it was a funeral. The only person there was the man that was performing the service. And I felt like God was saying, ‘Take your pick. Which one do you want, Paula?’ That is a tough pick; which one do you pick? I did not want either one. So, I do not know how much time went by… I just know when I came back into my body, I said, excuse my French, I said ‘[expletive] this, I cannot do this anymore.’ And I called Narcotics Anonymous.”
Today, Neimeyer is 30 years sober. She also has three grandchildren, whose pictures hang in her office. “Wherever they may go, I will follow,” she said of her family. In 2021, Neimeyer joined the team at ECS ACCORD and said she has felt very welcomed and supported in the organization. She continues to feel passionate about her work. She described seeing lives change through the program as her “emotional paycheck.”
“When a person comes into residential treatment, they come in like a very dried up, withered weed,” Neimeyer said. “They come in, you nurture them, you give them support, you water them, and then when they leave, they turn out to be this very beautiful bouquet as they exit the door.” Neimeyer draws from her lived experience to extend much-needed empathy and insight to her clients, and she is not retiring any time soon.
ECS ACCORD is a state licensed DUI Treatment program supporting individuals with DUI offenses, offering classes on substance abuse effects, and group and individual counseling sessions in a confidential environment. Its goal is to reduce DUI incidents and mitigate the impact on individuals, families, and the community. Approximately 95% of clients state that their experience at ACCORD has positively impacted their lives.
To learn more about ECS and its services, please visit www.ecscalifornia.org.