RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Honesty Liller works at a standing desk on a balance ball. But the woman featured with her loving family on magazine covers today wasn’t always on an even keel.
The McShin Foundation CEO keeps a picture of herself at 12 in her office, though it’s not your typical candid.
Honesty is blowing a cloud of smoke from a joint. By 15, she had already been introduced to cocaine and crack. Eleven years of deep addiction would follow.
“When I was 17, I found heroin,” she explained. “And that’s when I fell in love with opiates.”
Honesty says heroin filled a void within herself — a dark place.
“I fell in love with not having to deal with life, not having to deal with my feelings — a lot of self-esteem issues — a lot of stuff that happened as a kid, you know, that I never worked through.”
Honesty became hooked on drugs and later overdosed.
“I did whatever I had to do: lied, cheated, stole, you know?” she confessed to 8News.
Her family became victims of her recklessness, says Liller, “because they were the easiest. They were closest to me.”
Not even pregnancy stopped Honesty from using. “My daughter was born addicted.”
After several failed attempts at recovery, Liller, then 26, found herself at the suggestion of her mother at the McShin Foundation on Dumbarton Road. But she balked one final time before sobriety took hold. After 24 hours in rehab, she ran away.
“But I came back four days later,” she laughs. “John tells that story all the time.”
John Shinholser, the foundation’s executive director, had started the recovery center three years earlier.
“John hooked me up with a local doctor and I got medication for the withdrawals for the heroin,” Liller said.
Then, the hard work began. Honesty embraced intense counseling and lifestyle changes, confronting the issues that caused her drug use. Five months later, John offered Honesty Liller the chance to make an honest living.
“Executive Peer Coordinator was my official 1st title,” she said.
She’d never been to college, never even held a steady job.
“When I came, it was three recovery houses and it was two little offices downstairs in the west wing of this church. And from that, now we have 11 recovery houses and we have all three floors of the west wing, three jail programs, family programming, and a partridge in a pear tree,” Liller said.
Shinholser is quick to credit Honesty for that growth.
“McShin would not be McShin today if not for Honesty,” he says. “I couldn’t have done this alone. It took someone who has my back –my wingman, you know. And Honesty has just been an extraordinary wingman.”
John promoted Honesty to CEO six years ago. And whether she’s working on strategy, or providing inspiration and technical assistance to other organizations, she never forgets the heart of her mission.
“I still do one-on-ones with the women,” Liller says, “I still stay in that grassroots.”
She says it’s key to her owning her recovery.
“I get to come to work every day and help people just like me,” she said. “I know what my purpose is. I know that those 14-years of using made me the woman I am today.”
Now 39, Honesty’s built a happy life. The kind where love has a lot of room to grow.
“I get to be a mom to my kids, you know? Me and my daughter’s relationship is amazing. She has no long-term effects from the drugs that I put in her body. My son is 10 and he plays two travel sports and is funny and smart. She’s in all advanced classes.”
It’s the kind of love she now lives to share.
“I mean, the most of all the blessings is seeing a mom that comes through here without her children, has nothing, and then I see her life slowly getting back together like mine,” she said.
Honesty’s a remarkable woman, sharing a remarkable message.
“It’s my job to show your life can change and there’s hope out there,” she said. “I mean, we’re hope dealers. You know, we used to be drug dealers. Now we’re hope dealers.”
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