Kittanning rehab center helps addict find hope
KITTANNING — LuAnne “Lulu” Bowser found her way to the Kittanning Empowerment Center a few months back and believes it was one of the best things that ever happened to her.
Bowser, 43, is a recovering addict.
Friday, she said, marked her one-year anniversary of being clean.
“When I walked in the door (at the center), it changed my life. Now, I have a purpose,” Bowser said. “They all love me here and are praying for me. I believe in God and believe he has a plan for me.”
When Bowser talks about her life, the pain from her past shows in her face. At times, she races through descriptions of how she was molested as a 5-year-old and how she survived multiple beatings and rape throughout her adolescence and into adulthood.
“I tell it fast so I don't cry,” she said.
She said that for 27 years, she was addicted to heroin, crack and cocaine. She's done time in juvenile detention, county jail and California prison on charges related to drug offenses, DUIs, prostitution, warrants and parole violations.
“It's like a revolving door,” she said. “I was always drugged up. I'd get raped and get right back on the street like nothing happened.”
Bowser said she grew up in a troubled household in Kittanning. She has since repaired her relationship with her parents. But at 17, she was sent to California, where she lived with a family member who was dealing drugs and was involved in the occult. The house was full of men and drugs, she said.
Not long after her arrival, she got pregnant.
Her son was born addicted to heroin. She said he had to be given methadone until he was gradually weaned off it. When the boy turned 5, Children,Youth and Family Services stepped in and removed him from Bowser's care.
She said the son, now 25, is a college graduate who lives and works in California. She grieves over the fact that her son won't talk to her.
Bowser has two other children with different fathers. She is working on re-establishing her relationship with an 18-year-old daughter, a college student in Colorado. An 8-year-old son lives with his father in Hawaii.
Bowser said that son told her that his birthday wish and Christmas wish combined is for her to visit him. He said he will know her because she'll be the one dressed in Steelers gear.
Bowser plans to visit him for Christmas and is hopeful about the future.
Her turnaround began in San Francisco when she hit bottom and prayed to God for help, she said.
“I went through four drug programs before I finally got it,” Bowser said.
Then, after returning to Armstrong County, she found the Empowerment Center.
She said Jason Seavers, the center's coordinator, and his wife, Melissa Seavers, the activities director, have been instrumental in helping her with their encouragement and support.
The center, on 113 Market St., helps those with disabilities by offering them support with daily living tasks and socialization.
Bowser is the activities assistant and hopes to become a mediator for clients some day.
“I figured God made me live. He has a plan for me to help kids,” she said. “I don't want them to go through what I did.”
Her message to kids: “Don't do drugs at all. It might not kill you right away, but it eventually will,” said Bowser, who suffers with several health issues.
Lately, she's been making candy in honor of her grandmother, who died of breast cancer.
“I always felt safest with my Gommy (her name for her grandmother). She had a special bedroom for me. She taught me how to pray, how to say the ‘Our Father,' ” Bowser said. “She taught me how to cook, how to bake, how to garden.”
So now, Bowser has found a way keep her grandmother's memory close by giving back. She's making hard- tack candy and fudge to sell for the center's Relay for Life team.
“If I could have anything in life, it would be to have my Gommy, my kids, and be married. It ain't too much,” she said.
Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.