Kristi Nelson, NBC 5 News
Anika Cooper, now 18 years sober, is restoring the home where she found love and support to help 6-7 women after drug treatment.
In 1995, Bill Clinton was President, e-Bay was born and the Dallas Cowboys started a season that ended with a Super Bowl win. But Anika Cooper, then a 19-year-old recent graduate of Garland Senior High School, struggled with life.
"I started drinking... I like the way it made me feel," said Cooper. "I went from that to smoking weed every once in awhile to [being] introduced to cocaine then methamphetamine's. When I found methamphetamine's, I thought I had felt my best friend. I didn’t feel anything. I was not insecure anymore."
"I remember days when I wanted to stop using and I couldn’t," said Cooper. "I weighed 85 pounds and none of my clothes fit me."
After a methamphetamine's binge that kept her awake for days, Cooper went into treatment, then came to her grandmother's home in East Dallas.
"She [her grandmother] just knew how to love unconditionally," Cooper said while fighting back tears. "She was a fireball. She was fun. She was a praying woman. She loved God."
"There wasn’t anything I could have done to make her not love me," Cooper said. "And that’s what taught me about God’s grace is her grace for me."
Cooper has been sober for 18 years. In that time, she's found a career in sales, become a mother and created the "Simply Grace" charity to help other women.
"I've learned that as long as I can stay clean, I have another chance," Cooper said.
Cooper recently purchased and renovated her late grandmother's home. And soon it will become a house for seven women who've left a drug treatment program, but need a year of structured living before they can be back on their own.
It won't be easy. The women will share bedrooms in pairs. They will each have their own closet and dresser drawers but they cannot lock them.
"Being an addict and having the disease of addictions, we are good manipulators," Cooper said. "We're good at trying to hide stuff."
There is an office for the women to log onto the Internet, search and apply for jobs. The women must check in with their sobriety sponsors and attend meetings.
Violence is not tolerated in any way.
Children can visit but not boyfriends or husbands.
"If one person is doing something that they're not supposed to have, you're affecting six other women that really want to change their life," Cooper said. "I can't allow that to happen."
Dawn Kent is the house manager of the Simply Grace house.
"When you're new in recovery, you want everything to be perfect now," Kent said. "And I want to guide them that its a step by step."
Kent also knows addiction recovery. She started in recovery in 1996 and was sober for eight years. Then she started to drink again. She's now seven years sober.
"Now I know... if you’re in recovery, you can’t drink, you can’t take a step back," Ken said. "I’ve been there and I want to share that experience with other women."
Anika Cooper said her grandmother's spirit is still in the house and she hopes the women staying there will feel it too.
"It's about empowering women to fulfill their purpose," Cooper said. "I can stay clean and sober but if I don't continuously work on myself, I could very easily end up back where I began."
"They will know this peace," said Cooper. "They will feel it when they walk through the door. They will know that they are safe and they can start their life over."