Tammy's letter read, "I'm a year clean thanks to the Library and a lot of work."
For most people, dates mark significant life events. Births, deaths, marriages, and anniversaries. Tammy LeForce remembers the first time she walked into Martha Cooper Library. “It was March 16, 2017,” she says. It was a day that marked a turning point in her life. After three decades of methamphetamine use, Tammy was just five short months into her quest for sobriety.
In a letter to the library, Tammy expressed her gratitude. “My name is Tammy…. I’m in recovery after 30 years, and now I’m a year clean thanks to the Library and a lot of work.”
Sobriety came at a hard cost. She suffers from severe seizures and debilitating migraines. She navigates daily life dealing with a serious mental illness, which she had always tried to overcome through self-medication.
At fifty years old, Tammy hasn’t had any formal education since she dropped out of school in 1986. That’s the reason she found herself at the Library that spring morning. And, as fate would have it, she found exactly what she was looking for.
“I went to get a Library card, but went in the wrong room and accidentally found one of their GED classes,” she says. “When I walked in, I thought ‘I can’t do this, but I’m going to try.’”
She met Cinthia, Martha Cooper Library’s GED class instructor, who has been helping her ever since. Tammy says, “She comes in an hour early for me so we can have extra time working together.”
Tammy was at a 3rd grade education level. It would take, Cinthia said, about two years to get ready for the GED. Tammy jumped in. “Other than one doctor appointment, I don’t think she’s missed a single day since she started coming. She knows I’m waiting for her,” says Cinthia.
For Tammy, it’s not just about learning. “I can walk here. It keeps me out of my house and out of my comfort zone. Cinthia doesn’t tell me what to do. She knows me and guides me.” In the beginning, Tammy felt stupid. “I hated reading. I didn’t know any multiplication. Sometimes I don’t remember half the stuff, but I’m starting to get better,” she says.
Cinthia assured her time and time again, “You are not stupid. It’s been three decades since you went to school. Things have changed. You have changed.”
Tammy has improved to a 4th grade reading level. She’s actually started enjoying reading. Among her favorites so far are the great animal classics Sounder, Lassie, and Socks. “I read Charlotte’s Web and Old Yeller in two days,” she says, “I even installed a porch light, so I could read outside.”
She’s also started using the Library’s online resources, including Khan Academy, to practice reading and math. “I don’t know all of the keys,” she says, “but I’m getting there. Plus, Cinthia doesn’t have to log me in anymore. I can do it on my own!”
Tammy attends hands-on workshops and Summer Reading programs. She’s built a rapport with numerous staff. Debbi, Library Associate, copies newspapers for Tammy so she can practice reading them. The manager, Tara, recently ordered Roald Dahl’s Matilda because she thinks Tammy will enjoy it.
Tammy loves that the Library is so close and has no plans to move from the neighborhood. “I feel good when I walk in here. I know they care about my future and they’re a part of the reason I stay sober.”
Pondering the many roads she’s taken, Tammy recalls, “I’ve lived by libraries before, but I never went in. It’s as if this library was put here for a reason—to help me with my recovery. Everyone needs a village. Martha Cooper Library is my village.”
Her life story is full of heartache, but it’s also one of hope and triumph. At the Library, Tammy continues to pursue her dreams, surrounded by people who care about her.