Rachael Clark is bubbly, energetic, passionate and most important of all — she's happy.
The 43-year-old Napa woman, a onetime candidate for Napa City Council who is known to many for her outspoken opinions on community issues, says she has overcome the substance abuse that once plagued her life and is back on the right track.
Clark has been clean and sober for four and half years. “I’m in recovery and very involved in my 12-steps program,” she said. “The support I have received from my support groups saved me and continues to guide me.”
Clark said her “disease” spiraled out of control in 2009 while going thorough a “nasty separation from a 15-year intimate relationship.”
“We had it all — the house, the boat, the clothes, the cars and other luxuries, but the addiction got out of hand,” she said.
“We lost it all. The house went into foreclosure, our relationship was a wreck and the substance abuse was increasing,” she said.
“It wasn’t the drinking so much, but other substance abuse that was causing the damage. I was trying to find a way out of my bad feelings. It got so bad that I finally surrendered.”
Clark found a drug abuse program through the . But it took determination to get the help she needed.
“I went there every day for two weeks and waited to get into the program. They were full and didn’t have room for me,” she said.
“Finally one of the intake people said, ‘Look, she has been here every single day for the last two weeks. We need to find a place for her.’” And they did.
Clark also enrolled in a 12-step program.
“I went to a meeting and liked what I heard. I got the help, experience and support I needed to change my life,” she said. “I was tired of being the person I was, not being true to myself.”
It was from there that Clark started becoming the person she is today.
“I had one setback. The first month, I was clean for 30 days, then blew it.
"But setbacks happen. I didn’t let it discourage me. I came back to my support group, and they all still loved me. It made me even more determined to fight my disease.”
Clark admits the early days of treatment were challenging: "It’s not just a matter of not using, it’s also a lifestyle change.”
Clark said she could have moved away, but that would have accomplished little.
“I still would have to face the addiction no matter where I was.”
Clark encourages anyone with an addiction to seek help.
“It’s out there. You just have to ask, and you won’t be turned away. You don’t have to live a life dependent on substance abuse.”
An unsuccessful candidate for city council in 2004, Clark remains active in the community.
She is involved with Leadership Napa Valley, Napa Porchfest and local education groups. She runs her own event planning business in Napa and said she is training for the general manager position of a soon-to-open restaurant in the area.
Clark credits her grandmother, a former librarian in Marin County, for her sense of community commitment.
“When I was little I would help my grandmother at the library. The whole atmosphere was like a community. People discussed politics, community issues. It gave me a sense of commitment to my community, and I have carried that through my life,” Clark said.
Clark would not confirm if she plans to run for city council again.
“I probably will, but I can’t say for sure. It’s an election year. I am anxious to see what happens with our officials.”
As for the future? “My possibilities are endless,” Clark said with a wide grin.