No Greater Love – February 2022

No Greater Love

Rachel Bongiorno (Rage’s Recovery Coach and Daughter’s House Program Director) and her mother Kim recently sat down with Rich Bennett of Harford County Living to dive deep into Rachel’s journey from addiction to recovery. Listen to our podcast here for more. Grab your tissues!

Rachel’s mother also wrote about the amazing transformation below. Read on to get a glimpse into the worry, fear, and love of a mother whose daughter was in the ultimate fight for survival.

“I believe Rachel’s addiction started in her junior year of high school. She began experiencing with alcohol and marijuana, which then lead to using more and harder drugs. My husband and I had no idea that drug addiction was anything that we needed to be worried about. Rachel came from a middle class loving family and close extended family. We had family dinners and celebrations, went to church on Sunday and took vacations together just as a normal everyday family.

In Rachel’s senior year, she started spending the weekend nights out and / or coming in late. Then other things started happening: a bad attitude, more aggressiveness, doing what she wanted by lying well, and going where she wanted. Finding out she was stealing from family members was the start of us realizing that she had problems with addiction. One time, I told her she couldn’t go somewhere, and for the first time, that ugly animal raised its head. She put herself in my face and was screaming at me, but I had no idea why. It spiraled out of control so fast that we ended up taking her to Sheppard Pratt hospital to keep her safe. We found out three days later how bad she was truly struggling with addiction.

In Rachel’s twenties, she worked full time in the restaurant and bar industry. But she was alone. She lost some family members and her long-time girlfriends from high school. She was just working and hanging with a few selected people. We never knew what the next phone would bring. Rachel totaled four cars in accidents; thank God she was never hurt and most importantly, that she never hurt anyone else. That was one of my worst fears. She was locked up about three or four times and went to court too many times. She finally said she wanted help and she went to her first rehab facility. This is when the fear and not trusting her or believing her set in.

I was Rachel’s worse enemy; I was her enabler. I did not realize what I was doing. I thought I was protecting her and helping her. I could not bear the thought that she would steal money and get caught. I could not imagine her begging on the streets or going to jail. I thought I was trying to help her to get better. I would never allow her to be put out of our home or on her own and alone, not knowing where she was or what was happening to her. I always needed to see her and talk to her no matter what was going on. My belief was that one day she would get better. I prayed every day to God to help her, to keep her safe, and to not let her harm anyone or be harmed or hurt by anyone. It was always a nightmare.

Rachel was about 25 or so when I came home one day from work. I saw two police cars out front of our home again. I said to myself, “I can’t do this!” I just went straight ahead and kept on driving away from our home. I just could not do it again. I cried in my car for about half an hour because I was afraid things would never change and that she would never get better.

One night, the phone rang around 11:00 pm. It was a friend of Rachel’s wanting to know if she was home. At this point, this is what I dreaded over the last five to six years. I said no, she wasn’t home, and her friend told me that no one could find her. She was missing. Her dad helped look for her. Then around 2:00 am, I heard the front door open; she was being brought home by the police. They wanted to make sure it was safe to bring her to us. She was hanging around in town and was slipped a drug in her drink, and hours later the police found her wandering the streets. She was so out of it. She had been raped. This was the first time that I was without any feeling in my being. I did not know what to say to her as I held her and rocked her in my arms. I didn’t know what to do next. It was as if our worlds were coming to an end.

Rachel went to rehab one more time. She did come back home, and it wasn’t too long afterward that she said she needed a change of scenery. So she made the great decision to move to the beach. She found a job and made some nice friends, but the beach is a party place. And after a few months there, she started changing again. The restaurant was slammed during the summer and so was the cash in her pockets. I remember the phone call from her…she was crying because she didn’t know what was wrong with her. She said her heart felt like it was going to explode. I called a friend of hers who lived nearby and who happened to be a nurse. She picked Rachel up and took her to the hospital. I left straight from work and drove three hours to the beach, not knowing what was going on or how she was.

I went to her apartment, and she was there. She said she had a panic attack. I looked at her and said to her, “there is more going on and we need to talk.” A few days later, she said she needed to come back home, so she did. Rachel was still using but was trying to stop; she was denying everything and just trying to survive. The next three weeks became the worst time in her life. One night she came home, higher than I have ever seen her. I didn’t hear any noises from her or from her room. That morning, her dad and I were sitting in the kitchen when Rachel walked in looking shaken to her core. She looked at me and admitted that “I need help and I need it right now. Mom, I died last night, and I felt God reach down into my soul and he brought me back to life.” She soon went to the health department asking for help, and they had her sit in on the group counseling sessions. Next, she started going to two meetings every day for months (she still attends NA meetings today), and also went to the group therapy sessions with the health department of Harford County.

With the support of counseling, therapy, NA, and having a sponsor helping her with step work, she never looked back. In the past, she used to tell me, “those things never work!” Now she is a believer. She is doing the work for God, and this is who she was always meant to be. Rachel knows it is a lifetime commitment to her recovery, and she never takes her recovery for granted. Rachel is always there to help those is in need, and anyone will tell you that she always answers her phone.

I have learned that I was her enabler. But I believe God heard my prayers after twenty years and he saved Rachel. I never stopped praying for her and I never ever gave up on her, not in good times and especially not in the bad times.
Recovery gave us our daughter back. It gave Rachel her brothers back. It gave us our family back. Seeing Rachel function as a real person says it all. She now has a life full of happiness and love; old relationships are renewed, and new ones have been formed. She has honesty and is sharing her life with a new family; she has a wife, and a child on the way, and has a home of her own.
The best moments are hearing her laugh, seeing her beautiful smile, and the happiness and fulfillment of life in my daughter’s eyes every time I see her now. Rachel has not looked back but she also never forgets where she once was. Celebrating family moments like her five years in recovery, shopping for her wedding gown, seeing her get married, and now expecting her first child… are a few things our family never thought we would ever experience.

My thoughts on what I would tell others living and healing with this disease is: I know that things don’t always turn out the same for everyone, and my heart goes out to those who are dealing with active addiction. I never truly thought Rachel would ever be clean and in recovery either, so DO NOT EVER GIVE UP no matter how hard it is and no matter hard it gets. As difficult as it is for you, it is a hundred times harder for the loved one struggling. I know it is not easy. There were times I had to close my eyes and take a deep breath, but I knew that Rachel’s only chance to survive was knowing she could ALWAYS count on me, good or bad.”

We are the ones who wait up at night for days, weeks, or months or sometimes…years.
We are the ones who panic when a number we don’t recognize appears on our phone.
We are the ones whose trust has constantly been violated.
We are the ones who often suffer from loneliness.
We are the ones who lose many of our family members and friends.
We are the ones who want so desperately to help, and we are the ones who would never give up hope.  Just like me, you are the ones who love an addict.  We are parents, children, spouses, siblings, and loved ones of all types.

In Other News

H.E.R. Legacy Scholarship

In memory of Hannah Ellen Runge, the H.E.R. Legacy Scholarship is established by Hannah’s mother and brother who wish to support students who have been impacted by the struggles of alcohol and drug addiction. This is a $1,000 annual scholarship. Those who are interested must:

  • be enrolled as a credit student at Harford Community College
  • have a 2.00+ cumulative GPA
  • be a Harford County, Maryland resident
  • enrolled in any degree program
  • have a need for financial aid (though not mandatory)

Please visit the Harford Community College website for more details on this unique opportunity.
There are also Scholarship Essay Workshops scheduled to support students with completing required narrative essay: 

  • March 7th, 1:00pm – 2:00pm
  • March 10th, 5:00pm – 6:00pm

Attend on campus in the Library, room 112 or click Join Remote Scholarship Workshop to brainstorm your essay topic, get help with your first draft, and get tips on writing an effective narrative essay.

Contact with any questions.

Upcoming Events

Memory Walk / Recovery Run 2022

We are excited to announce that we will be hosting our Memory Walk / Recovery Run this year! We will be partnering with Charm City Run again.

Lace-up those comfortable tennis shoes and join us on Saturday, April 9, 2022, at Cedar Lane Regional Park (1100 Cedar Lane – Bel Air, MD 21015) for a morning of refreshing exercise and good company as we celebrate those in recovery, remember the lives lost to addiction, encourage those still struggling, and heal the families impacted by this devastating disease.

If you can’t participate with us in person, you can join us virtually all through the month of April, similar to what we had in 2021. We will have a predetermined virtual route, and you will be able to log your miles, collect donations, and share your photos with us.

Registration details can be found here:

Rage Club

Rage Club is designed for children who have been directly affected by the devastation of addiction. We have quarterly meetings, often led by a counselor, where kids can participate in therapeutic and fun activities together.

If you have children who need to heal from the struggles addiction can cause in families, please consider joining us in March.

Where:  3101 Emmorton Road, A6 – Abingdon, MD 21009

When: Saturday, March 19, 2022 – 12:00pm to 2:00pm

Please find out more details and register here: Rage Club Art Therapy

Community Resources

Addiction Connections Resource: A non-profit organization that assists with providing resources and support for addiction treatment and that educates the community about substance abuse disorder. Located in Fallston, MD. Please visit here or call 443-417-7810 for more information.

Ashley Addiction Treatment: An inpatient treatment center that personalizes clinical programs based on individual need. Located in Havre De Grace, MD. Please visit here or call 800-799-4673 for information about online and in-person meeting services.

Celebrate Recovery: A local support group for those with addictive behaviors. Located in Bel Air, MD and Joppa, MD.

  • Mountain Christian Church in Joppa, MD: Please register here to join. *Please check out the updated information regarding meeting details.*​
  • 5:45 pm every Thursday at Mt. Zion Church - 1643 Churchville Road, Bel Air, MD 21015. Contact or visit here for more information about meetings.

GRASP (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing): A local support group for those who have lost someone to addiction.

  • 7:00pm on the 2nd Wednesday of each month.
  • Located in the Education Building at Mt. Zion Church - 1643 Churchville Road, Bel Air, MD 21015
  • Contact for more information.
  • The private national Facebook group is available. Please visit here to ask to join.

The Klein Family Harford Crisis Center: A clinic that provides immediate care for mental health and addiction. Located in Bel Air, MD. Please visit here or call 410-874-0711 for information about online and in-person meeting services.

Loving An Addict: A local support group for family and friends of those in active addiction.

  • 7:00 pm every Saturday.
  • Located in the Education Building at Mt. Zion Church - 1643 Churchville Road, Bel Air, MD 21015
  • Contact for more information.

We serve locally but think globally. For counseling, or for addiction, substance abuse disorder, or mental illness treatment, please contact your area’s health department, county government, hospital, or law enforcement agency.

Rage Against Addiction Programs

Daughter's House: Designed to assist women who are transitioning from substance abuse treatment to recovery; includes two sober living houses (Daughter's House and Sister House) located in the suburbs of Harford County, MD. Click here to visit the Facebook page.

Rage Club: Designed specifically for children affected by addiction to help them process their feelings and learn about the disease by offering counselor-led activities, such as equine and art therapy, nature walks, and more. The group meets several times a year. Click here for more information

HALO (How to Live Without Our Addicted Loved One): An online grief support group specifically for those that lost loved ones to substance abuse. Click here to ask to join the private Facebook page. *Please read and answer the membership questions prior to joining.

RAA ABC (After Baby Care): Provides post-partum care packages to new mothers in early recovery. 

Rage Against Addiction Team Members

Wendy Beck Messner: Founder and Executive Director

Rachel Bongiorno: Recovery Coach and Daughter’s House Program Director

Mia Ellis: Newsletter Writer and Administrator

Amanda Buddenbohn: RAA'S ABC (After Baby Care) Coordinator

Tara Kuzma: Chairman of the Board of Directors

Sarah Hoover: Rage Club Event Coordinator and Volunteer

Michael Nesline: Rage Club Mascot