An Interview with Terri Edwards, Executive Director Austin Region

There comes a point in many people’s recovery journey when they just “need a dose of Terri.” They need someone who cares unconditionally, who won’t be repelled by their anger or give up on them even in the most difficult situations. At The Right Step Hill Country, that person is Terri Edwards. Determined and direct, Terri helps clients identify their feelings and express them in healthy ways. If they’re feeling raw and angry, she doesn’t run away. Instead, she meets them where they’re at. “I give clients permission to be angry at whoever or whatever they need to be angry at, and I don’t judge them for it,” she says. “I acknowledge their pain and their truth and encourage them to scream, throw rocks – whatever it takes for them to be at peace with their feelings rather than trying to medicate them with drugs or alcohol.” An important goal of treatment at The Right Step is rebuilding clients’ self-esteem and reducing the shame often associated with addiction. If clients are convinced they don’t matter, that no one cares, Terri cares even more. “Nobody cares what you know until they know that you care,” Terri says. “Our clients need to know they are not defective; they have a disease. I believe they can overcome any adversity, any amount of trauma or abuse or neglect, if the right person crosses their path and gives them unconditional love. I want to be that person that shows them that, no matter what, they are worthy.”

An Advocate and Role Model

Terri is a strong advocate for people struggling with addiction, in part because she has been where they are now. Originally from San Diego, Terri left at age 18 when her addiction led her to Texas. She saved every penny she had to “work on the inside, not the outside” and went to a drug treatment program in Texas. “I believe that recovery is possible for anyone and that treatment works,” says Terri, who has a long family history of addiction. “Even if the people around you stay sick, you can choose to get well.” Inspired by her own experience, Terri went to school to investigate why she developed a drug addiction in the first place. She attended the University of Houston Addiction Studies/Counseling Program, became a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor, and spent the next 20 years working in and managing residential and outpatient treatment programs. “The more I learned about addiction, the more I realized I have to be involved in treating it,” Terri says. “Addiction is an ugly disease that makes people do ugly things, and impacts generations to come.

A Place to Recharge and Recover

Long before she joined The Right Step in 2007, Terri would travel to Wimberley to rest and recharge her batteries. The charm and serenity inspired her to buy a home in the area. One day while she was out walking her dog, she saw a sign that read “The Right Step.” She had always respected the program and its staff and knew that this would be the right place for her to make a difference. “There’s something healing about the Texas Hill Country,” Terri says. “Alumni from all over the state drive out just to sit here on the rocking chairs. It’s a great place for spiritual growth.” The Right Step Hill Country clients have the benefit of being part of the broader The Right Step network. With facilities throughout Texas, clients can transfer from inpatient to outpatient, or vice versa, and change programs as the need arises – all without any interruption in treatment. The staff at each program shares clinical information so that each client receives seamless care.

Above and Beyond

When recruiting new staff, Terri’s most important requirement is “they have to care.” The Right Step team includes people with diverse skills. By design, some are in recovery, some are not. That way, the team has the skills and background to reach everybody. The entire The Right Step team has a “whatever it takes” approach. They go above and beyond for each client, spending time getting to know each as an individual and crafting a treatment program that meets their specific needs. In addition to traditional, evidence-based therapies, clients are encouraged to try a wide variety of approaches until they find what works for them. “All of the different therapies work, but they don’t all work the same for different people,” Terri explains. “Whether it’s individual therapy, ropes, music therapy or art, we step outside the box to reach clients in whatever way we can.” Terri is tireless in her calling to help people recover from addiction. When she isn’t swimming in local watering holes or digging rocks for her Broken Arrow Rock Shop, she’s at her home away from home: The Right Step. “Seeing the light go on in clients’ eyes when they realize they can do this and they deserve it – that’s what wakes me up every morning and keeps me here until midnight, if needed.” At The Right Step, Terri is known for her passion and intensity. She has a powerful message for anyone struggling with addiction: “It can get better; you don’t have to fight it alone. We will fight with you,” she says. “We’ll give you a space to learn and grow and figure out how to love yourself again. Your fears, your anger – all of it is welcome here.”

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