project.ME aims to love addicts until they can love themselves

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Seeking to support, one organization makes that its mission after the founder spent most of her life without the support she desperately was in search of. Project.ME aims to strengthen support systems through mentoring, empowerment and advocacy, helping those in need to seek recovery from addiction.

Founder Aisha Diss was raised by a single mom who worked hard to provide for her and her sisters. Because of her absence, Aisha was constantly seeking out support. Born biracial, she never felt as though she fit in. Her grandma was a large part of raising her. When Aisha was 13, her grandma died which began what she describes as a “spin out.”

“That had a great impact on me but I didn’t feel like I recognized those impacts until I was much older, my grandma was the first significant trauma and loss, and I didn’t know how to cope,” Aisha explains.

Aisha tried to take her own life. “That’s been a common theme in my life, suicidal ideation. It’s just one of those things that I think about when I’m in a hopeless situation, I struggle with mental health,” Aisha says.

Aisha began discovering boys, drugs, alcohol and other harmful substances that she says helped her feel good in her own skin. “It didn’t matter what was put in front of me, I didn’t have a care about myself,” Aisha says.

Aisha always enjoyed to learn growing up but found herself kicked out of high school after a fight. She tried other avenues to finish high school that never worked. She ended up getting her GED at the age of 17 and was pregnant with her daughter.

“She probably saved me in a lot of ways, I was really on a bad path. I didn’t care about myself enough, but I cared about her enough,” Aisha says tearfully. “I straightened up for a little while, while I was pregnant I did the right things.”

Aisha then found herself in an abusive relationship. “He used what happened in my childhood against me. If I was already broken and didn’t know how to cope and felt like I was worthless, he just confirmed all of that for me,” Aisha explains. Aisha turned back to old habits of addiction. After having two boys, Aisha found herself with a second OWI in less than five years which was her first felony charge.

Aisha struggled to stay out of trouble after this charge and found herself charged with more felonies which landed her in prison.

“It all just came together,” she explains. During this time, Aisha worked hard to better herself and entered recovery.

After serving time in prison, Aisha wanted to continue her education and decided to go to school and get a degree and make a change in her life. Her mom passed away the day of her finals. “My sisters rallied around me and said I should go take my finals if I was able to. College had such a purpose in my early recovery,” Aisha explains.

“I wanted to get certified as a peer recovery coach, and I feel like that just opened my whole world. It empowered me,” Aisha says. 14 years later, Aisha is still in recovery seeking to make a difference in Northeast Indiana helping those who are searching for support.

Once she was a licensed coach, she started a Facebook page called project.ME and shared her story. People started reaching out. “I’m only one person but I just want to love people until they can love themselves, that’s the whole idea for project.ME,” Aisha says.

Project.ME offers recovery support services helping people to remove barriers in life preventing them from getting help and going into recovery. Programs and services include peer recovery coaching, education and training, as well as distributions through community outreach. Aisha and her team spend hours each week sharing and informing those in the community how project.ME can help them.

“We offer information with what project.ME is and provide education so we can help save as many lives as we can,” Aisha says. “We do outreach in every community, typically we do outreach in the zip codes that have the highest population of overdoses.”

Posters and brochures are passed out to those who are interested in learning more about the different ways people can overdose, as well as doses of Narcan.

Vincent True is an addiction peer recovery coach and part of the outreach team that goes into the community sharing information. “I’m in recovery. It means a lot to be able to get out here and educate the community and let people know that they aren’t alone,” Vincent says.

“It works if you do the work, but nobody can do that for you. People count themselves out of life because that might seem easier than doing the work to push forward. Since I’ve decided I wanted to live life I never felt like I had to do something, I really feel like I get to because I shouldn’t be here, I really feel like I was given a second chance and I just feel blessed to be alive,” Aisha explains.

For more information on project.ME or to how get help, visit the website.

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