Genna Hilbrich Vega hadn't seen her parents in two years, but for a few hours on Sunday, they laughed and cried and were side by side.
The reunion happened at TROSA – Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers – a two-year program in Durham, where Vega has lived for the past year, getting help for alcoholism.
She is one 400 people in the program. Participants generally can't see family for their first 30 days in treatment and have to work up to phone calls and visits. Vega also had to regain her parents' trust. After some tough love and two interventions, they gave her an ultimatum.
"I know everything it took for my dad to tell me over the phone, 'You can't come home anymore. You've got to clean your act up or there will be no reunions,'" she said.
As she turned to alcohol over the years, Vega says, she grew further apart from her family.
"It wasn't until my last arrest, really, previous to that, but my last arrest that I knew if I didn't do this, I'd either kill someone driving around or my life was pretty much going to end," she said. "I thought I could handle what was going on in my life, and I found myself desperate and drinking more often … Finding myself in jail was eye opening."
Vega's struggle may be all too familiar, but getting treatment is not as common. According to Duke University research, only about 13 percent of adults in Durham County who need treatment are getting it. That means 18,000 more are still in need.
"I do know there's definitely a great need out there for substance abuse treatment and particularly long-term treatment like TROSA has, where it's not just about getting clean, but it's about vocational training and education and after-care so people can make the transition out of treatment and into the community and still be successful," said Jeff Stern, TROSA's special projects director.
The treatment comes at no cost to the people who go through the program, which is paid for through donations and also businesses including a moving company and lawn care businesses TROSA runs.
That treatment is now helping Vega, a registered nurse with two degrees from Purdue University, get her life and family back together.
"My love is immense for my folks. It's who I am. So, when I look in the eyes of mom and dad, I see myself. I see every brother and sister and niece and nephew, my children," she said. "This is the beginning of the rest of my life and I'm so grateful to be here. That's what I see when I look at my mom and dad."