Glenna Hughes has fought her share of battles, from alcohol addiction and homelessness to mental illness and devastating personal loss.
But a combination of strong will and stronger faith have helped her persevere. Hughes will be the recipient of the ninth annual Empowerment Award at the 18th annual Women of Achievement Awards Luncheon on March 7.
"It was a great surprise," said Hughes, 49.
While she takes pride in receiving the honor, she gives credit to prayer and YWCA programs for pulling her through the darkest days of her life. A plaque on a wall of her apartment is a daily reminder of Psalm 118:24. "This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it."
Sometimes one must hit rock bottom to begin climbing up, she said.
Hughes has a hard time remembering time lines of some events in her life. Her memories are clouded by alcohol, grief and hopelessness. But she recalls the harsh sting inflicted by those heartaches.
She grew up in St. Albans where she remembers her parents bickering and drinking when she was a little girl. Still, she felt they loved her. She was only seven years old when her father died of a heart attack. By the time she was a teenager, she was partying and caving to peer pressure.
She met her husband-to-be in 1987 and, two years later, lost her mother to lung cancer.
"I was 23," she said. "I couldn't take it. I drank. It was devastating to lose my mother. She was my best friend. I had a daughter before I lost Mom, but I continued partying. In 1990, I had a son."
Within three weeks she lost him to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
"That shattered my world," she said. "My husband and I would pull together and then apart. We divorced but got along off and on."
He was 29 when he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. It was a Saturday. He had an appointment scheduled with a psychiatrist for Monday.
Hughes began seeking help for her own psychological well-being and spent a long time in and out of hospitals until doctors found the right combination of medications to treat her bipolar disorder. She earned her degree to become a medical assistant and got a job she loved at a local hospital.
Still, life could be overwhelming and she began missing work.
"It was the best job I ever had," she said. "I was using the money for partying. I was drinking myself to death."