New Beginning Women helps people overcome mental illness, addiction

Lena Weib

LAKELAND — Some of Kristie Cere’s former friends might not recognize her today. 

The 35-year-old brunette has an easy smile, clear eyes, clean skin, dresses modestly, and talks about her love of Jesus and gratitude to God.

“I work at Chipotle on South Florida and so I go to work for eight-hour days and Sundays, I go to church,” Cere said. “I’m part of the welcoming team at Grace City and really grateful for that.” 

It has been a very long road — filled with self-care and the hard work of facing the inner demons of mental illness and addiction — from where she was a year ago: the Polk County Jail on the latest possession of methamphetamine charges, along with driving with a suspended license.

“I have lived a long life of drug and alcohol addiction,” said Cere. “You know, on paper it looks like crime, but it’s always been the addiction.” 

Now she’s getting the help she has needed for decades in a program that is one of the success stories in Polk County. 

Related:Mental health in Polk County and Florida: Read every story in our series

Early addiction 

Kristie Cere a client at Tri County Human Services New Beginning talks about her experience in Lakeland Fl. Friday December 17  2021. Cere is almost finished with the program. Polk has multiple treatment centers for people suffering a mental health issues.
ERNST PETERS/ THE LEDGER

Her addictive personality showed up as shoplifting and skipping school at an early age, which turned into smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. 

“I used to get a really big adrenaline rush from that,” Cere said. “I mean, I liked doing it, I liked the thrill of doing stuff I wasn’t supposed to and not getting caught. I loved it and I fed off that.” 

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