When Arianna Pyles started talking about her mom, Sonya, Arianna held back tears.
“To see her become this woman, this mother to me and be my biggest support, a role model to me, holding my hand the whole way through,” Arianna said.
Sonya sat beside and slightly behind her daughter, reaching for one of the many boxes of tissues at Tuesday night’s Women in Recovery graduation.
She quietly wiped away tears below her eyes. The 2015 WIR graduate was there to see her daughter follow in her footsteps as part of the program’s 25th graduation ceremony.
“Excuse me,” Sonya said. “I didn’t know she felt that way about me.”
Arianna was one of 17 graduates Tuesday night, each sharing the struggle, heartbreak and redemption that brought them there.
Together, the graduates represented 260 years of addiction overcome and 9,337 hours of therapy achieved.
The Pyles sat a few rows back at the ceremony, all wearing black T-shirts with “Pyles Strong” and a flexing arm reminiscent of Popeye on a full can of spinach.
But on the back, the shirts spelled out a phrase, a proclamation to what both mother and daughter had accomplished.
“The Cycle of Addiction Has Been Broken In Our Family.”
WIR addresses not only a single person’s struggle with addiction. For 70 percent of its graduates, addiction affects their children as well.
If not for children, the program is for family and friends. Mimi Tarrasch, executive senior program director at WIR, said graduation represented not only a turning point for the graduates, but for their supporters.
“You’ve not only waited patiently, but you’ve been disappointed many times,” Tarrasch said to the crowd. “Tonight is a chance to welcome them back into your lives.”
When Sonya graduated the program, Arianna found hope that if mom could do it, she could do it, too.
Hope is a commodity at WIR, much like boxes upon boxes of tissues used to dry tears. It’s the weapon to confront the underlying trauma, the baggage and the hurt that comes with overcoming addiction.
Arianna said she has the program to thank not only for her recovery, but for her mother’s support.
“This program gave that to us, it has strengthened our relationship,” Arianna said. “Our bond is so much stronger now.”
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter attended the graduation after meeting the graduates earlier in the program.
Hunter said he was “a politician among heroes” during his address. Amid his campaign to stay in office, Hunter joked that he wouldn’t ask for votes, but he would give a few Tuesday night.
“I want to give a vote of confidence to this program,” Hunter said. “A vote of confidence to your graduates for your heroism and your courage.”
With the cycle of addiction broken, the Pyleses have a second chance as a family. Arianna’s daughter will never see the things her mother saw; she’ll never face the same forces that drove the last two generations to addiction.
For Sonya, it’s all she could ever ask for.
“It’s the hugest gift in the world that my daughter now gets to have all the opportunities that were so freely given to me,” Sonya said. “She gets to heal from all her pain and be a part of such a wonderful community now that she’s a graduate.
“It’s been an amazing journey and my biggest prayer for more than two and a half years that she would also have this opportunity to be a participant in this program.”