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Life at The Ruth House: Holli Van Tassell

October 15, 2017

By BENJAMIN ZACK/Standard-Examiner staff

Holli Van Tassell, 34, entered The Ruth House program last April, hoping to overcome her alcohol and methamphetamine addictions.

Standard-Examiner photographer Benjamin Zack documented Holli's stay in The Ruth House over the course of several months. The following are just some of the many images he captured, accompanied by audio clips from Holli as she describes her story.

Click play the grey text Holli describe her struggles with remaining clean and how to she moved to Utah from Las Vegas, Nevada, after multiple relapses.

"I was trying to find a job, and then the stress of not being able to find a job and living in Las Vegas... I got discouraged. And then I started using again. (...) It was my birthday and I had nowhere to go. I was on the streets in Vegas so this person was like ‘Fly up to Utah and start over.’ OK, So I tried that again. Yet another... just kept running and running."

Holli Van Tassell right, tells her life story to Ruth House staff member Tiffany Flygare during an interview to potentially move into the home on March 29, 2017. At the time, Van Tassell was preparing to move out of the YCC Family Crisis Center and trying to combat her alcoholism and methamphetamine use. In April, Van Tassell moved into a basement bedroom at the house.
Holli Van Tassell looks at the view from the front porch of the Ruth House after moving in on April 8, 2017. Van Tassell arrived at the Ruth House after a long string of what she describes as bad relationships around Utah, Nevada, Oregon and California. "Any red flags that I know now, before I just ignored them so that I didn't have to be alone," said Van Tassell.
Lillian Grosz, left, goes over the mechanics of a donated bicycle with Holli Van Tassell at the Ogden Bicycle Collective on April 8, 2017. Van Tassell moved into the Ruth House in April with a few bags of mostly pink clothes and not much else.
Holli Van Tassell, right, jokes around with housemate Ramona Mata and her three daughters, including Andrea, left, during a house meeting on May 7, 2017.

Holly's journey toward sobriety had its pitfalls. Here, she describes how she was given one more chance at The Ruth House after a relapse: 

"I had a relapse once drinking while I was in the Ruth House. I had started a relationship again with a former partner that has a severe drinking problem. I started making excuses about where I was at, getting mad at my coordinator about having me always to check in, back and forth with her, angry."

Tiffany Flygare, right, chats with Holli Van Tassell at the Ruth House on July 5, 2017. All of the women in home have to regularly check in with Flygare. Earlier in the summer, Van Tassell disappeared for several days and later admitted she was out drinking at the time. "I felt so ashamed and so stupid," said Van Tassell. House staff gave her one more chance after returning.
Holli Van Tassell writes a thank you note after receiving a donated bicycle from the Ogden Bicycle Collective on April 8, 2017.
Holli Van Tassell raises her arms in praise during a church service at The Genesis Project on Aug. 27, 2017. Van Tassell first came to the Ruth House after discovering the Recovery in Christ program that is tied to the home.

Holly says she grew up in a "chaotic" situation with parents who were alcoholics, which led her to develop co-dependent relationships.

“There’s a quote I read, and it’s absolutely fitting for my situation. ‘It’s easier to make your life hard than it is to make your life easy.’ I felt like I’d made bad choices ‘cause I was like, ‘This is too hard, I can’t do this.’ So I would just say screw it and give up, and just walk away from it. Then I’d get sick of it being hard and just being crap, I’d start trying again.”

Holli Van Tassell looks around the empty room she found to rent in Ogden, several miles from the Ruth House, on Sept. 26, 2017. After a third instance of disappearing for several days, Van Tassell was asked to leave the home by the lend of September.
Holli Van Tassell carries cleaning supplies into her new home on Sept. 26, 2017. Despite the unplanned exit form the Ruth House, Van Tassell says she sees the departure as a fresh start and wants to stay involved with The Genesis Project.


Listen to more stories from the women of The Ruth House