Selfie - compassionate, present
Inner Light - Looking for the humor in life. I love to laugh. I love to be happy.
Message to Women Everywhere - “There’s a time and place to play it safe, but saying yes to life will tap you into your uniqueness. We all got a little bad girl in each of us. Let’s channel it!”
Annette Dorsey starts her day with a meditation practice. She makes time to breathe, get grounded, and as she puts it “clear everything out.” She says, “When you work with people, you have to have good energy to give. And I want to be well and have myself together before I lend any part of myself to others.” For over two decades, Annette has been giving good energy as a clinical counselor, serving the mentally ill struggling with substance abuse through troubled times. Annette has managed residential treatment centers that provide safe, hygienic environments, where the underserved, at-risk population struggling with substance abuse can get food, medication and counseling. During her time in different capacities — counselor, residential manager and interim program director — Annette has helped well over 5000 clients in Alameda County of Northern California to get back on their feet. Within this East Bay community, she is known as Ms Annette. People know and speak of Ms Annette as the person to call if they need to get off the streets and get addiction-free and sober.
Annette was raised by a single mom in Easy Bay areas of Northern California where drug addiction and prostitution were common parts of street life. Annette fondly recalls growing up with siblings, cousins and other neighborhood kids all banding together and watching out for one another through a rough childhood. She got into her share of mischief, but as a teenager, Annette realized she didn’t want to wind up like the folks she had seen wrecked by addiction and violence. She committed to finishing school and set out on a path to discover what she could offer the world. Throughout childhood, Annette received positive attention and unexpected support from many in her community. Annette is grateful for the local hustlers who gave her bus money when she didn’t have it to get to school. Annette recalls, “They would say to me, ‘You got it going on, girl, and you need to get to school.’ So not only would they give me bus fare, they made me believe I had a purpose.” She is grateful for the men who gave her life advice and stood in for the father figure she didn’t have. Like the African American driver whose bus she regularly took to and from school, who talked to her about being responsible and what it looked like to walk the walk of someone who respected herself. Annette’s benefactors lifted her up even as they themselves were struggling with addiction and illness. Annette says, “Over and over again I’ve been gifted with amazing people who come into my life to guide and carry me. They may be strangers and their timing may seem random, but this phenomenon of angels blessing me has been a pattern in my life.”
Over time — after finishing school and pursuing various career paths — Annette discovered that she had a knack for helping people who suffered from mental illness concurrent with substance abuse. Growing up around local addicts, she felt a connection with this demographic and had a passion for helping them rebuild their lives. Annette recalls, “As a teenager, I always wondered who were these people before they became ill or addicted? I didn’t look at them as their addiction or illness. I wanted to know them and see them at their core.” This pull towards seeing people as their true selves led Annette to working at a dual-addiction house and going back to school to specialize in counseling so she could study in earnest both the theory and practice of working with this population. Annette’s open, humble heart makes her a powerful force. She is present with her clients and listens without judgment. She says, “These are my people, I get them, I serve them. They gravitate towards me. My goal is always to see people for who they are and empower them to see it for themselves.” Managing and counseling in residential programs, Annette is able to create not just a safe physical space for her clients but a safe social-emotional space as well. They lower their defenses around Annette because they trust that she understands the kind of situations or pitfalls that have led them to where they are. "Honestly, the things my clients tell me about, I wouldn’t have the strength to handle what they’ve had to do. And I tell them that. I say, ‘Look at all you’ve been through and you’re still here. This is cakewalk compared to what you’ve been through. You can do this! You can get back on your feet!'” She mirrors her clients’ strength back to them. When they feel seen by Annette, this has often led to the turning point in their lives.
While Annette recognizes the phenomenon of angels blessing her life, the beautiful reality is how she is the silk and steel in this web of kindness. Annette has been an angel to many. It isn’t uncommon for Annette to be out and about and someone comes right up to her and calls out, “Ms Annette, remember me? You saved my life! You helped me when I was in need.” The most recent encounter of this sort was with a woman who stopped Annette at the grocery store and said, “Remember how you didn’t give up on me? It’s been two years, and I’ve been clean and sober since. Thank you!” Annette cannot always immediately recognize the person. After all, she’s had many clients, and often their healthy countenance look much different from their former appearance. But Annette says she is good at recognizing eyes. “I look into their eyes, and I see them. And I remember. Now they look like who they’re supposed to look like. They are their true selves. Knowing that I was in some way a part of their recovery is priceless.”
For some time Annette has been yearning to bring more into her life. As she continues the counseling work that she is passionate about, she wants to offer something that taps into her creativity and lifts spirits in a totally different way. Last year, by way of exploration, she enrolled in cosmetology school and became licensed as a nail technician. She competed in a beauty pageant and was crowned the modeling queen. She completed a public speaking program, which beyond techniques to overcome stage fright, gave her a powerful experience of owning herself. As Annette puts it, “The program helped me discover how I can move through life from my seat of power.” Annette uses her training to facilitate public-speaking workshops and help her clients in her counseling work to prepare for job interviews.
Now Annette splits her time between counseling and building her new business, Annette’s Nail Therapy, a mobile nail service that provides manicures and pedicures in co-working spaces, private events and clients’ homes. Annette meditates every morning whether it will be a day of counseling or beautifying because “when you touch people, you have to have good energy to give.” She brings her open heart. She also brings a scrumptious pineapple sugar scrub and almond-tea tree oil that she makes herself. With her bodacious humor, Annette pampers her clients from head to heart to toe. While they’re laughing and baring their soul, Annette is taking luxurious care of their skin and cuticles before applying what she calls a “poppin’ polish”. As Annette puts it, “I’m not just going to give you color on your nails. I want to give you color in your life. So when you walk out of here, you’ll be reminded to be bold and step into your true self.”