When I was 11, my mother passed away. I was the oldest of five children, and I had to help take care of my brothers and sisters. At the same time, I was starting puberty and I missed my mother a lot. So, I started drowning out the pain with drugs. I got into them really heavily. I got to the point where I was using PCP and I got addicted to it for five years. I just could not shake it off.
During that time, I met my boyfriend who became my husband. I finally got off the PCP and I was with my husband 25 years. I had my first child at 20. I loved being a mom and bringing up my kids, but when I was 23, I was introduced to meth. I got so addicted that I loved meth more than my husband.
From there, I lost everything. My husband and I split up. I lost my home of 19 years and became homeless. My kids stayed with their dad. Being apart from them was so hard. Eventually, I started living in the park and my daughter would bring me food. That was really the bottom. I started selling drugs to survive. I got raped. I got beaten up. My life was incredibly dangerous.
Finally, I got arrested for drug dealing. I had been arrested before, but this time, I got sent to prison. That fall, while I was awaiting my trial, I had a stroke. I was paralyzed on my left side. I was in a wheelchair during my trial. Once I got to prison, I started walking again and undergoing physical therapy. But then, in September of 2008, I suffered a heart attack. I was in the ICU for a while and had surgery. All this was damage from the drugs. I knew then that I never wanted to go back to using again.
I did eighteen months of treatment in prison through Phoenix House. I finished my mandated treatment, and then I went voluntarily to Phoenix House in Santa Fe Springs, CA. It became my home away from home. I learned about integrity there. I learned the importance of being honest, even when no one’s looking. My counselors were great. I knew I could go to them about anything and they wouldn’t judge. They taught us how to get back out there. They gave us hope. Phoenix House showed me the steps, so I could make it on my own.
I finished the program in six months, and then stayed in sober living for a year and a half. Today, I have four years sober. I’m going to school to become a probation officer and I hope to work in juvenile hall, helping young people. My relationship with my family is stronger than ever. When I finished treatment, my son had a surprise for me. He told me I was going to have a grandson in two weeks! He said if I ever got back into drugs, he wouldn’t let me be part of my grandson’s life. But I think he knew I was never going back. He and my daughter saw the change in me. I regained their trust. The three of us are really close, and I just love spending time with my grandson, who’s two now.
I’ve also stayed connected to my Phoenix House family. My peers in treatment have become my sisters. We do everything together. If someone needs something or someone’s down, we help that person out. We keep one another from relapsing.
What I’ve learned is that if you’re struggling with addiction, you have to want help first. From there, you have to be led to where you can get help. I got the help I needed and that’s why I’m doing so well. I want to show people by my example that treatment really does work.