Growing up, I got into trouble a lot. My mom was really strict, but back then I just thought that was how all parents raised their kids. When I was about 13 I just couldn’t take it anymore, and I started running away. After the third time I ran away, my mom told me that if I did it again she wouldn’t come looking for me. So I ran away again, and that was it—she just let me go.
I was living on the streets for the next few years, and that’s when my drug use started. I just wanted to fit in, and everybody I hung out with was doing drugs so I started doing them too. My drug was methamphetamines; I didn’t like anything else, not even alcohol. For me, there was only speed.
When I was 16 I got pregnant and some people let me stay with them until after I had my daughter. Eventually I even got a job and my own place. I loved working and for a while I supported myself and did really well, but I was still using. I even got married, but that relationship ended in abuse. Needless to say, my addiction progressed and eventually I just lost it all—the job, the apartment, my kids. I had four more children after my firstborn, and three were lost in the system because of my drug abuse.
Over the years I had been in and out of jail several times on drug charges and a forgery charge. It was a burglary charge that finally sent me to prison—that really got my attention. I served three years on a six-year sentence, and I remember the ladies from Phoenix House would come into the prison and talk to us about the program. That’s when I decided to go into treatment. I mean, I had been addicted to drugs from age 13 to age 43. The drugs took away everything I had, and everything I ever wanted. I had to change. So I went to Phoenix House of Santa Fe Springs as soon as I paroled from prison, in 2008. Phoenix House was what really changed my life.
A lot of people struggle with treatment at first, but for me, because I had nowhere else to go, the program was really a blessing and I knew it. I had already been in the prison substance abuse program for two years, but I learned so much more at Phoenix House. I had counselors who were great, really tough, who taught me to take a second look at myself and stop blaming the world for the life I had created for myself and my children. The staff members at Phoenix House were awesome, very caring, loving, and most of all understanding—many of them had struggled with addiction themselves. I’m still in touch with all the girls I met in treatment; we communicate constantly and meet up once a month. I made lifelong friends at Phoenix House.
Today I work as a drug and alcohol counselor at another residential treatment facility for women. I attend Long Beach City College and I’ve almost completed my AA degree. I am rebuilding my relationships with my children and my 14-year-old granddaughter. I’m still living in California, and I only work five miles from my old Phoenix House home. In the last three years I’ve even gotten back in touch with my mother—we actually have a good relationship now! I’ve reunited with my sister, with some cousins…I have been blessed with a great home and an even better family. It’s truly amazing what recovery can do. I want to tell everyone who’s in treatment, even if they’ve just started: just hold on to your seat and wait for the miracle to happen. Because it will happen. That’s what the girls at Phoenix House told me when I got there, and I remember thinking, “You guys are crazy and you don’t know what you’re talking about!” But do you know what? I held onto my seat and the miracle happened—and it continues to happen if you just take it one day at a time.