I could sit here and tell you a long, drawn to story of how I ended up here. Full of horror stories and all-too-true tales that are probably best left in the past. I’ve given this some thought thought, and the important part of my story is how it ends. The “meat” of course has it’s place, but it’s not here and now. So, I’ll give you a quick overview and then say what needs to be said. My greatest hope with all this is that I’m able to help even just one woman to redirect her life path. Because the life I’ve led thus far has been treacherous and heartbreaking, and I wish it on absolutely no one.
My name is Danielle S. I’m a 26 year old mother. My son is what gives my life meaning, even though I haven’t always done the right thing since coming into motherhood nearly 4 years ago. I’m currently doing 42 months of incarceration at WHV Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I guess you could say I started this journey roughly 10 years ago. My drug addiction started with a pill. One simple pill. It truly altered my life forever. See, I’ve been an opiate addict for the past 8 years. At 18 years old I began using Vicodin (a low-grade pain medication). This developed into me using oxycontin (a high-grade pain medication) by 19, along with any anxiety medications or mood stabilizers I could get my hands on. By 20 I was a full-blown addict and became an exotic dancer, which took me down an even darker path of existence. You see, demons dwell in places such as those, and boy did they dwell on me. My life was a series of terrible relationships and even worse life choices. I robbed and stole from everyone. From those I cared for to complete strangers I new nothing of. I continued to dance, an occupation that brought me immense pain & discomfort and only fueled my addiction. It seemed there was no end in sight. At 22 I got pregnant with my dear, sweet baby boy. I wish I was able to tell you a fairy-tale ending, but then I wouldn’t be telling you the truth. At 6 months pregnant I overdosed on Xanax and ended up hospitalized due to the incident. When my son was born, it was with drugs in his system. However, all dark clouds do retain a silver lining.
After the birth of my son, I continued to use quite heavily. A breakdown, after losing someone I truly loved, sent me reeling backward. However, my parents refusing to let me see my son was a small saving grace. I willingly checked myself into rehab (and not for the first time either, it would prove to be the last, however). I did complete rehab. I won back the one I loved. I got my son back full-time, and when he was 8 months old I got an apartment. We were a family. Happy, and we loved one another. I still had all these demons, however, and their weight was tremendous. After 3 years of sobriety from opiates, I relapsed. I had to let go of all these secrets. All the hurt and pain I had buried and stored deep, deep down. You see, I was a victim of sexual abuse at a very young age. At 14 I thought it was entirely acceptable (and maybe even “cool” that I was sleeping with a 28 year old. A man double my age! Now I see how warped my sense of self and what love should be was. Instead of dealing with these issues I piled drugs on top and shoved it to the back of my mind. So, once I relapsed, I completely lost it. At this time I began to intravenously inject heroin. Using opiates in pill form is one thing, but once I started putting these drugs directly into my bloodstream, it was a direct drop to rock-bottom. I did so many things I’m not proud of, but dragging my son thru all this while I was using has to be the most upsetting & heartbreaking. Ashamed doesn’t even begin to cover how I felt. How I still feel about it. Guilt is a hard thing to hold onto, an even harder thing to be able to let go of – I’m learning each day though. Every rock-bottom has it’s crashing point though, and mine was what landed me here.
For anyone who has struggled with IV drug use, you know that it is both mentally and physically addicting. For those who don’t, let me explain. When you begin this dance with the devil, it’s for life. To withdraw is to feel physical soreness in every muscle & bone. To have a million ants trapped underneath your skin. To have an endless head cold. To be utterly fatigued & yet battle insomnia. Worst of all, is the battle in your brain. There isn’t an addict in existence who enjoys what they are. Every single one battles with themselves for sobriety. The thing is, the cunning malice of addiction will win 9/10 times. The most conniving demons dwell within addiction, feeding the bottomless pit of the monster. Let me tell you, my monster was huge & always starved.
On July 6, 2016 I was in a rut. I desperately needed to get high, yet I was broke and had no means to come by some quick cash. I made a rash (and quite idiotic) decision and robbed a gas station attendant at gunpoint. I made it out with 65 measly dollars, and managed to get away for roughly 24 hours. I never truly thought of my consequences, but the most inner part of me was tired of running. I knew when I was caught that I’d be away for a long time. I eventually understood it was God’s way of finally saving me from myself. I had quite a journey ahead of me, but sobriety and recovery starts one step at a time.
So, there I was, sitting in jail when I received (what I thought was peculiar then) a visit from my ex-boyfriend’s mom, Michelle. She had seen me down & out and I’d put her son through quite a lot. If anyone wanted to visit me, I had no reason to think it would be her. God, however, impressed vast amounts of love on her for me and she was able to see through all the haziness of what I had been, to the young & troubled girl inside. She came to every court date, and visited me regularly. She allowed me to once again believe in God. The miracles that happened to me throughout court were exactly that – miracles.
I’ll never forget my sentencing date. I had a speech prepared & recited in my head, but at the moment I took the podium I spoke from a deeper part of me. I spoke the truth and laid out all my emotions. My judge (an amazing woman who truly wants to help addicts) saw the real me & I received a truly blessed sentence. In the state of Michigan a firearms charge is an automatic 24 month charge. My guidelines for the armed robbery charge were 5-7 years, plus the 2 years for the gun charge (which is required to be run consecutive). I should be sitting here for at least 7 years. I lucked out because I’m required to serve the 2 years for the firearms charge and then 18 months for the armed robbery. I must say, God is GOOD. He works in mysterious ways. My journey drug me through addiction and has since hurled me into prison, but I don’t feel even the least bit sorry for me, I’ve truly been saved.
All this being said, I’ve been brought to the topic of SOAR. It was presented to me through mere happenchance, and Michelle (who, while yes she is my life coach & mentor, she is also my second mom) told me about this dream she had. From the moment I was told about SOAR, I knew this was my calling. The idea of SOAR is so much bigger than I can even imagine. I’m merely a worker bee, dragging pollen from flower to flower. Since I’ve been incarcerated, I’ve met countless women who are stuck in prison because they have nowhere to parole home to. It gets me down, knowing these women long to do better and get stuck in this cycle. They get out and end up somewhere that’s unhealthy for them. They feel unwanted & unloved. With SOAR, all that would be different. The SOAR home allows women not only coming out of prison to have somewhere to go, but also those with the desire to become sober. Those trapped in sex trafficking or wrapped up into prostitution. This home is designed for women who need help. In addition, they come to be loved—something they truly and desperately need. With the Cafe, it allows them to work and earn an income, giving them a sense of self in the world and where they belong in the hierarchy of the working class. SOAR has become a part of me. I live & breathe for this.
Growing up, I always wanted to help people. My dream once I became an addict was to overcome drug addiction and to help those still trapped within it. With this opportunity, I finally can. I come to you, just as damaged as the women I desire to help. If anyone is cut out for this job, I like to think it’s me. Like I said, my vision of SOAR is truly so much bigger than me, and I can’t wait to help these women. Trust me, if I can overcome all these obstacles, with God, anyone can!