“My childhood sucked,” says Michelle. When Michelle was 11-years old, her twin sister and she told their mom that their stepdad had been molesting them. Mom kicked him out, but he moved back in the next day. He continued to mentally abuse (and possibly more – much of her childhood is blocked from her memory) Michelle for the rest of her childhood. Her Mom was also abusive.

“When I came home from school she would be drinking and pull my hair and scream at me.” says Michelle. “I started to use to numb the pain.”

She started drinking when she was 8 years-old. Her parents, both alcoholics themselves, supplied the drinks.

“They thought it was funny when we drank a little.” she says.

At 11 years-old she started sneaking more alcohol. In high school, she began drinking more, smoking pot and being promiscuous.

“I was either carried out of parties or woke up not knowing where I was.” she recalls.

Then, after a steady boyfriend who kept her somewhat grounded in high school moved away, she discovered crystal meth.

“It fulfilled everything I was looking for.”

In 1994, she met her husband Ron. He was a drug dealer. She was now smoking meth and stealing to pay for it. She went to jail several times for shop-lifting. But there were certain lines she thought she’d never cross. When a pregnant girl would come to the house looking to buy drugs, Michelle would always insist Ron turn her away. Then, in 1996, Michelle got pregnant. She crossed the line.

“I would use to get high and then feel her move and then feel so guilty and cry, then use to make me feel better.” she remembers.

Her daughter Sierra was born 7 lbs. 7 oz.

“I looked like a zombie, but no one asked if I was on anything. Back then no one tested babies for drugs. When I brought her home she cried all the time.”…likely an effect of withdrawal. Michelle left Sierra with her parents all the time, “the same people who had made me the way I was.”

Michelle was not parenting Sierra.

“It was always the drugs first…times I couldn’t feed her…always drugs…money for drugs, for a room and then, if we could, feed her.”

When Sierra was 3 years-old, the police knocked on the door. “We wouldn’t open it until we finished getting high.” By the age of five or six-years-old, Sierra knew how to dial the hospitals and the jail information lines.

“It’s insanity where you’ll go when you get so desperate.” Michelle notes.

One day, Michelle took Sierra to the park. She watched a woman pushing her child on the swings.

“I wanted her to have that relationship that I never had. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

So, she checked herself into an inpatient rehab center. Then, she left. The withdrawal was making her crazy. She was psychotic.

“The anxiety was so bad”

When she tried to return, they said no. She wrote a letter to the director appealing the decision. He gave her one last chance.  A woman she met there prayed with her and “I saw the light at the end of my spiritual journey”.

After her rehab, she had to find temporary housing and landed back at her parents’ home, the very place that had started her drinking, a place she did not feel safe and a place where she had no support in her recovery.

“I knew if I stayed it was just a matter of time before I was using again.” says Michelle.

In 2003, she and seven-year-old Sierra moved into Weldon House. She was excited but scared for the journey ahead.

“I had a sense of relief that I didn’t have to hide and lock a door at night, to be in that situation anymore, that is was safe, and we had a place that was ours and I had never had that before.”

Michelle says that she was always called “dumb and a loser” So, when NCADD met with her to discuss her path, she assumed she’d get a basic minimum wage job. She didn’t feel like she was smart enough to do anything else. But, NCADD disagreed. They talked to her about her worth and value.

“I didn’t believe I could. I thought maybe I could get a job, but I didn’t think I could do much more. I started to believe it after awhile.”

They convinced her that by getting an education, she would ensure her long-term recovery. So she began working on her Associates Degree. In addition, they taught her life skills at Weldon House.

“I had more direction, more support, more discipline than I ever had growing up.”

When she graduated with her Associates Degree, things changed.

“Sierra told me how proud she was of me and that day was key. This is the right thing to do. It’s not going to be easy…it will be a struggle, but if you work through the struggle instead of numbing it, the possibilities are endless.” Plus, she says she wanted to show Sierra, and her son Clayton, that it’s never too late and that anyone can make something of their lives.

About that time, she left Weldon House (just a few months prior to graduating from the program there) to reunite with her husband Ron who had been clean for six months. It was a rough road, which included one return to Weldon House, but they are still together today, living a clean and sober life.

“The relationship with my children – Sierra and Clayton – in the beginning of my recovery was a struggle and today because of my recovery; I have the most beautiful relationships with my children and my husband.  I live in gratitude every day I wake up!”

In 2007, she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree and in 2011 received her Master’s degree in Social Work and is now being courted by several hospitals for work as a Licensed Master Social Worker. Sierra is flourishing, working two jobs and attending her second year at Phoenix College. Clayton is thriving – engaged and working full-time.

“With the support of NCADD and the 12 step program, I jumped head first into my recovery and built a strong support system and a great relationship with God. I am so grateful for the life I have today and because of NCADD, I have learned how to deal with many struggles in a healthy and productive manner.”

“Today, I thought about how far I have come. I’m proud of myself. Both jobs came to me. I’ve never felt so much worth and value. I’ve made it. I am so grateful for what I have, so many blessings in my life. It’s because of this place and these people who taught me values and morals, gave me everything I have today. If it weren’t for them, I don’t know where I’d be.”