I had a picture-perfect childhood. Our mom took care of the family like a real-life Superwoman. My hero was my dad, who flew airplanes to pay the bills. All three of my siblings were my best friends. Our home in Bentonville was a beautiful house full of love and laughter. Family vacations happened every year, and our school friends were always over for mom’s cooking and swimming in our pool. I couldn’t have asked for a better upbringing.
I figured out early on in school that girls were mean. My best friend turned into my biggest enemy at the drop of a hat. The bullying I experienced seemed like it would never stop, and it made going to school more difficult by the day. I would beg my mom to send me to a boarding school, thinking that running away would fix the problem. Instead of leaving, I stopped looking for support from the girls and found it easier to get approval from guys. They wanted something I had, and giving it to them was the way I felt accepted. But it didn’t last. Afterward, I felt disgusted with myself. I hated myself for what I had just done. In my mind, I needed punishment and couldn’t ask my parents to do it, so I took it upon myself. I began cutting. It was a way to release the anger and disgust I felt. When I started cutting, depression set in as well.
The cycle of seeking approval from guys, cutting, and depression continued through high school. It began to affect my ability to focus. I would stare at the whiteboard in front of the class without hearing anything. I stopped doing my homework and couldn’t retain anything from class. By my junior year, I was missing so much school that I was on the verge of trouble and knew something had to change. I asked to drop out of public school and continue working toward my diploma using a correspondence program to complete my school work at home.
When I was sixteen, I met a guy who seemed different than the rest. This guy wanted to know who I was, what I liked, and what I didn’t. He was not looking to hook up and go on with his day. But when we finally did, I found out I was pregnant five weeks later. Then this guy who seemed different from all the others took a dark turn. He drank all the time, and I discovered what it was like to be a relationship with an alcoholic. His addiction kept him from holding a job and made him mean. He became an absent father who didn’t take care of his newborn. Twenty-two months after our first daughter was born, our second child came along. I was just nineteen with two children under the age of two and an alcoholic boyfriend.
I obtained my life and health insurance license and began working at a bank. The work was challenging, especially while attending college at night and having a second job during the holidays. I had very little time at home with my family, and I needed a lot of help from our parents since my boyfriend didn’t contribute because of his excessive drinking. After four and a half years, I had enough. I asked my boyfriend to leave and became a single parent. I did a great job of juggling the responsibilities for a little while until I lost my job due to the banking crisis in 2009. I couldn’t find work in the same industry, so I decided to go in a different direction and begin cosmetology school.
About halfway through cosmetology school, I met a new guy. He was the type that stayed the night and never left. I let him because I didn’t know how to say the word “no.” I was also a fan of his attention after so long of receiving none. But then I learned that he too was an addict. My friends told me that he took pills. I didn’t know what this meant at first because I grew up believing that you died if you did drugs. The only thing I ever heard about Oxycontin was when people were talking about someone overdosing. I didn’t know you could take it regularly and live until I met this man.
While I hated who he became when he was high, I decided to try out his pills with him one night. We started getting high together, just recreationally at first. But it quickly became a dependence and then progressed to addiction. Then only six months after snorting my first pill, I switched to the intravenous method. This created a whole new monster. I became more addicted to the needle than I was to any drug.
I checked myself into rehab after a year and a half of the hell brought on by addiction. I came home and stayed sober for a little while. A few months after I got home, a friend contacted me. This friend had been diagnosed with leukemia and didn’t have long to live. He had his spleen removed to slow his cancer down. During his stay in the hospital, he asked me to sit with him until his mom arrived. Three days later, she never showed, and the hospital discharged him into my care. I administered his pain medication, never tempted to take even one.
Three weeks later, this friend contacted me again, and this time he was in a lot of pain and wanted some pills. He asked if I could find any for him through some of my old connections. I told him I would see what I could do and that I doubted I could help. That same day I was contacted by a childhood acquaintance who knew someone with a fraudulent prescription. I rationalized trying to get these pills because I wanted to help out my friend with cancer. But when I did, I was met by the Benton County Drug Task Force. Without even a traffic ticket on my record before, I had a felony for possession with intent to deliver. My friend had set me up, and he died seven days later from leukemia.
I entered a plea agreement with the drug court diversion program. I had to spend a year and three months in prison, as well as lots of county jail time, and I was released from the program following a year stint in Pine Bluff. Upon my release, I obtained a fantastic job working in e-commerce, stayed sober, and mended some damaged relationships for a year and a half. After living with my parents, I finally obtained a place of my own, a three-bedroom house I was very proud of. My youngest daughter even decided to move in with me after six years of living with her paternal grandmother. People, including my family, trusted me again, and this felt amazing.
The only problem was that I hadn’t been a full-time mother for six years. Conflicting work schedules and school schedules made things challenging. It was pretty chaotic for the month that she lived there. An interruption to her stability was more than she could handle, and she decided to move back in with her grandmother and sister. Also, when I moved out on my own, my dad quit speaking to me. I had just spent the past year and a half building this relationship to be exactly where I had always dreamed it would be, and all of a sudden, it came to a standstill. I didn’t understand what had happened. Between my daughter moving out and the broken relationship with my dad, I felt utterly abandoned. I didn’t understand why I was working so hard to have what I did. No one acknowledged the work I was putting into my life and decided I didn’t need it. I took my pain and frustration back to the needle and decided to get high again, but this time, it would be using meth.
Within two weeks of taking meth, I lost my job. I never paid rent again. I let people into my life and had no idea what they were capable of doing. I was giving these people a place to live and feeding them. I was their ride, being the only one with a vehicle. I never thought they would betray me. I had never really known evil until I became involved in the world of methamphetamines. I ruined relationships with every member of my family. I protected people who stole from me, lied to me, and used me. Over the next four years, I committed enough crimes to add another ten felonies to my record. I did whatever I could to get and stay high. I stole from every store I visited. I forged checks from the county jail. I did anything anyone asked of me so I could make a deal to could get high.
Eventually, I became homeless, sleeping in my car. I went to Little Rock, and I thought that being there would help me get away from the drugs and people in Northwest Arkansas. But I just found the same crowd there too. I lied to everyone. I protected all the wrong people. I defended my need to put a needle in my arm. I spent almost two and a half years behind bars and countless hours in treatment facilities. After getting kicked out of a treatment program for using drugs, I contacted Restoration Village. I was excited for another chance to get it right. It turns out that you have to follow the rules to get anything right. I struggled with this until I got some more intense treatment that was desperately needed. I was not in a good place mentally and needed to get my depression under control. I checked myself into Springwoods Behavioral Health, but unfortunately, this did not do the trick.
My depression became so bad that I left the Village. I wanted to disappear. I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t want to continue hurting every person that loved me and had to watch the destruction like they were sitting in the front row of a movie theatre. I packed a backpack and was heading out of town. The person I asked to take me ended up robbing me of all I had, and they left me in Oklahoma. Eventually, I was able to get back to Siloam, where my mom picked me up. Shaken, scared, and trusting no one, Ms. Beverly said I could come back. This time around, I thought things were going to be different. I got back on my feet. I got a job to pay a bond on a warrant I had to turn myself in on. This was my first job in 3 years. But I continued to make less than desirable choices, and I was asked to leave Restoration Village.
I went back to my parents, and life was pretty good. I was working a different job in the hospitality industry and enjoying it. But then a relapse happened when things were good, and I thought I could keep my drug use under control. Without my parents knowing, I began living two separate lives. When my bedroom door was open, I was the person I thought I needed to be. When my bedroom door was closed, I couldn’t keep a needle out of my arm once again. Before I knew it, I was arrested again and spent the next six months in jail waiting for my drug court offer to come through in Washington County.
While in jail, something happened. A change took place inside me. A series of events happened that changed the direction of my life. I cut off all communication with everyone outside the jail. I decided I needed to stop speaking to my mom. For a time, I was in lockdown, and it broke me emotionally. I cried for days. I cried tears for the hate I had for myself and the pain I inflicted on everyone who knew me. After cutting ties with everyone, I had enough of the person I had become. I made the decision this time that I wanted to die. I had it all planned out and was going to execute my plan that night.
But God intervened. I was put in a cell with someone else, so taking my own life wasn’t possible. While sobbing that night, I heard God speak to me. He told me I had two choices. I could be the same person I become to hate so much, or I could ask him to restore me. I took the second option. For the rest of the time I was in jail, no one ever heard me speak of anything else. I read the Bible, and I was hungry for what God could do for me. I knew He was the only one that could turn my life around, and I began to trust that He would. This spiritual awakening turned my life around completely.
After I was released from jail to complete drug court, I began managing a doggie daycare. My relationship with my family has flourished, and I am gaining back their trust. My sister started speaking to me again. My kids look forward to spending time with me away from their grandparents’ supervision. I am active in their lives at school by attending their sporting events and participating in parent-teacher conferences. I have learned how to make better decisions, and people trust me with the choices I make. I have my own apartment for the first time in some time, and I am enrolled to begin school in the spring to go into the legal field. I will be working towards an associate’s degree and certification in paralegal studies through Northwest Arkansas Community College.
Now I also give back to Restoration Village by spending my only evening off work helping Ms. Beverly cook dinner for the residents and helping with any other needs. Giving back to the people that so freely gave me to me has become one of my top priorities. Beverly and David have shown me the meaning of grace. They have taught me what it means to love unconditionally. They have instilled inside me the need to help others. I pray that the experiences I have been through will only allow me to be an even bigger help to those who have experienced similar situations. I am glad to share my strength and wisdom with anyone in need, and I look forward to helping others as I move forward in my journey through life. I am amazed that my life has become so beautiful.
I am so thankful for my family, who never gave up on me. They love me so much they are still here to watch me grow. I appreciate them for showing me how to have boundaries and what forgiveness means. My family believes in God and that He is capable of doing great things in my life. And they never stop praying for me. Without my family, I would never have made it this far. I am so proud to count all of the wonderful people at Restoration Village as my family too. They changed my life, and now I have the opportunity to help change others’ lives as well.
– Samantha, former resident at Restoration Village