Stepping Stones advocate Melissa is no stranger to what it’s like to live in abusive relationships.
Melissa’s life was controlled by her abusive relationships and drug addiction for years. The combination of violence and drugs created an environment of chaos and fear to points where it “escalated to me getting thrown into a wall, or dragged out by my hair from my house.”
But breaking away from abuse was not easy. “All of my relationships have been toxic. Every relationship I was in was around drug addiction and alcohol. It’s hard to have any kind of healthy relationship when you are on drugs.”
Melissa’s struggle with abusive relationships and addiction led her in and out of recovery throughout her adult life. At one of her lowest points, she found herself pregnant and homeless in Mexico. “I didn’t know if I was going to live or die or make it out of there to see my children again. My parents took my children for me because I wasn’t able to care for them, I wasn’t there for them emotionally, mentally, and physically sometimes.”
The Turning Point
Melissa found herself at the point where she knew she truly needed to change in order to escape the abuse in her life. She made the choice to enter West Yavapai Guidance Clinic’s Hillside Recovery Center, yet was hospitalized first. “I was in the hospital for a week waiting to get into treatment. My addiction was in my face. I didn’t love myself; I didn’t care about anything, anybody, or myself. But once I was ready to quit and do what I needed to do to live; that was a turning point for me.”
This realization pushed her to break away from the abusive relationships and empowered her to get clean and stay sober. “If you don’t have recovery, you don’t have a life. Drugs and addiction will take you down really quick and you [even] not know it. And so that’s a big thing for me because now, I want to live. Now, I love myself. Now I want to be there for my parents and for my kids. So with that, it’s easier to be sober.”
Stepping Stones Connection
During this time, Melissa was mandated by probation to perform community service at Stepping Stones Thrift. “At the time, the manager [at the store] had been in the [shelter] program and some of the workers there went through Stepping Stones, so I felt really comfortable with my history. It felt good. It felt like I was at home.” This connection helped her to continue in her recovery and healing from abuse.
Now as a Stepping Stones advocate, Melissa is able to use her experiences to support others who are working hard to escape the terror of domestic violence, and perhaps their own substance abuse issues. “I just want to be able to help people who were in my shoes before. I have the empathy and personal experience; it’s a lot different if you’ve been through that when helping people. Every day, I’m just thankful to be upright and breathing and being able to do something that I love to do.” She sees the changes happen for families daily when they are able to take steps away from their victimization. “I like it when I see a mom, and the light comes on, and they say ‘I didn’t think of that!’ I’m ok with them taking one thing out of the program that means something to them that they can utilize. That’s what we’re here for.”
Being an advocate at Stepping Stones continues to impact Melissa’s life daily and her recovery. “It’s really empowering once you get that independence where you don’t have to worry. I am so empowered because I have my own place, one of my children lives with me, I have my own job, I have my own vehicle.” Her hard, life-changing work is evident as she continues to move forward, living free from all forms of abuse.
Today, Melissa’s life is about continuing to make the right choices. “I think the thing that changed the most for me is my integrity. My motto is ‘do the next right thing.’ That’s what I go by. It’s simple, it’s easy.”
Her advice: “Don’t give up. Keep your head up. Seek help. If you want to change, you can make it happen.”