No Stranger to Trauma

By Bethany Willyard

I am no stranger to trauma.

When I was a young child, a relative began sexually abusing me in my home. The abuse lasted for eleven years. To escape the abuse, I ran away from home at the age of 14.

As soon as I found myself on the streets, I began using drugs. My addiction to methamphetamine lasted 20 years. Consumed by meth, I threw away my family and my life. My addiction caused my entire family, including my children, to turn their backs on me. Through this journey into drug addiction and homeless, I was in and out of mental institutions and, finally, in prison.

No Stranger to Trauma

I was completely lost. Just take a look at my “before” picture, which was recently featured on the CBS 60 Minutes program’s website slideshow: Before and After: From Homeless to Hopeful. You may visit the slideshow at: http://cbsn.ws/1mwhylb.

I began to turn my life around in prison. I finally began to take a hard look at myself. I confronted my addiction and my past, and I reflected on my relationships with my family and God. I also became involved with Criminal Justice and Mercy Ministries (CJAMM) out of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

During my time in prison, I went through an intense drug rehabilitation program, which drastically reduced my sentence. When I was released on February 1, 2013, many people helped me save my own life. With their support, I was recently able to graduate from the Exodus House, which is a sober living home in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Today, thanks to the Mental Health Association Oklahoma, I have a career working at a peer-run drop-in center for people battling mental illness and overcoming homelessness. Because I’ve been there, I have a unique perspective on helping clients rebuild their lives.

Through the love and support of those around me at work and in my personal life, I have been taught many life lessons. I know I can always turn to my support system no matter what the case may be.

Through hard work and reflection, and with the support of everyone who loves me, I have learned how to live a healthy life, to stay sober and to give things over to God. Today, instead of using drugs to run away from my feelings, I face them head-on in sobriety. I have also become a good mother and have enjoyed reconnecting with my three children. In fact, I recently regained custody of my 13-year-old son.

Bethany Willyard

Bethany Willyard

I am becoming someone people look up to. I have been sober since January 24, 2012, and am excited about my life now. I am able to give back what was freely given to me. I am privileged to work with the homeless on a daily basis, help them with housing, job searches and many more services; so they can better themselves, just as I have.

Many doors continue to open for me, and I can’t wait to find out what is on the other side.

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