Danielle didn’t set out to get addicted to drugs. But at age 14 she was arranging her life around marijuana, acid, PCP and morphine. Four years later she had spun out of control. Then, one day, a life-changing event caused her to find the inner strength to finally get substance abuse out of her life.
Danielle’s addiction started off casually, as an offer from a friend. She had a desire to belong. Before long what was recreational use spiraled into dependency. It was no longer ‘just for fun’. It had become the most important thing in Danielle’s life.
At age 18 exotic dancing opened up a whole new world of money and drug accessibility for Danielle. Now heavy into opiates like Dilaudid and OxyContin, she hustled, worked the room and took every opportunity to get drugs. “In a 24-hour time period I was spending from $150 to $400 on drugs,” says Danielle. “I used, went to sleep, woke up and did it all over again.”
Drug addiction and pregnancy is a scary combination. When Danielle discovered she was pregnant, the then 23-year-old got clean to improve the chances of a normal life for her unborn child. But only a few months after the birth of her daughter, she fell back into the grip of addiction. This resulted in severe consequences and her downward spiral.
By now, Danielle’s cocktail of drugs had escalated to include crack cocaine. Baby Sophia’s grandparents stepped in to provide full-time care. Danielle was found on street corners in certain parts of town. For four years she prostituted herself with countless numbers of strangers, anyone who came along, negotiating prices to support her addiction. She was raped, became pregnant, and aborted the child. She spent weeks at a time in crack houses, abandoned buildings, with her dealers. She was in and out of prison for robbery.
When Danielle became pregnant for the third time, shame, guilt and fear of telling her family about the pregnancy lead her to move forward with abortion. But before she was able to get an appointment, police working undercover, arrested, fingerprinted and booked Danielle for street prostitution.
“I ended up in a cell with a woman who was pro-life,” says Danielle. “She told me giving birth was giving the gift of life and that my display of courage and strength could turn my life around. I took a hard look at my life. I wanted to prove I was capable of caring for this child.” She cancelled the medical appointment.
Upon discharge from prison, Danielle needed supports. “To be in active addiction and not want to use is a nightmare,” says Danielle. Her daughter was born drug dependent, and was hospitalized suffering withdrawal symptoms. The hospital and child protective agency became Danielle’s decision-making team as to her ability to care for the child.
Meanwhile, The Salvation Army’s New Choice program in Hamilton became her lifeline. New Choices helps women fight addiction, enhance their parenting skills and return to work or school. Women reclaim lost self-esteem, gain confidence and enjoy being contributing members of society.
Danielle has been clean since St. Patrick’s Day 2010. She has custody of her 16-month old baby. She has rebuilt a relationship with her first child, now age 6, who continues to live with her grandparents. She is completing high school, and hopes to go into hairdressing to save enough money for post-secondary education in social work. New Choices is still a big part of her continued sobriety.
“It is possible to change your life,” says Danielle. “There is hope after addiction.”