She sits across from Hayley and I every other Tuesday night, as we share a meal during the EnCompass mentoring program and catch-up on life. You can bet we’ll go back for seconds, sometimes thirds, and we always save room for dessert. She usually keeps quiet when everyone shares their “highs and lows;” she’s not one to draw attention to herself in a group. We keep our phones off during our time together, but sometimes her screensaver lights up and I see the familiar picture of her and her son, Axel, as she snuggles him close.
Amanda was introduced to drugs at a time most girls were studying for a fifth-grade English test or coming home from dance class. “Family,” she said, “and cousins.” More than that, she doesn’t say.
She was one of three children - now, she’s one of two. Four years ago, her sister passed away, and this only deepened her addiction. Six months after her sister’s funeral, she found herself staring at a close friend’s casket, another victim to overdose. She realized she was staring at her future.
For five weeks, she called the rehab center every day.
She was persistent in seeking help, “I wanted it. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I was tired of living that life.”
When they had an opening, she joined the one-and-a-half year program.
“The hardest thing about rehab,” she said, “Was not doing what I wanted to do. I had a problem with authority. Yes, I do think it humbled me. I realized there are guidelines for a reason. I still live by those rules that I learned.”
She met her close friend Jessica in rehab. “I thought she was funny,” Amanda said. She laughs so hard as she tells us a story about Jessica, who one day decided to wear sunglasses, despite the leaders telling her to take them off. Finally, she removed them and started stomping on them, yelling, “If I can’t have them, no one can!”
When Amanda moved out of rehab she had a difficult time finding a safe place to live. At the first location, men would proposition her as she walked to the bus stop. She stayed here for three months before relocating. Her second location was better, but it forced her to be out of the house during the day and took her cell phone. She didn’t have a job so she would go from bus stop to bus stop, filling time.
When she was accepted into Amethyst Place, they provided her with resources to get a job and start school. When she even moved into one of their fully-furnished apartments, she was given the beautiful gift of privacy. “I had my own space, my own apartment, just for Axel and I,” she said.
Amanda has since graduated with her GED, and is pursuing a nursing program with Penn Valley. She is looking forward to pursuing sewing to help support her during the meantime. “I like the people, and I like learning on the machines.”
By Grace sponsored the costs for Amanda to learn at the MADI Makes seamstress program, started by non-profit MADI Donations in partnership with Hope Faith Ministries. Once Amanda graduates the MADI Makes program, she’ll be offered a job sewing for MADI Apparel, founded by Hayley Besheer Santell.
Hayley says, “Our goal is to be flexible. If the women need to pick up their kids or take them to school, they can do that. We want them to be able to use the money they earn to save up for their next big step - whether that’s a new apartment, childcare or something else that betters their life.”
Amanda says that one day she dreams of owning a house, having a good job and most of all - being financially stable. She says she wants Axel to be in a good school, and to set him up for a lifestyle that keeps him away from the things she was exposed to at such a young age.
Amanda is a mom of six, although Axel is the only child that remains in her care. He is the only child she gave birth to in sobriety. The other five were removed from her care as a result of addiction.
“My past doesn’t define who I am today,” she said, as sadness starts to well in her eyes. She says these words boldly, filling the room with her strength. “What gives me hope is that one day, my kids will come looking for me, and I can be something they would be proud of.”