A woman from a loving home followed in her father’s footsteps when she became addicted to drugs. She was homeless, a nine-time felon who did jail time, and eventually lost custody of her son. But she found a sponsor and channeled her faith into a recovery plan.
Today, Shay Walters, 30, celebrates her family, God’s grace, and the gift of sobriety.
Growing up with her parents and two sisters in a small town in Ohio, Shay watched her father succumb to addiction and criminal activity. But he loved them, she told The Epoch Times in an email interview.
Shay’s mother, on the other hand, was the “true definition of a lady.” She attended to all the household duties and cared for her three daughters.
In Shay’s freshman year of high school, her father went to jail on drug charges.
During that year, Shay wanted to be “defiant.” The 15-year-old had a 19-year-old boyfriend and started experimenting with drugs and alcohol.
“I wanted to be known as the ‘rebel,'” said Shay, who describes addiction as a disease of perception. “[But] as my friends who experimented with me would eventually stop and go to college, I would be headed down a completely different path.”
Shay’s addiction escalated from weekend drinking to marijuana and Class A drugs. At 17, she realized that she would get sick without pain pills. In the same year, she became pregnant. During this time, her high-school boyfriend became physically abusive. The teen endured punches and backhands, and sustained a broken nose and a chipped tooth.
At the age of 18, Shay gave birth to her baby boy, Tyce, and left the father, but her addiction had spiraled out of control.
“You would think the love I had for my baby would be enough to make me realize I wanted to do better,” she said, “but I truly cannot put into words what my mind was like back then.”
Shay, who was getting into fistfights by this time, also started getting into trouble with the law. Injecting harder drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine, she was fueling her habit by stealing and selling drugs.
Tyce witnessed overdoses and ambulance rides, had screamed for his mom through jail glass, and was in a car wreck, all before the tender age of 6, according to a Facebook post. With Child Protective Services on Shay’s case, her family filed for emergency custody, taking Tyce into their care on Shay’s 25th birthday.
At this time, Shay hit rock bottom.
“I had failed as a mother, I was homeless, I was all alone, and I was completely broken,” she told The Epoch Times. “My son was better off without me, and I was better off dead.”
However, during this rough patch in life, Shay said that God saved her by allowing her to get in trouble with the law.
Shay served just two years of a 22-year prison sentence, during which time she met a woman who held recovery meetings inside the institution.
“She taught me how to live sober, and she is still my sponsor today,” said Shay. “When I realized there were people just like me that beat addiction and were living productive, happy lives, I knew with God’s help I could too.”
A determined Shay then made a firm resolution: Come what may, she would never put drugs in her body again.
She stayed true to her word and her 12-step program. Today, Shay, who has been sober for more than five years, runs the inspirational blog From Prison to Purpose, and is the co-founder of Peer Solutions outpatient center in Parkersburg, West Virginia.
She also won back custody of Tyce, got married, and is a mom to four beautiful children. In a moving Facebook post, she paid tribute to her first born’s journey.
“He is 12 today,” she posted. “He lives with me. He attends a private Christian school. He is on the honor roll. He gets prayed with every night and his mommy is there to wake him up for school every morning.
“Thank you, God, for allowing me to be a mother to this sweet boy every day,” she wrote. “It’s the sweetest gift of my sobriety.”
Reflecting back on her journey to sobriety, Shay believes that faith has been the foundation of her recovery. She now attends church twice a week and surrenders her life to God, saying, “He does a much better job at running the show than I ever did.”
She also knows she is blessed to have a family that never gave up, and constantly tells her how proud they are of her journey.
“If anyone would have known me then, you would have never believed that I would become the woman I am today,” Shay told The Epoch Times, imploring others to show kindness to themselves and other people who may be struggling.
Sharing advice to those who are struggling to overcome an addiction of their own, Shay said: “God loves to make an example out of us to show His grace and power, and people love a comeback story. Find someone who has what you want, and ask them how to get there … Humble yourself and ask for help. … You aren’t less than, and you can use your struggles to help change this world.”