Peer Support Specialist for OHSU Impact Team
Crystal grew up in a family of addiction. Her first memory of making her own decision to use was at the age of 13 when meth was introduced to her by her mother. Her childhood had always been unstable and very unpredictable, and she was sexually abused and raped several times before the age of 12. She lived on the streets her entire teenage life, picked up several criminal charges, and was an IV drug user by the age of 18. She turned to prostitution to feed her habit and to provide shelter. She fought to survive every day.
Crystal got pregnant at 18, lost her daughter to DHS when she was 6 months old, and never got her back due to her inability to get clean. She was in and out of abusive relationships barely escaping with her life, but the scars left behind were deep and hard to heal from. She never believed she could be any different than what she was or knew anything more existed, because the life she knew was from generational patterns of addiction and abuse.
The lie finally came to light when Crystal got pregnant with her second child and she entered inpatient treatment. There, she found hope and discovered there was another way to live, and that treatment was just the beginning of the transformation of healing. Looking through a different set of lenses took a lot of work and willingness to walk through all the things she had hid from for years. Self-love and forgiveness was foreign to her but building a great support system and giving back through her own experiences gave her pain a purpose.
Crystal’s first job was at Lifeworks as a Recovery Mentor in 2005. In 2006, Bridges to Change hired her on as a Mentor in Corrections, where she worked for several years. She then moved on to work as an Outreach Worker at the same DHS that she lost her daughter to 22 years ago.
“My life hasn't been easy; I have experienced relapse, disappointments, tragic trauma, and great losses throughout the many years of my recovery. But I have learned a huge, valuable lesson: I am worth fighting for, and we are not the mistakes that we have made. I am not a victim, but a survivor that fought a war against all odds. I have been blessed to work in this amazing field for 14 years and love it like its the first day I started.”