Five years ago, Angela says she would have done just about anything for a hit of crystal meth. Even if a man only had five dollars to give her, she says she was desperate enough that she’d take it anyway. Her addictions were an endless cycle.
“My pimp would beat me up and force me to make money for him. I had to do drugs to stay awake long enough to make the money he needed. And I had to make money to buy the drugs. He controlled my habit. He controlled everything.”
Angela’s childhood was extremely hard. She was surrounded by drug addiction, alcohol abuse and prostitution from a young age. And when she was just 19, she was devastated when she found her mother’s dead body on their living room couch.
“I tried to resuscitate her, but I couldn’t. She was already cold. My mom’s death really rocked me.”
Later that year, Angela went to jail for the first time for prostitution. When she got out, she was evicted from her apartment and became homeless, spending the next ten years of her life in and out of shelters and motels on Reno’s downtown Fourth Street corridor. Angela’s life was controlled by one man—her pimp—and he owned several other women besides her. She said he took the money she made, beat her up constantly, and destroyed her things if she didn’t do exactly what he wanted. It wasn’t until her trafficker went to prison that she found Awaken and finally opened herself up to a new life path.
“Without Awaken, I don’t know where I would be. They are so supportive and loving and kind and understanding. My story is real: the good, the bad and the ugly. They were able to see me right where I am, to pull me out from shame and hiding.”
While 34-year-old Angela is now five years sober and living in her own apartment with a cat and a car of her own, her past drug abuse has irreversibly impacted her health. She now lives with severe congestive heart failure and pulmonary artery hypertension. It takes ten different medications just to enable Angela to walk, talk and breathe. When she got sober, it was mostly because she was far too sick to continue her destructive lifestyle.
“I’ve been sick for three years. I have a heart pump and a CPAP machine. Some days are better than others, but sometimes I feel like I just want to die. At Awaken, I go to therapy and groups to keep focused and stay positive. I feel encouraged by seeing other girls come in and change their lives around. That’s what makes life worthwhile for me.”
Angela now works as a mentor and advocate at the Awaken Drop-In Center, where she helps connect other trafficking victims with resources to help them escape from their captivity. She says she owes her life to Awaken, and she is proud to share her story with other women who are suffering and stuck in the cycle of human trafficking.
“It feels so good to know that my story matters. I’m so happy to be where I am. I want to be clean. I want to be at Awaken. The other women have to want it too. I like to show them, ‘look what I can do.’ I want to give them hope and encouragement and strength.”
Since Awaken was founded in 2011, it has reached more than 700 women and children in the Northern Nevada community. Awaken’s mission is to increase awareness and education surrounding the issue of commercial sexual exploitation and to provide housing and restoration for its victims.
Thank you to all of the Awaken donors and supporters who have helped us reach this important milestone of ten years!