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Instilling Change: Erika Simpson

Doom. That is what Erika felt about the chances of her repeating the cycle of addiction that was such a huge part of her childhood. Erika was raised by two parents who struggled with many demons. Introduced to drugs at the age of nine by her own father, life was really confusing and discouraging for Erika. She was often bullied at school and neglected at home. It seemed inevitable that Erika would cope with these hardships and struggles the only way she knew how. Never did she imagine that her choices would lead her to a life of addiction; a life she was trying to avoid.


After a harrowing family divorce, Erika’s mother decided enough was enough. At this point in her life, she had started the path to sobriety and was determined to be a better parent. Erika, however, had become prone to violent outbursts in school and experienced abuse at the hands of others. With a clearer vision of healthy parental modeling, Erika’s mother soon placed Erika in rehab at the age of 11. Unfortunately, the cycle of delinquency had taken its toll on Erika’s family and her own future trajectory. By the age of 15, and while under the influence of a controlled substance, Erika was involved in a head-on collision, which led her to incarceration for the next twelve plus years.


For the first several years of her incarceration, Erika spent time in the “hole” or solitary confinement. Rebellion and running from situations were always her “go to.” Over time, Erika grew tired of how her life was going. She wanted to get back to her family and start a new life beyond her temporary home. She soon began to use her rebellion, her stubbornness, and her past for good. In the following years, while still incarcerated, Erika began spending her time in NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings, church, and rebuilding relationships with her family. She started to choose her peers and activities more wisely. Education became an important value to Erika, which was all part of her plan to get her mind healthy. She received training in Microsoft/PowerPoint and was eventually able to obtain her small business license.


Ninety-eight percent (98%) of those incarcerated eventually get released. After over twelve years in prison, Erika was released from incarceration. Not uncommon, she faced the feeling of being alone in her journey to change. She felt she had a lack of positive influences along with negative distractions. However, with this new opportunity of freedom and a fresh start, Erika was determined to work hard and stay out of trouble. Considering all that she had overcome, it was obvious that job interviews would cause anxiety. Erika desperately needed support to continue to overcome.


Erika first heard about Second Chance through her Parole Officer, who also recognized that she needed additional reentry support to make the vision of this new life a reality. Erika’s mother was able to provide the emotional support she needed in the beginning stages of her experience with Second Chance. It was here that Erika would begin to build the confidence she needed, and her feelings of anxiety and inadequacy could finally be managed. Her Second Chance Resource Specialist helped her to want to become better. Eventually, Erika realized she could do more than just survive, she could thrive. With a plan in place, Erika began to take steps toward independence and stability for the first time in her young life. She landed a great job with potential for growth, she had assistance with barriers to her reentry, and she also gained independent housing in a safe neighborhood. All steps toward a better future.


After all that Erika has endured and experienced in her life, she is most proud of getting out of prison and finally building the life she desires. Erika said she wished she had asked for help before her addiction got out of hand. The advice she would give to her younger self is, “Know your worth and know that you are powerful. Always remember to love yourself, keep your family close, remember that you are good enough, and to cherish life, because it can be taken away instantly.”


Erika’s determination and perseverance has given her the chance to be released from parole 6 months early with no parole violations.  She currently works for an incredible company as an Emergency Dispatch Operator and is looking forward to further opportunities with the company. Erika and her mother continue to remain sober to this day.


“I want to believe that I’m not wrong. I want to believe that life isn’t full of darkness even if storms come to pass, the sun will shine again. No matter how painful and hard the rain may beat down on me.” - Unknown


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