My name is Michelle, and I am a very grateful recovering alcoholic and addict. I was a heroin addict for 18 years. From the age of 14 until I was 33, I was a drug addict, and alcoholic, a thief and a prostitute. In fact, if there was a law that I didn’t violate, it was not out of any set of principles or a matter of conscience. It was because it had not presented itself as a way to make money. I had abortions, I stole from my family, I habitually lied. I ignored my daughter and everyone else who loved me. By the age of 33, I had spent about half of my life locked up in one place or another: juvenile hall, home for wayward girls, jails and prisons. During that time, I had been shot at, stabbed, abducted, beaten, and raped. I had overdosed to the point of hospitalization repeatedly, and I watched numerous friends waste away and eventually die of AIDS. I can only thank God that He allowed me to live long enough to finally realize that I could get and stay clean and sober. Usually, when people would disappear from “the scene,” it would mean either that they were dead or doing a lot of time in prison. Every now and then, someone would disappear, and word would eventually filter back that he or she had “found Jesus.” When I would hear so-and-so was off the drugs and doing well, I would think to myself how lucky that person was, but amazingly, I never stopped to think that anything would ever work for me. I don't mean that I considered it and dismissed it. I mean, it never once occurred to me. It was not until more than a decade later that I realized that this was a symptom of my hopelessness. I contented myself with trying to remain as numb as I possibly could, just marking time until I could die. Ironically, I did not believe in heaven or hell, yet I wanted to die anyway. In the late 1980s, I was in prison more than I was out. At one point, I was out for two days before being arrested on new charges and sent back to state prison on a parole violation. I won’t go into the long, boring details, but I ended up leaving prison in 1988 and entering Delancey Street Foundation, a 2-year drug treatment program in San Francisco. It was a week before Thanksgiving, and I was 33 years old. I stayed there for 5 years. This was not a "wear slippers and pajamas" treatment facility. Delancey Street is what is called a "therapeutic community." That means that they yell at you and sometimes shave your head. They also taught me the very basics of civilized life which my parents did not: things like honesty and character and caring about someone else. I could go on and on, but I'll spare you having to read the whole lengthy story. Let me just say that it's good to be here.