Michelle was born locally in Jacksonville. Her upbringing might mirror that of many people, coming from a loving home.
“My parents wanted the best from me. They said go to college, participate in cheerleading, dance, and piano,” Michelle explained. “I think maybe they expected so much from me and I was afraid I couldn’t live up to those expectations, so I rebelled and ran from it. By age 13 I started drinking.” Her parents, however, continued to do their best for their daughter.
“As I got older, my parents wanted me to live independently. So they bought me a car, and they paid half of my rent. It went on that way until I was 38. My mother was told she was enabling me and so my parents cut me off completely. That’s when I ended up on the street, and my drug addiction got worse. I did cocaine, crack, heroin and heavier drinking,” stated Michelle.
She spent almost a decade of her life living on the streets. “I was crashing in people’s homes or hotel rooms all around Philips Highway for nine years. Wherever I could flop my head. When I was 47, I heard my mom had developed Alzheimer’s, and that’s the first time I came to City Rescue Mission so I could get clean for my mom,” Stafford remembers. “Unfortunately, my mother passed away and I left the mission and my life spiraled downhill even more.”
Michelle emphasized that this is the moment of her life where she felt the lowest. “I lived on an abandoned porch for a year. I would have to take showers outside using people’s water hoses. Whenever I used the restroom it was almost always outdoors and I just lived in the worst filth you can imagine. I tried to commit suicide three times through an overdose and almost succeeded. I honestly don’t know how I even woke up.” But Michelle did wake up, and she made one phone call. “I called one of the City Rescue Mission counselors when I was staying at the hospital, and they took me back. Looking back on it, God was doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself.”
It was at that point when she became introduced to the One who’d save her. “I had never been exposed to God growing up, but God came into my life abundantly. He really helped City Rescue Mission guide me through some tough times. I knew that my old life was over, because God totally removed that past desire. I surrendered everything I had to Him. He came into my life full force!”
“I felt like I was nothing and He made me see my worth. I am a good woman who did some bad things. He gives me confidence, joy, happiness, independence. Everything that I could imagine God has brought to me. I’ve never been this happy in my life. I’m living a new life now. I’m living out God’s purpose for me. My counselor and some of the ladies at City Rescue Mission really helped solidify the strength God had renewed in me. “
Michelle will graduate from City Rescue Mission’s program on Friday, March 27th at 7:00 p.m. with others who have similar stories of struggle that brought them together through the storm. Michelle has been working at Rethreaded as a seamstress for the past 6 months. She has been living independently in her own apartment since January 1st.
“I’m so grateful to City Rescue Mission, because they introduced me to God. How huge is that?! They made me discover that I’m worth something. They helped me to understand that God loves me for who I am. They opened a door to my life so I could simply live.”