Abusive relationships began early in life for Yolanda beginning with her step-father and continuing down the dark road of abusive romantic relationships as an adult. Drinking, drugs, getting in trouble, getting involved with the wrong crowd, going to jail soon followed. “As a child I wanted to be a news broadcaster. I would have never imagined where I ended up. I did so much damage. My mom would come looking for me and I’d hide in the closet because I didn’t want her to see me in that condition.”
That was a turning point. Yolanda got clean a year before her mom died in 2012. A second attempt, she relapsed 3 years after her first milestone of sobriety. She has now been clean for 8 years. “I can’t turn back now. As long as you’re breathing it’s never too late!” says Yolanda. She was able to have her record expunged and decided she was ready to help others. Single Room Occupancy’s in the Tenderloin were home for 5 years and Yolanda knew many of the dealers and addicts in the area. She wants to be an inspiration, that if she can do it they can too. They tell her they don’t want to see her back out there. She graduated from SAGE’s(Standing Against Global Exploitation) human trafficking program.
“I didn’t want anyone to bury me. I want people to remember what I used to do and how i turned it around. I want that to be my legacy. To help others take one day at a time, and that they CAN do it! It’s easier to get high and have your head in the cloud, then when your high comes off your problems are still there. You would never think I’d work at the same jail I used to be in!” You read that right! Yolanda now works at the sheriff’s office she was once jailed in. She has also does outreach for Glide, Episcopal Community Services and South of Market Mental Health offering mentor and peer support for those with mental health issues and addiction.
She now speak at events, volunteers, and is a poet. One of her poems was even posted on Mark Zuckerberg’s page. This month Yolanda graduated from SF State’s peer mentor program and is taking classes at City College in Mental Health. Her goal is to have a Bachelors by 60! She recently got engaged to her boyfriend and has a dream of publishing a book of poetry. She writes about the streets, addiction, love and empowering women.
Yolanda is now in love with life and has healthy relationships. She says God gave her another chance so she can go help others. She is a firm believer that after experiencing pain & darkness it’s possible to come out more powerful and shine.
Thank you for sharing your journey Yolanda, it’s inspiring and you are making a difference.
Written by: Chayla Gibson (Sol Sister)