Bridgette Howell hopes talking about her struggles with addiction will help others to make positive changes in their lives.
“When I was in that position, I didn’t have any hope,” said Howell, 30, of Locust Grove. “I didn’t have anybody to teach me and guide me, and to show me that there is another way.”
Wednesday, she graduated from a 12-month program at Shining Light Ministries, Inc., a long-term residential treatment program, in McDonough, for women with addictions to drugs and alcohol.
Howell, originally from Oregon, said her addiction to narcotics stemmed from a 2008 car accident, which resulted in pain in her arms and neck. Her addictions soon escalated to alcohol, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana.
“It got pretty bad pretty quickly,” said Howell, adding that, at one point, she was taking 30 Percocet pills per day.
Howell admitted that her dependence on narcotics led to her breaking into a friend’s home, on Aug. 6, 2010.
“I was pretty messed up that day,” she said. “The owner of the house had some Percocet that I had been taking, and I was after more.”
Howell said the homeowner’s wife came home while she was there. Howell then grabbed a razor blade, escaped through a window, ran to a nearby field and tried to kill herself.
“I slit both of my wrists, receiving 18 staples in one arm and 13 in the other,” said Howell. “I was lost and broken.”
Howell said she stayed in a hospital in Columbus, Ga., for a week following her crimes, then discovered a warrant had been issued for her arrest, for charges including burglary, and obtaining or attempting to obtain dangerous drugs by fraud, forgery or concealment of fact.
Howell then turned herself in to the Henry County Jail.
“I was facing a maximum prison sentence of 72 years,” she said. “I wanted to turn things around. I didn’t know how to do it. Picturing myself without drugs, I didn’t know how to function.”
Henry County Superior Court Judge Wade Crumbley then sentenced her to a 12-month program at Shining Light Ministries, which she entered on June 13, 2011.
Howell said the staff at Shining Light taught her how to be a “woman of integrity,” and to take responsibility for her own life.
“Since being here, I have received intense counseling to face a childhood of sexual and physical abuse, worked closely with a life coach, worked with an addictions counselor, a probation counselor, and have come to know Jesus Christ,” said Howell. “I have been working full-time in accounting, and have restored relationships with my mother and sister.”
Howell added that she will be reunited, on July 1, with her two sons — Hunter, 9, and Trenton, 6. She has not seen them since April 29, 2011.
“The first day that I was in jail, the boys’ dad put a restraining order on me and filed for custody of the boys,” said Howell.
She credited Shining Light’s founder and Executive Director, Teresa Bestwick, with inspiring her to help others avoid mistakes similar to her own.
“She was the first person in my life who offered me tough love when I needed it,” said Howell. “She didn’t baby me through things. She helped me to look at things as they really were — not sugar-coated — and to realize the things I had put my family and my children through.”
Howell is currently writing a book about her life, which will be published within the next month, and is planning to return to Oregon. The book will be entitled “I Get High To Cry.” Her goal, she said, is to offer hope to other women who are struggling with addictions to drugs or alcohol.
“All the proceeds of this book will go to Shining Light Ministries,” she said.
A “Cruising For A Cause” Charity Bike Ride, benefiting Shining Light, is scheduled for Saturday, at Truett’s Grill, 1785 Jonesboro Road, in McDonough. Registration will begin at 9:45 a.m., for a $25 entry fee.
“I will be enrolling in classes the fall of 2012 to become an addictions counselor, and plan to work closely with Teresa Bestwick to bring the services of Shining Light Ministries to the women in my home state of Oregon.”
Bestwick said when Howell first came to Shining Light, the Oregon native “had a very hard heart. She broke some rules in the beginning, and we didn’t feel that we were going to be able to help her,” said Bestwick.
The Shining Light founder said as Howell progressed in the program, a transformation became more evident. Since that time, Bestwick said, Howell has “soared” in recovering from her addictions.
“She looked at all that she had done, and decided she didn’t want to go back to that,” said Bestwick. “She wanted to see her boys, and she wanted to be a good mother. She wanted to be done with her past. She was ready to make a change. She knew that Shining Light could help … She has beaten down so many demons.”
Bestwick said 44 women have taken part in the programs at Shining Light since its inception in 2007.
“We’ve had about 32 graduate, and 80 percent are still clean and sober,” Bestwick said, adding that she plans to go to Oregon in the near future, to help Howell launch Shining Light Ministries there.
The charity bike ride will include a ride to Atlanta Motor Speedway, in Hampton. All riders will travel for one lap around the track before returning to Truett’s for lunch. The event will include entertainment by a live band, and T-shirt giveaway.