Adopted shortly after she was born, Soraya was gifted with the blessing of an extended family. Little did she know that extension would be instrumental in shaping the story God was piecing together for her life. Identity crisis, addiction, abusive relationships, and selling her body for sex are just a few of the things you will read about in Soraya’s story. As you read, I want you to remember something—God wrote each of these things into Soraya’s life with a purpose. He knew the choices she would make, as well as the points along the journey where He would need to insert a detour. I praise God for pointing her in the right direction and I am grateful for the opportunity to share her story with you.
Here is Soraya’s story…
My birth mother was 15 when she found out she was pregnant. My grandmother couldn’t believe it. Not only was my mother pregnant, she was pregnant by a white man. Filled with embarrassment, my grandmother sent my mother away to have me and give me up for adoption.
“She’s too white.”
“We’re just not sure.”
“She’s mixed, how dark will she get?”
As the social worker heard each rejection, her heart was breaking. She asked her supervisor for permission to adopt the baby she was trying to find a home for and they agreed. I grew up with 5 sisters and 2 brothers; 3 Costa Rican sisters, 1 Costa Rican brother, 1 American Indian brother and 2 white sisters. I always knew I was adopted, I would say I’m adopted and special before I even knew what it meant.
Growing up was hard sometimes. I was teased a lot. One time, in 4th grade they called me Orphan Annie. Every time they picked on me, I would get angry and sometimes anger turned to fighting. I struggled a lot with my identity, not really understanding where I came from and refused to complete school projects that involved a family tree. My adoptive mom thought I was struggling so much because I was trying to get in touch with my black side, so she reached out to my birth mom so I could meet her.
I had dreamed about the day I would meet her. I wondered what she looked like. I wondered what she was like. I was anxious to know. The moment I laid eyes on her, I was surprised because I looked just like her. I was in the 5th grade when I first met her, and it was the first time I had a relaxer put on my hair.
My identity crisis worsened when my adoptive dad got a job in Tennessee. We moved to Tennessee from California and it was very different. The school I went to was primarily white. They did not have any Mexicans, there was only one black kid, and then there was me. I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere. I started refusing to go to school, getting bad grades and getting into fights. My parents gave me a choice; I could go live with my sister for the summer or stay with my birth mom. I was mad at them so I chose to stay with my birth mom out of spite.
“Girl, white and black families are different.
Neck bones, ham hocks, chitlins.
Even though people ate those things, I was revolted.
I was used to eating baked chicken and healthy food and they expected me to eat neck bones!”
After the initial shock of temporarily staying with my birth mom wore off, I decided to stay with her permanently. We moved to Dallas right before I turned 13. I struggled with the transition to live with her permanently. I was really angry and mean to her, I felt like she owed me. I started running away, got involved in gangs, was having sex, and tried weed for the first time. I caused a lot of trouble for her.
When I was 18, I was walking down the street when this guy offered me a ride and showed me a big bag of powder. Three months after meeting him, we moved to Jacksonville, TX. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Demetrius drank a lot, and beat me, and locked me in the room so I couldn’t get out. He took long distance off the phone so I couldn’t call my family. The abuse was bad, and he always had me padlocked in the room so I couldn’t go anywhere. The only time he let me out was to eat, so I ate and gained a lot of weight. One time, the police were called and they took me to a battered women’s shelter. I was able to call my adoptive family and they bought me a greyhound ticket to come home. I got on the bus and was eager to get home to them but when I got off the bus, Demetrius was at the bus stop with a ring. He told me how much he loved me and how sorry he was and asked me to marry him.
I believed he wouldn’t hurt me anymore so I went back to Jacksonville with him. When we got back to Jacksonville, it didn’t take long before the abuse started again. We were supposed to get married in the church but all I could think about was my adoptive parents. They had a great relationship and I thought of them as an amazing example of what marriage should look like. I knew I only wanted to be married once and wanted to do it the right way, so I backed out of the church wedding. When we got home that night Demetrius whooped my ass bad for backing out. So, I got up the next day and went to the court house with him.
I moved back to Dallas after Demetrius got locked up and started smoking wet again. I lost a lot of weight when I started using. I couldn’t hold a regular job, and was getting high every day so I started stripping. I worked at 9 different strip clubs and got fired from all of them because I was using drugs in the bathroom. I went to rehab a few times while I was stripping but rehab didn’t work for me because I didn’t think I had a problem.
“I was young, and cute and had money, that’s not what an addict looked like to me.”
Prostitution was delivered to me on a silver platter with money wrapping and a money bow. I had been stripping all night and hadn’t made any money and one of the guys offered me $300 to come back to his room. In 6 hours of stripping I hadn’t made that much so I said yes. After that, I decided I would strip all night and would turn one trick a night. Whoever had the most money was the one I would trick with. I was using $200 to $300 of wet a day, making about $600 stripping and turning one trick a night.
When I was 21, I started smoking crack. I saw what crack did so I never wanted it. These girls were pretty as shit but stank or had their wigs all over their head, it made no sense. But I couldn’t find wet that night and needed to stay high so when they handed me the pipe, I said why not?
I stopped stripping because the addiction to crack was so bad I had to hit the pipe every 2 minutes. I needed the instantaneous high. I knew Demetrius would be getting out of prison soon and the plan was for my husband to save me– I guess I forgot who he was. He said he didn’t have time for a dope fein wife and after that, I spiraled out of control. I was living in a hotel, turning tricks, lost contact with my family and went to state jail for the first time.
I was arrested 6 times before they actually sent me to state jail. I was scared of going to state jail. I heard the stories. But when I got there, my sugar daddy and my birth mom came to visit me and I had money on my books all the time.
”I didn’t learn anything or get anything out of it—this is what I was scared of? This ain’t shit.”
I got out of state jail and was sober for 3 weeks until I found out my Sugar Daddy got life in prison. I was driving to the dope house when my sister started blowing up my phone. I broke down and went back to my mom’s house. But I didn’t stay strong for long, and relapsed the next day.
After my 8th arrest for prostitution, I figured the neighborhood was the problem. My first six arrests were in North Dallas, so I declared North Dallas as the problem. I moved from North Dallas to East Dallas, East Dallas to Pleasant Grove and Pleasant Grove to South Dallas… but vice was everywhere! I decided to stay in South Dallas because I knew so many tricks there and I could trick all day without having to trick with someone I didn’t know. I was turning ten tricks a day and using the money to support my addiction.
During this time, I met Yelley Yell. He was high on power. He beat me a lot but only beat me in front of other people. He had this call, he would come out on to the street and yell “Lookout You.” Whenever I heard him yell “Lookout You,” I knew I was about to get beat. One time I was so scared I pissed myself. I was terrified and felt like I didn’t have anybody. I was always messing up so that’s what I thought I deserved.
“My 10th arrest, I went to state jail again and this time it was awful.
No one put money on my books.
No one came to visit.
No one accepted my phone calls.
I got to see what jail was really like and that shit wasn’t fun.”
I got out of jail that time and found a good man. Things were going good and I was sober for 4 months. But I relapsed again and 9 days later got arrested again for prostitution. This time, I decided not to take state jail but to try for rehab. I went to treatment and the counselor told me she understood my addiction because she had an addiction as well… to coca cola. I couldn’t believe she thought they were the same.
“She’s probably never walked in the rain with some flip flops on, lookinf for a van of Mexicans to ho herself out to so she could get money to buy a soda.
Who trained her to think it was a good idea to say that? TThat’s not a fair comparison at all.”
After rehab, something changed. I was tired. Tired of not having a life. Tired of not being around my family. Tired of my mom saying the only time she ever heard from me was when I was in jail.
While I was in the specialty court program for prostitution, I caught my last prostitution case. As I was booked into the jail, it was the first time I had ever gone through jail intake sober. I always put prostitution into this box of things I did because I was high but as I was sitting in jail, sober, it was the first time I was able to see the addiction I had to prostitution.
When I first started working the program I went hard on them. I went hard on Ms. Singleton, I went off on the judge and the bailiff and told them to kiss my ass. I went hard on my probation officer and she went hard right back at me. When I said no, she wouldn’t take no for an answer. My probation officer had heard me talking about being scared of going back to school so one of my conditions of probation was to enroll in El Centro College. She made me go to school and it’s the best thing that could have ever happened. I started to see hope. I started to see I could do something more. I started to see that I could have a real life.
Between Star Court, New Life Opportunities Group and the support of my family, I found the strength I needed to keep going and finally get help.
Today I work as a Peer Support Specialist with people coming out of jail who have a drug addiction or mental illness. I love my job. My job has given me an opportunity to bring things full circle. Now when I’m at the court, I can say I’m there for work, it’s not because I’m there for a case. My job gives me purpose and makes me feel like I’m somebody important. Even if I won the lottery, I wouldn’t quit my job, I love what I do. Money can’t give you what my job gives me. It makes me feel like it was more than wasted time when I reflect back on my addiction. It’s not a waste, I can use it for something.
What keeps you going?
I’ve been clean for 4 years now. One time, my niece told me she thinks I’m perfect. That gives me the drive to stay on track. Knowing that she thinks I am somebody pushes me to do better. I have options today. Not only do I have a career, I have changed my degree plan 4 times, I never thought I would have a career and definitely didn’t think I would be taking my time to decide what I wanted to do. I’ve celebrated so many firsts. My first time sober, my first time to go to school, my first time to have a job, my first real paycheck, the first time I’ve held a job for an entire year. There are lots of things to be celebrated.
What are the benefits of NA/AA groups?
You get to see faces that you love and people who care about you. They were there when I first came and they are still there. We are walking through life together. It gives you hope. When I was first getting sober, I didn’t have anything else to do so I would go to group and play cards all day. It gave me a place to be where I knew I wasn’t going to get high.
You mentioned feeling like you have a purpose, what do you think that purpose is?
I think my purpose is to help others, to be of use to people. For so long, I was living a selfish life, now I’m able to be selfless. I’m not wrapped up in my own stuff anymore. I want to help others feel like they have someone who understands. The first time I was triggered to relapse, I called my sponsor right away and it was nice to have someone to talk to. I want to be that person for other people.
What advice would you give to people who are struggling with addiction?
I want others to know there is strength and hope in their story and that freedom can be gained from sharing it. I used to be ashamed and scared that my past would always define me until I realized that embracing my past helped me move forward. Don’t be ashamed of your testimony, let God use you. That is the way to make all the wasted years and pain and disappointments not be all in vain. Give someone what you wished someone would have given you—hope. I want people to know it’s not always easy and life still shows up and shows out but I wouldn’t trade my best day high for my worse day clean. Recovery has opened doors I never imagined were possible. I wanted to just stop getting high. Thank God He doesn’t always give you what you ask for. I have learned to live life a different way. Take chances, allow risk, be vulnerable, and ask for help. These previously foreign concepts to me have become the foundation of my recovery. Life won’t be easy but it’s worth it.