37-year-old Lisa sits in the middle of the computer lab at The Mustard Seed Calgary’s Downtown Support Centre; this is where she usually reads by herself after one of the morning buses drops her off from the Foothills Shelter. Lisa has been staying there since quitting her job as an escort.

The day Lisa’s world fell apart

Lisa remembers the day her life took a terrible turn. After years of enduring physical and emotional abuse in an unhealthy marriage, Lisa found the courage to leave her husband and start a new life with her children.

When Lisa told her husband about her plans to rebuild her life without him, he grew angry; with his pride and ego hurt, he promised to destroy Lisa’s life. Ironically, this would be the first and last promise he kept – he called Child Protective Services and filed a complaint against Lisa.

Lisa was helping her children get ready for school, making breakfast for them while they got dressed. Unexpectedly, her house was surrounded by police officers and their dogs. She was terrified. Armed with guns, officers filled Lisa’s house, and she was taken from her children.

Lisa lost her children that day and with them, her will to live. She was utterly devastated.

“I knew I reached the end of the line, rock bottom. I did not even know what day or month it was.”

Lisa turned to drugs to numb the pain of longing for her children. The drugs took over her life, further separating her from them.

As weeks, months and years passed, Lisa eventually became an escort as a means to feeding her severe addiction. With palpable pain, she explains how she has seen a dark side to humanity. It was the traumatic circumstances she lived through as an escort that drove Lisa to try to end her life. After surviving suicide, she knew she had hit rock bottom and decided it was time to start a sober life, free from prostitution.

“I knew I reached the end of the line, rock bottom. I did not even know what day or month it was,” says Lisa about the events that motivated her to seek help. “I decided I would run towards freedom and not look back.”

Lisa finds refuge at The Mustard Seed

When Lisa first arrived at the Foothills Shelter from her detox program, she was extremely frail at less than 100 pounds. Years of heroin and crystal meth abuse had taken a devastating toll on her body. “I knew that if I stayed where I was, it would be just a matter of time before I died,” says Lisa.

But in the few weeks since arriving at the shelter, Lisa had already gained 30 pounds and had seen great improvement in her overall health.

For Lisa, the shelter is a refuge – a place where she does not have to be around drugs. It has given her a safe place away from the draw of heroin and crystal meth and the dangers of being an escort.

“I immediately felt safe at The Mustard Seed because it is drug-free and there’s support and people who care about you,” she says.

Lisa is turning to The Mustard Seed Resources

Lisa is currently sober and she plans on using The Mustard Seed’s resources to rebuild her life and hopefully reunite with her children.

“I immediately felt safe at The Mustard Seed because it is drug-free and there’s support and people who care about you.”

“I am learning that I do have power over drugs and that I can say no,” says Lisa about the help she’s received through the addictions counselling program at the Wellness Centre. “I am learning that I’m valued, I have a purpose.”

Lisa’s next steps on her path to a new life are visiting the housing advocates and employment counsellors at The Mustard Seed’s Downtown Support Centre. She’ll also continue to attend the weekly addictions program at the Wellness Centre.

“I know that I can’t walk out of this alone. I am just so thankful to have found The Mustard Seed. The people here literally saved my life, and they just love me,” says Lisa. “I think this is the most loved I have ever felt.”

For Lisa’s safety, we did not photograph her face. We’re committed to protecting her now that she is in a sober environment, away from prostitution.