I was 20 years old and had been living in Washington, D.C., for three months when desperation led me to contemplate suicide. My days were spent drinking, doing drugs, and earning money through commercial sex work. Within a year, I ended up pregnant and living in a homeless shelter.

Life had never been easy, but I couldn’t have imagined how much more difficult it would become. I grew up in a household with a physically abusive, drug-addicted father. My mother gave birth to me when she was 17, without having the chance to grow up herself. Even as a small child, I never trusted that I would be taken care of, so I acted out in an attempt to get the love, attention and validation that were missing from my life. As I got older, my confidence was low, but my actions were large and loud. I thought this was the way I would be heard and get the attention I craved. It didn’t work.

When I left home at the age of 20, I felt I had nothing to fear. But, without guidance, resources and support, I lacked the critical elements I needed to make a successful transition into adulthood. I turned to alcohol, drugs and sex in an attempt to cope with my increasingly desperate situation. My world got smaller and smaller and so did my hope for a better life until I finally got desperate enough to ask for help. A healthy woman for whom I sought out suggested I try 12-step recovery. There, I met a supportive community of remarkable women who taught me how to love myself, respect others, heal and make good decisions. What I had been looking for in drugs, alcohol, sex and other high-risk behaviors were finally available to me in meaningful relationships.

This was a long and difficult process during which I slowly learned to trust others. It saved my life. With the continued support of this community of women, I joined AmeriCorps to give a “year of service” to the D.C. female recovery community. I earned my BA in Political Science from Trinity-Washington University, worked my way up on Capitol Hill, and am now an MPA candidate at the University of Baltimore.

With these misfortunes behind me, my life now certainly would have been easier if I had kept my past hidden. I was incredibly lucky to have found an amazing recovery community, people who gave me the strength to accept my past, overcome extreme hardship, and live a meaningful–and previously unimaginable–life.

I was fortunate, but so many young women are not.

We must give each young woman the opportunities I had: to begin a stable, healthy and fulfilling life, providing them with support, hope and strength. That is the mission of HER Resiliency Center.

Natasha has successfully completed certification in the “Creating Cultures of Trauma Informed Care Model” of trauma-informed practice. This is certified by Community Connections of Washington, DC. Community Connections is a nationally recognized organization in the field of trauma-informed care.

To contact Natasha, you can reach her at: natasha@herresiliency.org.