Interview with Wanda Velez
• How did you learn about Advent?
I first heard about Advent in 2002 when I lived in Morgan Hill and I used to attend the NA [Narcotics Anonymous] meetings. The girls and boys from the group homes were in the meetings and I was able to sponsor one or two girls.
• What did you do as a sponsor?
I would visit the kids at Advent and work the steps of NA with the girls. Then in September 2012, Advent had an opening for school liaison and I applied. However, I was not able to get cleared until after the holidays so I started as a billing specialist in February 2013.
• What is your goal?
I would like to work with the kids as a school liaison or addictions counselor. And to pursue that goal I am currently studying for my drug and alcohol certification with the State of California.
• What is your current position at Advent?
I work as a billing specialist assistant and record all services that are provided for our youths in the Step Up! program. I also prepare our monthly reports for billing.
• Tell us a little about your background.
I was born in the South Bronx in New York City, and I remember being molested by my step-grandfather when I was between 6 and 9 years old. When I was 12 I was smoking pot in the handball courts and drinking beer. I met a boy and got pregnant and had my son when I was 13. By the time I was 14 I was a full-blown alcoholic and addict, sniffing cocaine and heroin, as well as glue. I was also popping black beauties, Quaaludes, codeine pills, smoking marijuana, angel dust (PCP), and free base (smoking Cocaine).
Along with using drugs and alcohol for 23 years, I sold my body for money and drugs and I would steal from my family. I got involved in gangs at 12 years old, and then always ran with the gangs all the way to the end.
• What an incredible beginning! What happened next?
After moving to San Jose, California, in 1984, my fiancé committed suicide and tried to take me with him. He shot me and then shot himself, dying instantly. I was in the hospital three weeks. I continued to use drugs and alcohol for another 12 years, and even through all that I always worked for a living and went to school. I completed a course and got my clerk typist certificate, and eventually I got a certificate in word processing.
I was arrested for the first time in 1997 and then again in 1998, and spent 20 months in prison. And that is when my whole life changed!
• Please tell us about it.
I got involved with NA and AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] and went through the substance abuse program. I also did the RCP and DUI programs in Elmwood County Facility. I then completed 15 months in Valley State Prison for Women, and was paroled in eight months and lived with my mom, where it was clean and sober.
I completed a substance abuse outpatient program, and as soon as I graduated I was sent to a three-day workshop on framework for recovery and they hired me as a bilingual facilitator. I have been working in that field ever since and I enjoy giving back what was freely given to me. I love being in recovery and I have never been happier in my life.
• What part did God play in your recovery?
I was born and raised Catholic and I always knew there was a God, but I was lost for so many years in the midst of addiction and prostitution that I was not seeing Him. But when I got arrested I knew there is a God, and He saved me then and He continues to save me now.
I have been saved since August 26, 1998, and I got clean and sober and started studying Christianity. I am so blessed to be born again and baptized in the name of our God. I serve him wholly and do what I can for others. I love helping the poor. I love giving back and helping people with their addiction and alcoholism. I enjoy giving light to those who cannot see. I feel that God has put me in this place so I can preach the gospel. When I share I get to feed the lost and hungry souls that need the love of Christ Jesus, and I can transform my story into God’s love and God’s care.