SISKIYOU CO., Calif. — A Siskiyou county woman has turned her life around after almost fifteen years of addiction, but she says there was one thing she needed to overcome to break her addiction.
“If someone looks at that life and then looks at my life now, they have to say it’s a miracle.”
Labels have defined almost all of Michelle Caswell’s life.
“I became a drug addict and an alcoholic and a sex addict and a porn addict,” Caswell said. “Those are a lot of the things I became and the labels that I carried around for so long.”
Michelle said she was only 14 when she was raped, and she immediately found ways to cope with the shame and pain she felt.
“It was those things that caused me to become a drug addict and caused me to become a sex addict and an alcoholic and a bad mom and all of that stuff.”
At her lowest, Michelle was broke, in an abusive relationship and addicted to meth.
“I used to always think this is the hand I’ve been dealt in life and I’m just going to play it to the best of my ability.”
It wasn’t until she was 30 that saw herself through her sons’ eyes and knew she had to change.
“I remember this one time before I went to rehab, my youngest son walked in,” she said. “I was changing, and he looked at me and goes ‘Mom, what’s happening to you?'”
That’s when Michelle went to rehab for the first and only time in her life. She says it wasn’t easy, and she had gotten to a point where she couldn’t even manage to get clean for herself. So, she chose something else.
“I remember every night before I’d go to sleep I’d put the blankets over my head and I’d be crying and I’d say here’s to you boys here’s to you.”
She did get clean, after a year and a half, she graduated from rehab and returned home to her sons to create a new life.
“God gave me this vision of me in a room with these women and I raised them up and sent them out to be all that they were created to be.”
That’s how Purely HIS was born. It’s a faith-based five-month program Michelle created to give people a way out of addiction. It’s taught up and down the Pacific Northwest, from Yreka to Portland.
“I believe in surrounding people with as much help as possible because when you’re coming out of that kind of lifestyle you have a lot of issues.”
Michelle is hopeful that after others hear about the road she’s traveled, they too can find a path to forgiveness. Helping others through their struggles also keeps Michelle accountable in her recovery.
“Mentoring others is what definitely what keeps me on my toes, because I know if I fall, then she’s gonna fall and that girl’s gonna fall because they’re all watching me,” Michelle said.
Michelle’s life looks different today than it did 13 years ago, and with this new life comes a new set of labels that she’s proud to carry.
“I do not call myself an addict anymore, I am an ex-addict, I’m an ex-sex addict,” she said. “I used to be a bad mom, I’m not a bad mom anymore.”
“I just believe that people can change and that can be who you use to be and not who you are today.”
If you are struggling with addiction, know there is help available but it’s up to you to take that step.
Devin Gooden graduated from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication with a Master’s degree in Sports Journalism.
She has spent most of her life in Atlanta, Georgia and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia in Business Management.
When she’s not reporting, Devin practices yoga, reads thriller novels and loudly cheers for her beloved Georgia Bulldawgs.