Woman goes from the depths of drug addiction to helping others at Wayside Recovery Center

Substance abuse in America – some call it a public health crisis. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2020, nearly 20 percent of women ages 18 and older used illicit drugs.

One local woman knows the struggle well: she battled addiction for decades before turning toward recovery.

Misty Helm’s struggle with substance abuse began at an early age.

"At 13 when I found drugs and alcohol, I was like this is it," said Helm.

And from there, her addiction progressed. "When I was 21, I was introduced to methamphetamine, which ended up being my drug of choice," said Helm.

She says that drugs served as an escape. When asked what triggered her drug use, Helm said, "Trauma, a lot of trauma."

A full-blown IV meth user, the mother of three would go on to lose custody of her three children and at times, also her freedom. "It wasn’t until probably the last four years of my addiction that I started to really become involved in the criminal behavior as well," said Helm. And then came a turning point. "This last time, which was October 21st of 2017 was my final arrest, and I just knew that I was done."

Misty Helm sits down with FOX 9. (FOX 9)

Facing a long list of felony drug charges in Minnesota and serious prison time in Wisconsin, at the age of 36, she hit rock bottom.

"There was nothing left, there was nothing left. I was spiritually bankrupt; I had no conscience left. I was physically very unwell," said Helm.

And that's when she decided to make a plea before a judge. "I told the judge that prison will always be there. But please give me the opportunity to do something different," said Helm.

The judge ruled in her favor. Helm was given a chemical dependency assessment and entered treatment at Wayside Recovery Center in the Twin Cities. "They absolutely changed my life," said Helm.

Today, she is 41 years old and sober for more than four years. "What it took was someplace like Wayside to take me into their arms and love me back to life," said Helm.

"To know that she is well and thriving and is continuing her education," Teresa Evans, the Interim CEO Of Wayside said. "These are the stories that keep us in the work."

Wayside Recovery Center first started as a safe house for women. That was more than 65 years ago. Today, Wayside provides treatment and recovery services to hundreds of women each year.  According to a National Institute on Drug Abuse study, in 2020 more than 19 million women ages 18 or older had used illicit drugs.

"There’s been a huge increase in mental health needs," said Evans.

"We do recover, we do recover. We are not hopeless," said Helm. Restored, and on a new path. Helm’s is now helping other women find their way.

"I don’t believe that there are ever any wasted experiences, everything is for something. And if we could use them to help the next person, then it was all worth it.," said Helm.

Helm’s recently received certification to be a peer recovery specialist. On Thursday, Wayside will host its annual "Celebrate Hope" event. The celebration will raise awareness about Wayside's services and support women just like Misty. For more information, you can visit their website.