“One of the biggest struggles I have ever faced throughout my life was my battle with homelessness and drug addiction after experiencing Hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest hurricanes to ever impact the United States.” – Icy L. Wiley
I was living in Mississippi in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina, an extremely dangerous category 4 storm struck. I had just walked away from a very unhealthy and abusive marriage and was approaching a new start to redefining my life and taking control of my happiness. When hurricane Katrina struck I lost my home and everything that I knew changed in what seemed to be the worse way possible.
This was a tragic experience for me and many others who suffered the loss of their homes, jobs, property, and even loved ones. I witnessed chaos as there was a quick increase in violence. I didn’t have a supportive family I could turn to which resulted in homelessness with few resources to assist me.
I felt unworthy, alone, broken, devastated and hopeless. I quickly returned to a cocaine addiction I had previously struggled with in my past. I didn’t know how to balance everything that was going on in my life and it was difficult to deal with the harsh realities of a failed marriage, severe loss after the storm and death.
I soon met a young man who embraced me during one of the lowest time of my life and I quickly grew to love him for his embrace. We soon relocated to Boston, MA where we planned to start over and rebuild a life together…
Our relationship quickly took a turn and became a mere reflection of my previous relationship where I dealt with verbal and physical abuse. After leaving this relationship I moved to a local homeless shelter and began receiving services to help me get my life back on track. I entered a recovery program at Mom’s Project which was a huge part of my transformation.
While in the recovery program I realized there were things that needed to change in my life, but I first had to be honest with myself about my reality. Doing so ultimately taught me how to live authentically. They taught me how to truly love and embrace myself and how to reposition myself as a leader. I also learned valuable life and finance skills to help me on my path to not only recovering from addiction but rewriting my life’s story and regaining stability.
I attended additional life skills classes and training’s to keep myself busy and focused on achieving my goals.
I have been drug free for 10 years and currently sponsor others on the road to recovery. I am completely in love with myself and where I am in life. My past circumstances taught me three major things that have enabled me to assist other people who desire to change their lives:
- Never judge anyone because you don’t know their story or the purpose behind their struggle.
- It taught me that there is always “greater” available when we are ready to accept responsibility for our lives and work towards obtaining it. Therefore, I embrace my sisters and brothers in the midst of their struggles.
- I’ve also learned that you have to meet people where they are and be a true example of God, who is love, in order to encourage breakthrough.
The advice I would like to share with women who are currently battling addiction, homelessness, or unhealthy relationships is simple:
“With God there are endless possibilities for change. Everything you face in life can be used for the greater good of humanity. God is ever-present and loves you for who you are despite where you have been and what you’ve done in your life. There will always be someone willing to listen so always speak up, reach out for help when you need it and always, always believe in yourself. Don’t ever settle for less than you deserve.”
Interviewed by: Marie Carter
Icy Wiley is a loving mother and Addiction Advocate who currently resides in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.