by Vicki Powers
In 2019, Houston Recovery Center launched Project Reach, a program designed to help people who are deeply stigmatized by society get access to necessary healthcare and recovery services.
Byancha Lawson is a Project Reach client. Her success story is one of courage facing recovery and life as a trans woman.
Before: Before connecting with Houston Recovery Center, Lawson had been homeless for four years, was deep into meth use, worked 15 years as an escort, and lives without family or friends in Houston.
After: Today, Lawson works at the Recenter, is enrolled at Houston Community College, and celebrates one year of sobriety in September. “I had no clue my life would be what it is today. I didn’t know where God would take me. I’m so grateful the people at Houston Recovery Center came into my life.”
A powerful story of what can happen when one person reaches out to another with compassion and genuine interest in who they really are.
Byancha Lawson was raised in a violent home. Her father used drugs, physically abused her mom, and lived on the streets. Lawson often protected her mom from his violence. She was 13 years old when her father died at age 40. Now Lawson feels like her life is taking off at age 40.
Living on the streets
In July 2019, Lawson moved to Houston from Louisiana. After a month of living in a shelter, Lawson left and returned to methamphetamines (meth). “I did meth any way you can do meth,” she says.
Living on the streets, Lawson was approached by Jackie Williams of project REACH. Her compassionate hello and genuine interest got Lawson off the streets and into the sobering center where she stayed for weeks until she could be placed into substance use treatment.
“This is why I think my story is so amazing,” Lawson relates. “Houston Recovery Center let me stay there so long until a bed was available at Santa Maria Hostel. That’s not normal!”
Transforming to her best life
At Santa Maria, Lawson’s counselor was a trans woman. “She’s so amazing and definitely played a big part in molding me,” Lawson says.
“I worked the program and got serious about my life and recovery,” Lawson states. “I became more humble and built up more gratitude for myself, for life, and other people.” Lawson maintains her recovery working the 12 Steps with her sponsor.
She says she lost her relationship with God during her days of meth and regained it when she surrendered her life to God during treatment. This spiritual awakening lead her to the C.O.O.L. (Christ Over Our Life) Church, an inclusive community.
“I’ve definitely found the Holy Spirit at C.O.O.L. Church,” she relates. “Every time the pastor preaches, his message fits in somewhere in my life. And now I tithe 10 percent, and give God what He needs first. It’s not much, but I’ve never done it before.”
Back on track
Lawson landed a job at a local restaurant but quit two weeks later to protect her recovery. The next day the Recenter, a recovery center, offered her a job. When one door closes, another opens, she says.
“The Recenter is a really good place and they help people out, but you have to want it,” Lawson says.
When she was steeped in meth use, Lawson’s family didn’t want anything to do with her. Now she describes her family’s relationship with her as unbreakable – a gift of recovery.
Making a difference
By sharing her story, Lawson hopes she can reach at least one trans woman who’s lost in the world hoping she might ask “What am I doing?” and find courage to live life in a way that is true to herself.
“That’s the impact I want to have in my community,” Lawson relates. “It took a long, hurtful, depressing, frustrating time to get where I am today – and to finally accept who I am and move on.”
Author’s note: I’m so happy Byancha trusted me to write her story. She wanted to include our photo and reports doors are still opening for her even during the pandemic!