Melissa Faber moved to Seaside in 2016 for a fresh start.
After spending years in and out of jail, she was ready to create a life of sobriety, but things got worse before they got better.
Faber moved in with a friend and stopped using drugs, but spiraled again, spending the next year and a half using drugs and living homeless.
“It was the hardest time of my life,” Faber, 28, said.
“There were nights where I was walking around with nowhere to go and nowhere to sleep with it pouring rain,” she said. She said it felt humiliating.
“There’s a point where the drugs wear off and you’re still high and it’s like, ‘OK, I’m doing this for what now,’” Faber said. “I started all this with just wanting to be numb from everything and now I don’t have anything to even feel.”
After another arrest, the judge gave her a choice — drug court or prison. She chose drug court, a national program that takes a public health approach to help defendants who are addicted achieve long-term recovery. People who complete the program are statistically significantly less likely to be arrested again compared to people sentenced to prison.
Faber, who has been sober for nearly two years, graduated from the program in January. While in treatment, she met her husband and they had a baby last year.
“You have two individuals that had a lot of obstacles, had to overcome a lot of challenges from their past and then create a new story for their child and for their family because they didn’t want to re-create history,” Chris Hoover, a probation officer, said about Faber and her husband during graduation.
“I don’t have words for how proud I am of both of you,” he said.
Faber’s drug use started when she was in high school.
“Looking back at it now ... I didn’t understand why my mom had put me up for adoption,” she said. “And also, my step-mom was a very controlling person … My dad was blinded and it just drove me absolutely crazy. So, I numbed myself because of those feelings.”
Faber was adopted by her uncle and his wife after she was born. Although she saw her biological mother a handful of times growing up, she never knew her biological father. She said her biological mother also struggled with drug use.
When she was 8 years old, her adoptive parents divorced, and then her father remarried.
She said that’s when things got rocky.
Faber said her stepmother mentally and physically abused her from a young age.
“It made me so angry. I had so much anger inside of me that I couldn’t direct anywhere,” she said.
Faber’s adoptive mother moved to Missouri, where she would visit her during school breaks. In Missouri, she had more freedom to do what she wanted, and when she went back to her dad’s house in Arizona, it was more strict, and she began to rebel.
Once in high school, Faber began to use drugs, which led to her being expelled from two high schools. Eventually, her father gave her an ultimatum.
“He said, ‘You can either go live with your grandmother on the ranch or go to Missouri.’ Obviously, I picked Missouri because I was able to do (what) I wanted to do. So I went there, and I made a life. I made a criminal life, but it was still a life,” Faber said.
She earned her GED diploma and got a job.
“I just barely skimmed through everything that I needed to do to be successful,” she said.
Faber then started partying more and then one night used a drug she thought she would never use.
“It was that moment when I was walking to the bathroom … and I knew, ‘OK, it’s all downhill from here.’ I was disgusted with myself that I had tried it,” Faber said.
“And from that moment on, I just started getting high on things I never would have thought I would get high on,” she said.
When she was 18 years old, she got her first driving under the influence charge. She said drug use, arrests and warrants became a vicious cycle.
Faber said she got to the point where she wanted to get clean, but didn’t know how to do it on her own. It wasn’t until she was given the opportunity to get treatment through drug court.
“Drug court just doesn’t give you another option,” Faber said. “All those years of not wanting to be told what to do and it’s exactly what I needed.”
Through treatment, she was able to forgive her stepmother and reconcile her past. Instead of numbing herself, Faber said she had to begin applying all the things she learned in treatment to cope with her stress. She said she couldn’t have done it without her faith.
“After a while, it was almost enjoyable being part of the community, going to treatment, doing everything I needed to do. There was like a lift in my ego, and all the while, I’m healing from the inside,” she said.
She said, in the beginning, most defendants don’t trust drug court has their best interest in mind. But then, she said, “you realize they are really trying to change your life.”