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Courage to Come Back: Recipient of Addiction award went from a life of crime to a life of service

Last Updated Jul 7, 2020 at 1:36 pm PDT

Coast Mental Health has announced July as the Courage to Come Back Month. Amanda Staller is one of the people being celebrated this month. (Courtesy Coast Mental Health)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – By the age of 17, Amanda Staller was using cocaine which then led her down the path to prostitution.​

“Drugs had become a really big thing for me,” admits Staller. “It was like my way out.”

​Staller, the recipient for the Courage to Come Back award in the addiction category, eventually battled back from substance abuse, a life working the streets, and a childhood, in which, by her own admission, she saw things she should have never seen.​

​Clean and sober for the past nine years, the former sex trade worker is now a certified addictions counsellor. While she didn’t make that transition overnight, there was a point where, as she puts it, she hit the “done” button.​

​”There was just, like, after 30 years of living the life that I lived, I think it was a spiritual experience. I believed that there’s got to be something different and better than what I’m doing,” she explains. “So many of my girlfriends have been murdered and beaten or raped or overdosed. I was afraid of dying the way that I was living.”

​”I sold myself out and I won’t settle ever again nor will I let people determine my worth.”​

​She cleaned up her act and then went back to school the age of 44 to become an addictions counselor.​

​”And I did this two year course in 10 months. Going to school and earning a living was my goal, how to be self-supporting and take care of myself and not living a life of crime.”​

Listen to John Ackermann’s full interview with Amanda Staller:

​Staller says it was only then that she found a meaning to her life, and that, what to that point was her greatest liability, her past, would become her greatest asset.​

​”My lived experience became the gold. And I was able to talk about all these things that people were struggling with, I had lived experienced. And I was able to put the message of hope to that and say that, ‘If I could do it, you could do it,'” she says.​

​Her advice to anyone finding themselves in similar circumstances: be your own hero and don’t let what happened in the past get in the way of your future. Indeed, hers is not only a message of hope, but also an example of the Courage To Come Back.​

​”I’ve been given life because I’m strong enough to live it.”​

NEWS 1130 is a proud sponsor of Coast Mental Health’s Courage to Come Back Awards, one of the largest fundraising events of its kind in Western Canada. COVID-19 has drastically impacted funding for Coast Mental Health and many services have been forced to close down to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. This year, instead of a singular event, Coast Mental Health is dedicating the month of July to Courage and the five extraordinary recipients who have overcome adversity to give back to their community. Every Thursday in July, NEWS 1130 will profile a recipient on-air and online. For more information or to make a donation, please visit couragetocomeback.ca.