A struggling drug addict who once put her five-year-old daughter into a dumpster to help forage for food is now in recovery — and she is helping struggling families in the Orlanda, Florida area with her charity One Heart for Women and Children.
Stephanie Bowman says from 15-32 years old, she was “in and out of addiction.”
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The daughter of a U.S. Army Band Master and a counselor, Bowman was raped and had an abortion when she was 15. A close friend died by suicide around that time as well. That was about the time she started experimenting with drugs and alcohol.
“Something just shifted,” says the 53-year-old.
As her addiction worsened, Bowman found herself using cocaine and in an abusive marriage, pregnant with her first daughter, Amber. She entered treatment, thinking that having a baby would get her sober.
“What I found out real quickly is that wasn’t the truth,” Bowman says.
“I loved my daughter, but I loved the drugs even more. And in the beginning of recovery, I think that was the hardest thing for me to admit, because I knew healthy moms didn’t leave their kids in different places. She was in crack houses with me. And by that time I was pregnant with [younger daughter Katie] in crack houses.”
After Bowman gave birth to Katie, she relapsed three months later. She left her abusive marriage and her daughters were taken from her and placed into foster care. This was Bowman’s rock bottom.
“It was the first time I really wanted to live clean and sober,” she says. “I didn’t want to hide anymore. I didn’t want to lie anymore. I didn’t want to cheat anymore. I didn’t want to steal anymore. I didn’t want to prostitute anymore. That was the last release of my addiction.”
In 2009, inspired by one of the counselors she had at the state-funded treatment center that helped her get into recovery, Bowman founded One Heart. The charity provides resources for families as they struggle to overcome hardships in the Central Florida area.
They mentor, educate, and empower people through partnerships with other Central Florida resources. They also provide clothing, food, school supplies, hygiene items, and household items. There are classes such as life skills and parenting. And there is outreach drug and alcohol prevention.
“One of the things we encourage people at One Heart for Women and Children to do is to share their stories,” says Bowman, who since being in recovery has fought cancer and gotten married. “‘Tell me. How did you end up where you are right now? What is that thing in your life where it shifted from loving and light to darkness?’ It becomes, Who can I help today? That is the mantra.”