By Kristen Cervenak

Born in Puerto Rico, 44-year-old Elizabeth Ortiz came to the United States with her mother at the age of six months. Her faith and love of poetry has helped her find peace in her recovery from heroin. Now she encourages others to find the same courage.

“I hope someone will read this and get some strength, wisdom, and hope from it. To know they’re not alone in the world,” Ortiz said. “I’ve been through it and I thank God that he’s gotten me out of it. There’s hope out here. There’s a lot of help as well.”

Ortiz’s mother provided her with everything she could. However, with little knowledge of English, she had to work exceptionally hard to find jobs. While providing her with love, shelter, and schooling, her mother began to date an older man who attempted to raise Ortiz the best he could. Unfortunately, when she was nine, he began sexually abusing her.

“I can’t remember my childhood at all from the age of 9 to 14. That’s when my drug use started because I couldn’t bear the fact of going through the abuse with him. It escalated from snorting cocaine, until I started to be an IV user at the age of 15 for heroin,” she recalled.

Ortiz described herself as a functional addict: attending school, maintaining jobs, and having children. In the midst, it became a roller coaster of ups and downs, but she managed to still put her children through school. At age 37, she committed crimes that sent her to jail multiple times. After multiple relapses and rehabs, she tried to become clean on her own.

“I finally figured out that I had to cry out to God so he could take my addiction from me. I did that while I was incarcerated. I surrendered my addiction and believe that God took it from me. He took all of that desire and craving. I’ve been clean for eight months now, and it’s the first time I’ve had so much clean time together. I believe that my God has taken that away from me. I’m just feeling like a normal person now.”

While incarcerated, she wrote poems about her spirituality. She uses prayer, meetings, and chooses to share as much as she can.

“It’s not easy to bring forth your life, but I have to do it to release a lot of pain. I face a lot of consequences, but now everything is falling into place. I had to get over the hump. I had to get incarcerated to get over it because I was trying to find ways to stop using and I was unsuccessful,” said Ortiz. “Until I got incarcerated and got the help that I needed there, I went to rehab and it was an amazing experience. Right now, what I am going through is being clean and learning how to stay clean. Before, I couldn’t do that and now I can.”

She wants to go back to school, which starts in September. Her goal is to become an addiction-related social worker, get her own place, bring her family together, and travel to her home state of New Jersey.

In God’s Face

By Elizabeth Ortiz

In God’s face is where I want to be
A place where I can run wild and free.
In God’s face is where I surrender it all
There’s no pain, no sorrow, and no flaws.
In God’s face, I am a child holding him by the hand
And walking his path to an awesome land.
In God’s face is where I can praise,
Lifting my hands and singing his holy name.
In God’s face, I know I’m at peace,
Feeling surrender and tranquility.
In God’s face, there is no trouble, no guilt, and no shame
Why should I wander in darkness all day?
In God’s face is where I’ll remain
Because it doesn’t change, he’s always the same.
I will never leave my God’s face;
He knows what’s best for me, he puts me in my place
If I ever die, I know my soul he will take.
I will find myself always just searching for his face.