Woman Graduates with Honors After Battling Drug Addiction

Woman Graduates with Honors After Battling Drug Addiction

February 1, 2022 by By Cathy Stack

The people who visit the Lazarus Day Center, a men’s shelter, find employee Ginny Burton’s demeanor comforting. They feel safe confessing their addiction struggles to her. She can relate to them in a way that no one else can. She offers them her own inspiring story of hope. Years prior to obtaining her college degree and starting her career, Ginny lived most of her life caught in the downward, desperate spiral of drug addiction. Her dramatic before-and-after photos are a testimony of how far she has come. The side-by-side images offer a stark contrast: One taken during the depths of her despair; the other at the height of her glory – her college graduation.

“When I look at the photos, it is almost unbelievable, like it is another person I’m looking at,” Ginny shares.

The images offer proof of Ginny’s incredible transformation. She considers herself changed on a fundamental level and says she feels like her true self. That person she was had long been held hostage by drug addiction.  She now makes it her mission to provide hope to those who feel lost and helpless in their own destructive substance abuse cycles and patterns. 

Ginny was born into an environment surrounded by drug addiction and violence.  Both of her parents abused and sold drugs, and her mother also suffered from mental illness. Her abuse-filled childhood was devoid of guidance and the sense of stability and security.

Ginny’s mother introduced her to marijuana at age 6 and, in her teen years, meth and crack. Men who came by her home to purchase drugs from her mother assaulted and further traumatized her.  At 17, she attempted to take her own life, driven by a profound, consistent sense of hopelessness.  Ginny said she would have rather died than continue to live with the pain and shame caused by her addiction.

She recalled feeling that her addiction seemed bigger than her. She spent most of her time and energy feeding it. By her early twenties, she felt trapped in an inescapable prison of self-destruction. Recovery seemed hopeless and rehabilitation a fruitless endeavor. Most people had given up on Ginny, including herself.

Ginny spent most of her twenties making frequent trips in and out of state prison on drug charges, but she said her time in prison offered her an opportunity to get clean and to reflect.  Sitting in a prison cell, she had reached her personal low. She decided that she wanted to do more than just exist.

Her recovery journey was difficult, yet profoundly transformative. She first fought to get into drug court, which offers offenders an alternative to incarceration and an opportunity to pursue addiction treatment.

After treatment, she started volunteering. She eventually found work with Catholic Community Services. She worked there for five years, serving the homeless and addicted. She then started hiking and found that the exercise and being out in nature centered her. She even summited the four highest peaks in Washington. 

Ginny felt renewed, grateful and inspired. She grew closer to her true self, and she committed to improving the quality of her life. That was when she decided to go to school and complete her education.

Ginny first attended community college, which she describes as challenging. She had to adjust to the studying demands in an unfamiliar field and learn to adjust to learning alongside much younger students. Soon, she found a rhythm and routine in school life and thrived.

Her strong grades at the community college level led to a scholarship to the University of Washington. She made the all-academic team at UW, and she earned awards and additional scholarships. She recently graduated with honors at the age of 48. She has also earned something priceless: her self-respect.

“Oh my gosh, I'm unbelievably proud of myself. So much so, it makes me want to cry. When I look at some of the photos, when I looked at my own graduation photos, I was so proud of myself,” she said overcome with emotion. “I learned I can do anything that I choose to, but I just have to be willing to do hard things.”

She confessed to wanting to quit many times, feeling it was too hard, but she persevered. Then she triumphed.

Ginny is now seeking to get her Master of Governance at the University of Washington and plans to dedicate herself to prison reform. Her mission is to change the criminal system so that it offers a path to treatment for inmates with substance abuse histories. The goal is to help end the cycle once inmates are released from prison. 

Ginny avoids looking at the past with regret. Rather she expresses gratitude that things unfolded as they did so that she could inspire many others battling drug addiction. She wants to be a beacon of hope; to show others that they too can overcome and rise above their addiction. She wants them to know that, like her, they too are truly worthy of all the good things life offers.  

PassItOn and The Foundation For A Better Life believe Ginny Burton is a hero. Her courageous actions in battling addiction and working to improve the lives of herself and others personifies the value of hope. Her inspiring achievement story shows us that no soul is irredeemable and that anything is possible. Please help us celebrate Ginny by sharing her inspiring story. 

Watch video here:  https://youtu.be/NkwBElqoNic

Please tell us about your everyday hero. The heroes among us are ordinary people whose actions leave a lasting and positive impact in their communities and demonstrate the potential in all of us. Their heroic acts uphold our shared values. Help honor these individuals by creating a billboard and sharing their story at: www.passiton.com/your-billboards/create.

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Your Comments
Ashley from California MARCH 6, 2022
Wow. I want to do the same thing! You are such an inspiration! You have what it takes! You shine a light at the destination I hope I can get as far to get in education but not sure which area of study. I have many interests. I would like to meet you one day. I would love for your reform to take place! I would absolutely tremendously appreciate the help you extend to the hurting struggling recovering or using addicts. Oh you've done it! You are proof that we are important and we do impact the world for good! Thank you. And thank you personally I really admire your actions. :)

Michael 61 yr old Veteran from Florida FEBRUARY 28, 2022

Mary from Buchanan, MI FEBRUARY 9, 2022
Wow. God bless you Ginny for sharing your life with others, seeing everyone is redeemable, everyone matters. You, your heart, work, and ministry are beautiful and precious.

Pauline Estrada from Sierra vista az. FEBRUARY 2, 2022
Wow Ginny your story brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. I pray that the Lord will use you to help so many people that cross your path. May the Lord give you discernment and knowledge in how to help hurting people and May the favor of God follow you wherever you go. I pray a hedge of protection over your life that no harm would come against you in JESUS MIGHTY NAME. Love and Blessings to you.

Eric Cox from Walnut Creek, Ca 94595 FEBRUARY 1, 2022
I think you’ll resonate with this one Jim. Aren’t we lucky?

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