IN FOCUS – Michelle Todd: “I know I’m not alone any more!”
by Glen Doss, Major
Her eyes flashing intelligence, the woman hangs onto the speaker’s every word; Michelle Todd, 38, has an enormous hunger for the Scriptures.
A dialogue about God’s word ensues, and she pitches in, sparring with the best of them! Confiding in me later, Michelle says, “I feel so full now, yet I’m still hungry! The more I know, the more I want to know! Oh, how I love my life today—it is so simple!”
The fourth of five girls born to “functioning alcoholics,” Michelle says, “My dad was a binge drinker and my mom…would sip herself a little vodka with ice and call it water…Growing up in La Verne, Calif., we didn’t think it was all that bad until the nights my dad would get real mad and beat up my mom.”
Feeling unloved by her mother—“She was cruel to me”—and ridiculed by her sisters— “They said I was the ugliest of the litter”—Michelle grew up an unhappy child. By age 15 she was smoking marijuana, which made her finally feel like she was “somebody!”
At 16 she spent her weekends with an older sister who resided with her boyfriend. “The guys I met there were doing harder drugs. They told me I was pretty, and I felt that was where I belonged.” One of them, age 20, introduced her to cocaine. Getting pregnant at 17, Michelle moved in with him. After the baby came, “I started doing coke heavily, and it progressed into meth.” The relationship, which was to last ten years (“I had five kids with him”), was very familiar. “Just like my dad, he was abusive.”
One day “he beat up on me outside while I was holding the baby, and the neighbors called the police.” Soon afterward, however, his mother took custody of the children (“They said I was neglecting to feed the baby”). Now Michelle began sponging from house to house, using drugs even more.
At age 31, determined to quit methamphetamines, she moved to Ohio with her sister. There, she quit the speed but began drinking even heavier. To her credit, however, she found a job in a nursing home and earned a license as a Certified Nursing Assistant.
Word came that her children’s father had mysteriously died “in his addiction.” Determined to regain custody of the children, Michelle traveled to Lake Havasu City, Ariz., where they lived with their paternal grandmother. The courts, however, awarded the grandmother custody. “I worked so hard to make a better life for myself so I could have my kids, and they still said no,” states Michelle with a sob. “I signed the guardianship over to their grandma and went and got loaded.”
Then she became involved with Donny Todd. “After I met him,” says Michelle, “our (drug) using got real heavy, and I watched him almost die from an overdose. Later we talked and decided to make a go of it together, a go at a life.” Beaming, Michelle asserts, “(Since October 13, 2001) I have been clean and sober.”
Don’s Narcotics Anonymous sponsor was Kevin Andrews, a Salvationist, who invited them to his corps. “The more I came here the more I felt at home,” says Michelle. “It felt so safe; it was warm again; it was comfortable; and I love it. One day they were having a call to the Mercy Seat, and I felt so overwhelmed that I had to go forward! I accepted the Lord, and I was so filled with God’s love that I wanted to share it with everybody!”
Last summer Envoy Dee-Dee Lively-Andrews, corps officer, and Captain Christie Kamalo, asst. corps officer, married Don and Michelle in a ceremony beside Lake Havasu. “The wonderful thing is that I know I’m not alone anymore—God is with me! And the more I come to the Bible studies, the more I want to learn. The hole inside of me that I had attempted to fill with drugs and alcohol has been filled with the love of God. I love him so much, and now I know he loves me.”