PODCASTS

How a homeless Utah woman became SL County office receptionist

Sep 10, 2019, 10:11 AM
Destiny Garcia joins the Project Recovery podcast to talk about her struggle with addiction....
Destiny Garcia joins the Project Recovery podcast to talk about her struggle with addiction.

A week ago, Destiny Garcia sat in her house, surrounded by a documentary film crew. The documentary features Destiny and her story of addiction. Particularly, how she was able to transcend being homeless to become the receptionist for the Salt Lake County Mayor’s office.

Destiny sat there, thinking back on all of the darkness in her life as crew lights beamed down upon her. Sitting beside Destiny, her son, who had just said something that caught her off guard.

“Mom, you remind me of Michael Jordan.”

Thinking back, she remembered when she was homeless, addicted to drugs, and stealing store merchandise to trade for heroin. But somehow, her son had just compared her to one of the brightest and most influential athletes of all time.

How? How could she be compared to such an unbelievable athlete?

Simply put, she was changing the landscape.

How abuse fueled addiction for Destiny

“I was a single mom of two. I got into a bad relationship and I was in that relationship for seven years,” Destiny began. [It] turned to be very abusive, physically and emotionally.”

Emergency room visits were not uncommon for Destiny. Throughout the tenure of her relationship, she would experience both “multiple broken eye sockets and broken noses.”

She recalls a visit to the ER that took place in 2010, after she was the victim of such assault; her face? Black and blue. A physician prescribed over 300 pain relievers to help ease the discomfort.

After being prescribed such an inordinate amount of opioids, it’s not completely surprising that changed Destiny’s life forever.

“I became widely addicted on multiple levels,” she added.

Addiction causes Destiny to spiral out of control

While she began to struggle with her addiction, she was able to leave her abusive relationship a year and a half later. Nonchalantly, Destiny addressed why she chose to leave the relationship.

“I had to leave. I was going to die or I was going to leave.”

She picked up her kids from school, packed their bags, and moved into her mother’s house, addicted to opioids more than ever.

“I felt like my whole entire world was crashing down, even worse than being in the relationship,” she said.

Destiny had received a second chance to rebuild her life but she began to lie to everyone about her addiction: her mother, her children, and even herself.

She enrolled in college as a criminal justice major in an attempt to turn things around. Destiny even excelled at college, making the Dean’s list every month. Unfortunately, her addiction followed her everywhere she went.

“I was still taking the pills, and then I started smoking [Crystal] meth a lot to keep me more awake at school because I was addicted to pain pills,” she described.

She started shoplifting to pay for her addiction while in school. During the last class of her program, she was arrested and sent to jail.

Destiny never finished.

“Running and gunning” to stay alive

Destiny’s first stint with jail sparked something inside her. A fire started inside her. She started “running and gunning” — a term used in the addiction world that describes doing whatever it takes to feed said addiction.

She started losing everything. Destiny would serve multiple stints in jail, lose contact with her daughter, and begin to lose her battle with addiction.

She quickly realized that it was much easier to get heroin instead of opioids due to the system. Destiny didn’t have any money and she definitely didn’t have anything of value to a doctor, so she improvised.

She stole everything she could.

“Everyday, I was waking up to figure out what I was going to go shoplift, what I was going to go steal, what I could trade to get high,” she described.

Destiny frequented North Temple in downtown Salt Lake City to fuel her addiction. She would do whatever she could, however she could, and whenever she could to keep moving. She would sleep outside in parks, on preschool playgrounds, or would even stay up all night, out of fear.

Until Operation Rio Grande.

Operation Rio Grande becomes Destiny’s saving grace

Destiny’s poor decisions had finally caught up with her. The increased police force began arresting the addicts and homeless who had charges on their records. Destiny would have to find a way to get clean in jail. Thankfully, officers informed Destiny that there was plenty of funding to help her get treatment.

She was going to come clean; that was her one goal. Fifteen days after being booked into jail, she began her inpatient care at Odyssey House of Utah, an addiction treatment center in Salt Lake City. To avoid the cliques and the drama of treatment, she focused on herself and worked as hard as she could.

Along with getting clean, she was able to speak with her family again.

“I called and I talked to my son. He said, ‘Mom, I am so proud of you for choosing treatment,'” Destiny said. “That’s all it took. That’s all I needed to hear, that he had my back.”

Destiny turns over a new leaf

Destiny completed the program after only four months. She also became the first person in the program to complete substance abuse inpatient treatment.

She also used the first Salt Lake County Living voucher, which prompted a press release and allowed her to meet then-mayor, Ben McAdams. Destiny went on television, showed her arms where she had injected heroin just months before, and told her whole story.

Due to McAdam’s drive for Utah businesses to hire from within the drug court program, he eventually hired Destiny as the receptionist for the Salt Lake Mayor’s County office.

She recently celebrated two years of sobriety and is raising awareness surrounding addiction.

“I would have never, never, ever, in my wildest dreams, even in my sober days when I was going to school for Criminal Justice, would I think that I could have the impact I have today,” she concluded.

To hear more from Casey Scott and Dr. Matt Woolley, you can listen below or subscribe to the ‘Project Recovery’ podcast on Apple Podcasts and be sure to check out the ‘Project Recovery‘ page on KSLTV.com

Today’s Top Stories

Podcasts

Utah homes are recording high levels of radon gas. 
Photo credit: Laura Seitz, Deseret News...
Heather Kelly

Utah homes at risk of having dangerous levels of radon gas

Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer for people who are non-smoking. Utah homes are recording high levels.
7 days ago
A customer pumps gas at an Exxon gas station, Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in Miami. U.S consumers have s...
Curt Gresseth

UVU commencement speaker tells her story of rising from high school dropout to bank president

Mary Daly shares her story of rising from high school dropout through the nudging encouragement of her mentor to become president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
10 days ago
Toxic relationships...
Curt Gresseth

Expert shares advice on leaving a toxic relationship

A BYU psychologist shared his advice on identifying a toxic relationship and best practices for how to avoid one and how to leave one.
1 month ago
Maria Shilaos ana Taun Beddes learn to grow vegetables with Mat Jentzsch...
Carlos Artiles Fortun

KSL Greenhouse: How to grow vegetables in containers

Maria Shilaos and Taun Beddes visit Mathew Jentzsch to learn how to grow vegetables in containers for easy, convenient growing.
1 month ago
Lack of Russian oil supply greatly effects Utah along with rest of Country...
Curt Gresseth

Will Biden’s plan to tap national reserve lower gas prices?

An industry insider says it's good President Biden wants to encourage oil and natural gas production, but isn't sure what it'll do for gas prices.
2 months ago
Woman at home. Do you regret quitting jobs?...
Curt Gresseth

Do you regret quitting your job?

A Utah economist discusses the pros and cons of remote work as a study shows a majority of workers regret quitting jobs during the Great Resignation.
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
...

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
...

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
...

Tax Tuesday: Key Information Before the Filing Deadline

Businesses can receive a credit of up to $5,000 per employee in 2020 and up to $21,000 per employee in 2021.
How a homeless Utah woman became SL County office receptionist