Success Stories – Fiatele “Christina” Viliamu

Back in 2006, when I was incarcerated at Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW), I had to attend a re-entry class in order to get paroled. One of the assignments in this class was to find ten resources within your county from a resource guide VSPW supplied. Looking for any place to write down, I noticed that Goodwill was listed five different times. I wrote down “Goodwill” and made a mental note for myself when I paroled.

After I got out, I went straight to Goodwill to see what resources they actually provided, not sure if the resources listed in the guide were really true. Well, Goodwill gave me the chance to be an apprentice retail associate for the Vacaville store. After some time, I worked my way up to a lead retail associate and everything was awesome, until I relapsed back on my drug of choice, methamphetamines. I lost myself, and my job at Goodwill. I got a violation for relapsing while on parole and was sent back to prison. I promised myself that I would stay clean when I was released from prison again.

After my release in 2007, my first stop was to go get my fix of methamphetamine. I was going 100 miles per hour and I knew if I didn’t get a grasp on my life, I would be chasing that first hit of meth forever.

Someone was looking out for me because on February 14, 2008, in the early morning, I was so tired of running from myself, or chasing that high, that I fell asleep. Sleep is awesome for someone that has been up for days, maybe weeks. I woke up to the police in my face, arresting me because I was involved in a local crime. What the police didn’t know was that I’d been praying for them to arrest me for a long time. I was tired and had hit rock bottom. I was sentenced to 16 months in prison with half time so I had to serve eight months. Back to VSPW.

I did eight months at VSPW and paroled to my first drug treatment program, called the Emani Program. I graduated from the drug program, but it was not an easy process. Being a recovering methamphetamine addict is no joke. Every day was a fight to not pick up.

In 2009, I came back to Goodwill looking for a job and was hired as a lead processor. Finding a job with a felony on your record can be very difficult. However, there are over 400 companies that are hiring felons right now. I worked my way up to assistant plant supervisor, then, in 2012, became the assistant HR coordinator. Now I am an HR coordinator. At Goodwill, I’ve been promoted three times. I never thought I could move up in a company.

I do not dwell on my past life, I like to focus on how far I have come to be where I am today. I changed my life after prison and the drugs. Since then, here is a list of what I’ve accomplished:

  • I started dating the love of my life, Amber Brown, in 2009.
  • I bought my 1st car in 2012.
  • I have a steady job and benefits (Goodwill is a second chance program).
  • I opened up a bank account.
  • I got my first driver’s license at the age of 31.
  • I went back to school.
  • I rebuilt my relationship with my family.
  • I went to Reno, Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, and Monterey for the first time.
  • I rode on a boat to go whale watching.
  • I celebrated my 28th, 29th, 30th, 31st, 32nd, 33rd, 34th, 35th, and 36th birthdays out in the free world and not in prison.
  • I’ve made some great friends, some turned into family.
  • I am able to spoil my nieces and nephews.
  • I went to my first 49ers football game and my first Giants baseball game.
  • I am the favorite daughter-in-law (I am the only daughter-in-law).
  • I paid off my car.
  • I am close to my siblings.
  • After 29 years, I met my twin sisters.
  • My life partner and I are trying to have a baby (we are hopeful).

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