"I experienced sexual abuse early in life—men were my mom's thing," Robyn explains.
The men in Robyn's mom’s life were often dangerous and cruel. Robyn was raped for the first time when she was 9 years old. At 13, she was impregnated by a 26-year-old man who then, with her mother's support, forced Robyn to marry him so that he would not be prosecuted for rape. He divorced her a year later. Due to Robyn's age, the man was granted sole custody of their daughter.
Robyn was heartbroken. She says she did not want to return to her mother's home where she might be further abused, so she went to the street and did "whatever street people do to survive."
One night, some acquaintances offered Robyn a place to stay and introduced her to intravenous meth. She tried it once and was hooked. She was 15.
Robyn went to the street and did 'whatever street people do to survive.'
A SPENDING SPREE
For the next nine years, Robyn bounced from place to place. Often "home" was a motel. She had three more children with three different men, all of whom were abusive. And meth was her constant companion.
At age 24, Robyn left the violent man she was living with and took her children to the home of a friend. She noticed her friend's credit card on a table and slipped it into her pocket. Over the next three days, she spent $5000 with the stolen card.
Robyn was arrested, and the judge sentenced her to 27 years at High Plains Correctional Facility in Brush, Colorado.
'CREATE IN ME A CLEAN HEART'
Eight months into her sentence, Robyn attended a three-day ministry event. She was overwhelmed by the love and power of God.
"I laid on the ground for the whole service and part of the next day, just wailing," she says. "I spent a day and a half under a chair in the fetal position. God was just delivering me from everything in my life."
When she finally got up off the floor, Robyn says she felt like a new person. She began working for the chaplain, setting up for services and helping with music. She got sober. And she felt shame melt away.
"My heart was clean, so I was able to see the Lord," Robyn says. "I was able to forgive and ask for forgiveness."
It was during this time that Robyn learned about Prison Fellowship Angel Tree™. Angel Tree® enables incarcerated parents to give their children gifts at Christmas. Robyn sent gifts to her kids through Angel Tree for four years, and it gave her a wonderful sense of "doing something" as a mom.
'My heart was clean, so I was able to see the Lord. I was able to forgive and ask for forgiveness.'
A NEW START AND A FAMILIAR TRAP
After serving five years, Robyn was released. She was thankful to be free—but reentry was not simple. At first, she lived in a ministry home, but it was not a fit. Renting required a stable income and a background check—another barrier, given the likelihood she would be denied because of her criminal record.
Finding housing was so difficult that Robyn’s pastor helped her set up an apartment in the basement of the church. And finding work was even tougher. In fact, formerly incarcerated Coloradans face 247 recorded restrictions when it comes to securing employment.
"If you say 'yes, I have a felony.' it is so hard to find work," Robyn says. "I had trouble even cleaning hotel rooms because you're not bondable by most insurance companies. It can take a year of filling out applications before you find one willing to give you that opportunity."
For three years, Robyn worked hard to get back on her feet. She secured a job in road construction and attended church and Bible study. And she even regained custody of her children just one year after her release.
One day as they worked on the highway, a co-worker casually said, "This would be a lot more fun if we went and got high."
That suggestion was all it took.
"I left the job site, got a needle, and it was like I had never quit," she says.
A WEIGHT LIFTED: 'I'M DONE'
Robyn was back in the grip of addiction. Her children, now teenagers, bore the brunt of her drug use and her return to abusive relationships.
"The kids were a mess," she says. "They spent a lot of time with friends and living on the street."
Seven years into her relapse, Robyn was caught driving without a license and was put on probation. Her probation officer noticed her bruised body and could tell she was using drugs. The officer could have easily put Robyn back behind bars. Instead, she showed Robyn compassion by helping Robyn leave her abusive partner and check into a residential treatment center.
"I used drugs all the way up there, did drugs in the parking lot," Robyn admits. "But as soon as I walked through the door, a weight lifted off of me, and I thought, 'I'm done.'"
The officer could have easily put Robyn back behind bars. Instead, she showed Robyn compassion.
THE NEED FOR RECOVERY-FOCUSED COMMUNITY
"I had a lot of guilt that I could go back [to using drugs] that quick," she says. "But if we don't stay connected to a sober group of people and our mind is not transformed, that's what can happen."
Robyn spent three months in rehab and then went to live in a sober home, a transitional post-rehab living environment. She has now been clean for two years. She has a steady job, and her relationships with her children have been restored. Thankfully, her adult daughter is even willing to let Robyn live with her.
"I still don't have a place of my own because of my past," Robyn says. "I have been out 12 years, and it still haunts me. But God is so faithful, and restoration is true. It really has been amazing."
'I had a lot of guilt that I could go back [to using drugs] that quick. But if we don't stay connected to a sober group of people and our mind is not transformed, that's what can happen.'
Robyn attests that there is one thing she absolutely loves: volunteering with the homeless. In particular, she has a heart to see people delivered from drug abuse. Just as she was given a second chance to turn her life around, Robyn is eager for others to experience the same.
"I hope to help pull people out of that dungeon of addiction," she says.
Recently, Robyn served with Angel Tree as a volunteer. Her job was to call those caring for children with an incarcerated parent to arrange for gift delivery.
"Volunteering for Angel Tree gave me an opportunity for me to share … how it makes people in prison feel to be able to give something," she says. "I was able to pray with people for sickness and in their brokenness over the missing family member that wasn't there. I love being able to give back in all the places, in my addiction, that I took from."
God is at work in this broken world—it's undeniable. But sometimes deliverance isn't once-and-done, and sometimes our journeys are unspeakably painful and complicated. Yet Robyn is full of hope as she looks forward to the many chapters of her story that are yet to be written.
Just as she was given a second chance to turn her life around, Robyn is eager for others to experience the same.