Hannah Tyner was 16 years old when her struggle with addiction began. Despite a stable upbringing, she found herself in a relationship with an older guy with a percocet addiction, which became her addiction, as well. At 17, she would meet the man who would become her trafficker; a drug dealer who, at the time, supplied what she needed and deepened her addictions.
“A drug dealer is kinda like the best thing since sliced bread, when you’re in active addiction, because he can supply your habit,” Hannah recounted. “He convinced me that [heroin] was a lot cheaper than buying percocet, so I started my addiction to heroin.”
Meanwhile, her family was unraveling as well, as her dad and stepmother, whom she had grown up with, also fell into drugs themselves and eventually separated. Eventually she would become pregnant, though still stuck in active addiction that would take a turn for the worse in her ninth month of pregnancy––
“I never stopped the drugs during my pregnancy… I was in active heroin addiction for four and a half years,” she explained the depth of her addiction at this point, “until my stepmom’s new boyfriend shot and killed my dad.”
With her father’s death and her daughter, Savannah, born and taken from her a month later, Hannah’s conditions only worsened alongside her circumstances.
“[My dad’s death] was really hard on me, and I dug even deeper into the drugs,” she said, also noting that her boyfriend, who until this point had been her dealer and used that dependency to manipulate her, dove further into his control. “I was his property, and I had already messed up his life with his daughter––he blamed me for that––so he started making me do things.”
At this point, Hannah’s boyfriend began trafficking her, as well as other women, out of their home. Police had already suspected him for drug trafficking, and when they arrested him on these charges, Hannah would falsely claim responsibility to prevent him from life imprisonment––which would have also meant the loss of her dealer. She was charged with four felonies of drug trafficking and conspiracy, and her relationship would turn even darker before he was arrested for human trafficking a year and a half later.
“I hit my knees,” Hannah detailed this deeply abusive span of their relationship, “I was black and blue everyday. My face just didn’t look the same. I had to walk on eggshells; if I didn’t dress a certain way or walk a certain way, then I wasn’t who he was trying to mold me into being. He got even more abusive… [before] they arrested him on human trafficking, and they arrested me on failure to appear in court for drug trafficking charges.”
At this point, as Hannah spent three and a half months in jail for these charges, an advocate for the county’s human trafficking unit came to her and posed a question that would serve as a turning point: “Hannah, what do you want out of this? What change do you want? Do you want your daughter back? Do you want to be sober? Do you want to get away from him?”
“They brought me to my knees,” Hannah remembered, “I had three and half months to sober up in there, and in tears, all I could get out was, ‘That’s all I want. I want nothing more to get out and to be sober and to get Savannah back.’” It was at this point she was offered the opportunity to go to Refuge for Women in Las Vegas, and her journey took what can only be described as a complete 180.
“Being sober, I was just now coming to a realization of everything that had happened while I was on drugs. Losing my dad, losing my daughter, losing myself. Everything was becoming real at that point.” With this harsh reality becoming more clear, she was fearful to travel across the country to work toward recovery, but this reality also motivated her, knowing there were no other options, and she refused to turn back.
“I felt like I was in an awkward place, and somewhere I didn’t want to be at first… [but] the longer I was there, the more I realized those women are the same as me,” Hannah explained how her transition took time, but it was ultimately the relationships she made that spurred her transformation. “Those women helped me come to grips that, someone is there, someone does care, someone does love you, and the enemy was what was holding onto you. And Refuge really helped me grasp that reality.”
She went on, “I built my relationship with the Lord in that house. I found the best friends and family in that house, and I haven’t looked back since. It’s been a miracle.”
Perhaps the most miraculous element is Hannah’s relationship with the Lord, and how she began to realize how deeply present He had been throughout her entire story. She recounted an occasion where she hit a low point, and recalled hearing a voice ask her, “Hannah, are you okay?” At the time, it was easy to attribute this and other, similar experiences, to her drug use. But as she learned the Word of God in her time at Refuge, she began to recognize the voice that had always been speaking to her.
“I strongly believe God was the one talking to me the whole time, throughout my addiction. God was the one picking and poking at my mind, making me feel crazy, because he wanted me to see there was better for me out there, and that He was there throughout the whole storm.” Not only did these whispers point her toward God’s character and connect the dots for her, but it also ignited a desire to learn more about the God who had been pursuing her.
“Something sparked in me where I was so curious as to what else the Word said––What else could be in God’s Word that He’s been telling me, that I’ve been missing? What are the signs that He’s been trying to say to me?” It was these questions that drove her to a dedication to prayer and reading, which “became such a strong bond with the Lord… And to me it’s so beautiful because He made it so obvious. He didn’t leave anything to question. It was just so obvious that it was Him, and He wanted me to know that. He wanted me to cling to the fact that someone was still there.”
Through it all, she felt Him saying, “I do love you, I am here… It was me talking to you. I was there then and I’m there now,” and she, delighted and confident, said, “He hasn’t left since!”
In her time since graduating from Refuge in July of 2020, she immediately entered dental assisting school with the financial and emotional support of her Refuge family and connections. She graduated in four months, and has since settled into a full-time dental assisting job and a stable life with a dedicated faith and active service at her church.
Yet, her greatest joy is in the ongoing redemption the Lord has worked in her familial relationships, with her siblings and half-siblings:
“I mended those relationships, and I hadn’t spoken to them since dad died, since his funeral. So it was really, really amazing to hear them say that they were proud of me, and they loved me and they didn’t hate me,” she teared up recalling where those relationships had once been, and the truly stark contrast because of what the Lord has done. “My family was gone, my daughter was gone, my dad was gone, I felt like a piece of property. When I mended those relationships, it was so beautiful, and I am so grateful.”
With this healing, Hannah finds even greater hope in the future, as she prepares for a custody battle to hopefully begin her life with her daughter. “I’m really hopeful because God made me a promise, so I’m really excited to see how this pans out,” she said with determination, “I’m nervous, and I know it’s going to be a really long and hard process, but I’m excited at what God’s hand is going to do. I’m really excited to see him work through it.”
Perhaps most beautiful about Hannah’s familial redemption, and her determination toward it, is knowing it was the familial love she found at Refuge that was so pivotal to her transformation in the first place.
“It was so much family… Refuge was that light switch that I wasn’t allowed to touch in my addiction, and in my pain,” she explained, that through her recovery, “I was finally able to walk across the room and flip that light switch to a whole new life, and not have to think twice about what I’ve done, or have to feel guilty about what I’ve done. Because I have new life, I’m made whole. I have a new family, and these people love me, these people want to see me succeed.”
She glowed, speaking of the volunteers and their part in this family as well, and said, “When they smile at you, you don’t see their smile, you see Jesus. It took me a while to realize that, but when I did, I felt so at home… That’s what makes that program so important. It helps you to heal as a family, and it helps you heal with Jesus. It’s so beautiful, it really is.”