Addicted to alcohol for the past 29 years, Maria Laurel "Yellow" Augustine says she's putting her life together, with the help of Good Samaritans
In less than four months, Maria Laurel Augustine has gone from being a vagrant on the street to now trying to become an active member of society, who can change the lives of the less fortunate here in Dominica.
'Yellow' as she's known to the public and would still like to go by, acknowledges that not many who are in her former position become a success story, but she's ready to break the norm.
Hopelessly addicted to alcohol and facing her death, Yellow spent the last 29 years -hinting a heartbreak from a former lover as the cause- in the streets of Roseau doing whatever she could to fund her habit.
At her worst, last December she weighed about 90 pounds and lived in so much pain and deplorable conditions that she would frequently spend days hoping for an end to this hell on earth.
Something had to break.
"A change can come only when it's meant to happen," Yellow said.
Having hit rock bottom, it was clear that had she not made a drastic change, her addiction would have won the fight.
"When I really look at the way I used to live, I say it's best I change my lifestyle because things would have gone from bad to worse," she said in an exclusive interview with THE SUN. "I was going down the drain. I was meg like a stick."
But as opposed to being offered support, Yellow highlighted instances where she would be given unlimited glasses of alcohol but never the things she truly yearned for a proper meal, a listening ear, and help to change her situation.
"It's like trying to find friends who could give help, but basically when you look at it, no one was willing to help and I felt like no one cared," she said before breaking down in tears.
All of this changed when she was approached at Christmas by Mary Benjamin, a longtime friend and founder of the charitable organization Aunty Mary's Love Alone, who asked the life-changing question: "Would you like to get off the streets?"
"I couldn't have allowed her to remain in the condition she was. Whenever I spoke to her she would tell me the abuse that she has to go through daily of people cutting her, biting her, throwing stones at her, and many other inhumane treatments," Mary told THE SUN.
She added: "She would tell me how much the alcohol burned her chest and it makes her heartbeat at an abnormal rate, and she wanted to stop but just didn't know how to. So I asked her, are you serious about stopping and changing your life? She looked me in the eye and said yes and from then on, I saw the changes."
The process started with Benjamin providing daily meals to the former vagrant, and two months later moved her into her home.
When asked about her new living arrangement and change in lifestyle, Yellow, who now weighs in at 136 pounds, expressed utter joy that Benjamin has opened up her heart and her home to her, something, she says, no one had done during her nearly three decades on the streets.
The now changed woman is also longing for her independence and to have a place of her own one day, as her living arrangement with Benjamin is temporary (one year). She has also allegedly been denied access to the place she, a few months back, called home.
Yellow has also issued an apology to the public for her at times violent behaviour, which she now confesses to be ashamed of.
"This didn't bring me any happiness. Now I am in a place where I am getting my life together I can say that I am happy. I also want to help others, so any money I get the little I can I will help those on the street because I know the feeling," she said.
Though Benjamin admits there are difficult days, she encouraged the public to use the story as an example and notes that with love and the proper attention anyone is capable of changing.
"It's like raising a child all over again. It gets difficult at times, but what gives me energy is knowing that she's willing to once again become a civilized member of society. She has a big heart, she loves giving, enjoys praying. She has a soft spot that nobody sees because she has had to put on this tough demeanour to get by for years", Benjamin said.
With assistance from a few people in the Diaspora, she has had a few doctor's visits and she has been placed on prescribed medication and is in the process of getting her teeth fixed.
Benjamin is also hoping to get her enrolled in counseling sessions soon. She is appealing to anyone who wants to assist in the case to contact her at 1767 315-0425 or Facebook: Mary Benjamin.