By Chad Ruiz
Sunny Downer Serves Others After Overcoming Addiction
It was the beginning of February, 2011, when Sunny Downer found herself on her knees begging for God to take her life. The married mother of a toddler gave up.
“I hit my bottom. I couldn’t stop. I was basically using just to survive and function. I didn’t want to live. I contemplated suicide. I didn’t want to die but I didn’t want to keep living the way I was living that vicious cycle,” the Houma-native said, her eyes brimming with tears.
She struck it rich at life and life struck back at her. She allowed negative influences to lead her to drinking and eventually to drugs, specifically methamphetamines. After 12 years battling her addictions, Downer threw in the towel.
On Valentine’s Day in 2011, “I received the ultimate gift of love that I could have ever gotten from God or my family and from myself,” Downer said. “My parents, husband and family had an intervention on me. It was my saving grace.” She accepted the help and began a 90-day treatment program at Pine Grove’s Women’s Center in Mississippi.
Seven years later, Downer remains free of drugs and alcohol.
“It’s a daily struggle. I’m grateful that I have a very supportive family, parents, siblings, in-laws…they probably loved me more than I loved myself at the time,” Downer said. She continues attending weekly meetings, communicating regularly with her sponsor and returning to Pine Grove every two months to share her success with others.
Today, Downer’s roots are firmly planted in her faith, exercise and most importantly, serving others. She’s replaced a lot of her bad habits with positive activities. “Through this journey of recovery, I found my purpose in life: to help others.” Two years ago, while running a race, Downer discovered Ainsley’s Angels.
“I was running my second half marathon and it wasn’t the ideal weather conditions and I was feeling a little frustrated,” she said. “There was a little girl being pushed next to me by the Ainsley’s Angels. It was an amazing sight to see this team pushing this little girl. She had the biggest smile on her face.”
The nonprofit organization recruits volunteers to push disabled individuals in races, granting them the experience of such events. “I reached out to them and discovered Matthew, the son of a good friend of ours, has Cerebral Palsy. I fund-raised a few thousand dollars to buy him this special chair,” Downer said.
In March this year, Downer, her husband Blair, and another volunteer completed Our Lady of the Lake’s Amazing Half Marathon while pushing Michael and cheered on by their children Lola and Huntington. They stopped just shy of the finish line and allowed Michael to walk the last few steps.
While her athletic accomplishments, charitable contributions and service projects provide immense inspiration, these achievements pale in comparison to her real triumph: beating addiction.
If you’re struggling with an addiction, Downer encourages you to contact a local treatment center or reach out to her on Facebook. “We have to realize we’re not the only one. People have been through this, they have survived and they made it through. You’re not alone.”
I made a promise to God and myself to never take my second chance at life for granted…to live it to the fullest and be of service to others.–Sunny Downer