Positive. Proud. Healthy.

Those three words describe Denise LaValle in a nutshell, but don’t do justice to the amount of self-determination and hard work Denise has went through to get where she’s at today.

3 years ago, Denise moved to Windom after living in her car in St. Paul, while regularly using drugs. Denise recalls, “I had nothing. I was a meth user and had surrounded myself with people that fed my problems.” Today at age 53, Denise is coming up on her 3 years’ sober anniversary, works full-time, drives a new car, exercises regularly, and starts her day with a beet/blackberry smoothie. “I love myself”, Denise states affirmatively. This is her story.

In the fall of 2015, Denise moved in with a friend she knew in Windom. She’d been using drugs off and on from her early adulthood, affecting her jobs, and her relationships with her family. She remembers, “My mental health was in a very low spot, my teeth suffered from the drugs, and I was a size 1 from not eating. I’d go days without sleep, go to bed, get up, and use.” Christmas of 2015, she made a decision to get clean and did so by setting her mind to it. She also got help from the Crisis Center, who assisted her in finding a place to stay and within a few days, she had a job. She was on the right track and never looked back.

During her recovery, Denise learned how to journal, which helped let go of anger. She also started walking. “I’d walk up by Reinbows, Hardees, all around town. The walking got me closer to nature; the sun and air helped bring me peace and improved my mental health”, Denise states.

A patient at Sanford, Denise notes the impact Dr. Yusuf has had on her health, “I saw Dr. Yusuf early on when I came to town for an ear ache. He convinced me to get an annual physical, which I hadn’t done for years. Now, I just had my last physical in July and got very good results. I think he’s happy for me and told me he wishes he had more patients like me.”

As with her recovery, Denise has transformed her health all on her own. She has not joined a gym or gone on fad diets. She frequents the Be Well Path at Windom Area Hospital (which is a free resource), along with walking around town, and eating fresh fruit and vegetables.

Denise worked at the Windom Area Hospital in the Nutritional Services Department during the summer of 2017 and made several connections and friends. She recently started attending the Gathering, and is excited to start a new job with a cleaning service. She has a daughter, son, grandmother who is 102, brother, step dad, and many relatives that still live in the Twin Cities.

“Today, I’m a motivated, positive, happy person. I’m proud of where I am.” Denise continues, “I’d love to help people struggling; walk with them, listen to them, speak to kids. Helping people makes me happy.”

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