Stephanie Taylor-Silva said she was like a cat after its ninth life. There was no logical reason why she should still be alive.
Following her presentation at BYU-Idaho on March 9 and the standing ovation she received at her TEDx talk in Idaho Falls on March 10, Taylor-Silva has continued speaking out about her life and how she turned it all around.
A former felon, Taylor-Silva had been beaten, raped, abused as a child, trafficked, addicted to methamphetamine and cocaine, stabbed and left for dead.
“There’s just a greater reason I think,” said Taylor-Silva. “The Savior wants me to serve Him, and so that’s what I’m here to do.”
Taylor-Silva said the biggest reason why she shared her story with others is because she found God while in prison for drug trafficking. After receiving a copy of the Book of Mormon from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 12-Step program, she said she offered a sincere prayer to God.
“I prayed if God would deliver me from everything I was struggling with, if He would help me succeed, recover and come out of that prison a better person, I would spend the rest of my life serving Him,” Taylor-Silva said. “And that’s what I’ve done. I believe by (sharing my story) I’m showing somebody else that ‘I believe in you so much that I am willing to share this part of me with you to help you.’”
Looking back on her life, Taylor-Silva said she is a completely different person today.
“I’m not broken anymore,” Taylor-Silva said. “I only have to refer back to my past as a reference. It no longer controls me.”
In July 2017, Taylor-Silva received full pardon for her crimes in the state of Idaho. She said she sometimes must remind herself that it happened because she has completely moved on since then and dedicated her life to serving others.
Taylor-Silva said she accredits being able to move forward in life after all the things that have happened to her to forgiving her offenders.
“That was a game changer for me,” Taylor-Silva said. “I really saw my life start to change when I let go of all that hate, anger and rage. Forgiveness is for you, not for the other person. You need to forgive to be able to move on with your life and be able to feel better about things; it’s about your own health and well-being.”
Taylor-Silva said after being released from prison, she was blessed with a probation officer mentor who assisted her in finding a place to live, food and a college education at Idaho State University, where she will graduate this May. Above all, Taylor-Silva’s mentor proved trustworthy by never letting her down.
Taylor-Silva, after becoming a mentor herself for the Idaho Department of Correction, said she believes that anybody, regardless of their situation, can become a success story if they have adequate support in their journey.
“Everybody needs to have support even if you are not coming out of prison,” Taylor-Silva said. “Nobody has gotten to where they are at in their lives by themselves. There has always been somebody or some catalyst to help them get to where they are at.”
Taylor-Silva said her favorite part about being a mentor was seeing people change and realize they can live a better life without crime and addiction.
“That’s like the best feeling in the world is to see somebody find their worth,” Taylor-Silva said. “I love it when people find their recovery pathway.”
Taylor-Silva said although she continues to work in the Idaho Department of Correction as the mentor psych coordinator, she no longer works as a mentor. Regardless, she continues to offer support and advice to those who are struggling, including BYU-Idaho students.
“To those students who are struggling with depression, anxiety, substance addictions, low self-worth, not wanting to live or failing to understand that God loves them, (you) are not alone,” Taylor-Silva said.
Taylor-Silva said she knows everybody has struggles, but no one needs to overcome their struggles alone. She also said that a person’s struggles do not signify they are a bad person.
“I want everyone with mental illness and substance abuse problems to know that recovery is possible,” Taylor-Silva said. “It doesn’t matter how deep into your addiction you are, anyone can get better.”
Taylor-Silva said she reminds those struggling with low self-worth that everybody feels that way at one point or another. She said the best thing to do is get involved and build one’s support system.
“I let (students struggling with low self-esteem) know they are precious, they are loved, they matter and they bring so much to our world,” Taylor-Silva said. “Each one of us is unique in our own way and God loves us. In His eyes, we are perfect.”
Taylor-Silva said she encourages anyone who is found without the desire to live to reach out for help from the local suicide prevention chapter.
“Just know that you are not in this fight alone,” Taylor-Silva said. “There are people, (even) complete strangers, that will love you and help you and get you to a better place.”
Taylor-Silva said she believes it is important that everybody, at one point or another, realizes that God lives and loves them personally.
“My hope is always that people find it out sooner (than later),” Taylor-Silva said. “Prison is not the most ideal place to develop a relationship with God, but, I mean, it works for some people.”
Taylor-Silva said she has been blessed with an amazing mentor, husband, college education, full eight-year recovery of her drug addictions, a healed relationship with her family and more. Throughout her own struggles and trials, Taylor-Silva said she has relied 100 percent upon the strength of the Lord.
“That’s who has the keys to my life,” Taylor-Silva said. “I don’t ever want to let our Savior down because (He is the reason) why I am still alive.”