NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Step inside the Pinkberry frozen yogurt shop on Canal Street in New Orleans, and you'll soon notice that General Manager Tywanna Lewis is a flurry of activity.
Whipping up frozen creations, Tywanna's orders are in customers' hungry hands quickly, with style and a smile.
But behind her fun and boisterous personality, Tywanna harbors a difficult past. Tywanna is a recovering drug addict, a battle that began in the early 1990s when Tywanna was a teenager growing up in New Orleans' St. Thomas Housing Project.
"Everything was good until I stepped into that street life. Once I stepped into the street life, it opened a whole other world I never knew existed," she said.
A world of rebellion quickly exploded into a full-blown addiction to crack cocaine. The drug took her lower and lower over the course of 20 years, and it cost her a relationship with her two daughters.
One of them, Laywanna Lewis, describes it this way: "Like a little tension. Because I couldn't see her as a mother figure, because my grandmother was my mother."
Finally, during a stint in Orleans Parish Prison for a drug-fueled domestic incident, Tywanna made a decision to get clean.
"You know, it's almost like running into a brick wall. You're gonna end up with stitches every time," Tywanna said. "So it was time for those stitches to go away."
Once she got out, Tywanna entered Bridge House/Grace House in New Orleans and found a helping hand and a path forward.
She found that path through rehab, support and something she would need to continue her recovery: a job at Pinkberry.
Michelle Gaiennie is the Executive Director at Bridge House/Grace House Clinical Services.
"To have companies that we can go to and work with that will hire the individuals who complete our programs means a lot," Gaiennie said.
Lon Nichols is the Director of Operations for Pinkberry locations in Louisiana.
"When it comes down to it, they're just looking for an opportunity to prove themselves, and Pinkberry seems to be a great fit for that," Nichols said.
Nichols said recovering addicts now manage five Louisiana Pinkberry locations, including Canal Street. Nichols says six years ago in a group interview, Tywanna stole the show. She hasn't looked back, staying clean and climbing the ranks to general manager.
She also made amends with her daughters, and is a proud grandma, as well.
Tywanna's story is proof that sometimes even during the darkest detours, life waits with open arms, ready to reward those with the heart to reroute.
"It's like everything is being restored. Everybody's under construction. You know, like those signs Uptown? Yes, everybody's under construction."
You can contact Bridge House/Grace House at (504) 821-7120 or click here.