shannon castor in las vegas

Redirecting Her Hustle – with Shannon Castor

“I knew that I could hustle when I was doing bad. So why can’t I just flip it over into doing good? I just buckled down and went for it and put my head straight.”

Beginning in her teens, Shannon was running the streets of Las Vegas. She continued for about 14 years. After her last release from prison, as a five-time felon, she realized she was ready for a change. She entered treatment at The Empowerment Center, built her sober community and, for the first time in her life, found legal work. Today, Shannon’s a Production Supervisor at Panasonic, owns her own home in Yerington, and is laser-focused on advancing in her career. She’s come to love the “slow life” – spending time with her family and dogs, adding fruit trees and a chicken coop to her garden, and planning local getaways. She’ll be 7 years sober on November 17th.

How did she get here? Keep reading to find out!

shannon castor in las vegas

Shannon’s Younger Years

“I didn’t have a childhood, so I thought it was gonna be cute to run the streets,” Shannon begins. While she didn’t try drugs until 19 or 20, she started “being bad” at 13 and was sent to the California Authority. When she was released at 18, she moved to Vegas, where she got involved in prostitution, selling drugs, and selling anything she could get her hands on. She’s been to prison 4 times. After one of her releases, she tried moving in with her mom in Reno. “I came up here and I didn’t want the slow life. So I went back to Vegas and got even deeper into what I was doing. I was successful, I thought I was successful, but it was in the negative life,” Castor explains.

Shannon’s drug of choice was meth, and she switched back and forth with alcohol. She had gotten clean each of her stays in prison, but always returned to it when she got out. She also got clean when she had a health scare that resulted in a 4-month hospital stay. That time, she stayed clean for 6 months. She was eventually arrested for her last crime and did 5 years for it.

Finding The Empowerment Center

Castor learned about The Empowerment Center in prison and knew she wanted to come here. While at first she thought it might be just a place to go, she soon changed her mind. “I switched my thinking,” Shannon shared, “I didn’t want to drink anymore, do drugs anymore, I didn’t want to do any of that. I just wanted something different. I was done.”

A big turning point was when she got her first job. With absolutely no work history, Shannon wasn’t sure how she was going to do it, but TEC helped build her resume, took her to a career fair, and helped her find her first job. Now in her early 30s, Shannon started out as a cook. Her pay was low, but so were her expenses. It felt right. She realized it was her time to put as much energy into her new work as she had once devoted to other money-making schemes.

Giving Back – and Receiving Support – at TEC

Not long after, Shannon began working at The Empowerment Center, first as a Housing Manager and later as a Peer Support. She enjoyed sharing what she’d learned with TEC’s clients and realizing that she could make a difference. She notes, “it’s great because this place has meant so much to me, because it made me change my way of thinking and see that there’s better out there.” She worked here as Housing Manager for a year, left, and then came back as a Peer Recovery Support Specialist (PRSS) for a year and a half.

After leaving The Empowerment Center, Shannon met – and married – her wife, Amy. Amy was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in 2021. Almost immediately after she passed, Shannon remembers a former co-worker from TEC stopping by to check on her, and the next day got a call to come in, for another check-in. Shannon didn’t want to come in, but they insisted. At this meeting, Shannon promised she wouldn’t go back, wouldn’t pick up. She had 4 years clean, “only 4 years,” she puts it, but felt committed. Castor was then offered the PRSS job. She began coming into The Empowerment Center just about every day, even on her days of.

While a 12 Step program never felt like a big part of Shannon’s recovery, she accredits The Empowerment Center community with helping her get and stay sober. She shares, “If I ever feel like I need to, I come back here. Even if these people might not see me for 6 months. What keeps me sober is coming back to the Empowerment Center. What keeps me sober is seeing where I started at. I see everybody, and then I go about my merry way.”

Shannon’s Life Today

While working as a PRSS, Shannon recognized that she could make an impact and thought a lot about her future, what she wanted next. After speaking with other women who had worked at Panasonic, she decided working there was her goal – and applied. She started out as a Machine Operator, helping produce the cells for Tesla batteries. Castor worked hard and advanced quickly. Today, she’s a Production Supervisor, overseeing 58 employees on the night shift. She works a few days on, followed by a few days off.

About a year ago, Shannon bought her house in Yerington – just a couple minutes from her parents’ home. These days, she’s enjoying a quieter life. She takes long walks with her dog, visits her parents often, and supports her sister. One of Shannon’s sisters has also struggled with addiction, and these days she’s living in Shannon’s in-law unit while working on her own recovery.

For Mother’s Day, Shannon and her sister took their mom to Las Vegas to see Carrie Underwood. Shannon has been back to Vegas a few times since she’s been sober, but never lasts more than a couple days. She says she prefers the slow life. “My peacefulness is getting off work, sitting on my couch, and watching TV or cooking.”

Aside from continuing to advance at work, a lot of Castor’s plans are all about home improvement. She’s looking to add fruit trees, a chicken coop, a hot tub, waterfalls, and rose bushes to her property.

Advice from Shannon

When asked for advice, Shannon is quick to answer.  “Don’t give up on the first try,” she declares. “It’s not going to be easy. It may look like it’s easy for me or for others who are already in recovery, but it’s literally not. No matter how many years you have under your belt, when we say to take it one day at a time, we mean it. You don’t give up when things get hard because your first year, your first two years, is going to be the hardest time you will ever deal with. It’s going to be the hardest two years of your life, because everything is going to keep coming back.”

Of course, she continues, it gets easier. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but don’t give up because it will be rewarding.” The more Shannon progresses in her sober life, the more she knows she could lose. She encourages those struggling with addiction to make the decision to get clean and sober today, because “it’s not going to be any easier 5 years down the road.”