Jen
One of my first memories as a child is waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of my mother’s voice, filled with fear and pain. I leapt from bed and saw her crouched on the floor, holding her bloody head in her hands: her new husband stood over her, hitting her repeatedly in the head with a shotgun. Blood was splattered on the wall behind her. I was 4 years old.

Violence, anger and drug abuse became a theme in the years that followed. During my teen years, I was repeatedly molested by a cousin, and held resentment for that against my mother for decades. At 12 I had my first real drink. By 17 I had experimented with several unhealthy behaviors, like cutting myself and various drugs. By age 20, I was jailed for marijuana sales after a police raid. Once on probation, I went full swing into using and selling methamphetamine. I leveraged my sexuality for my own monetary gain. At 22, I found myself pregnant and homeless in the streets. The birth of my son brought near-death complications that kept me in the hospital until he was 3 months old. When I held him for the first time, all he did was cry because he didn’t know my touch. Soon after this, I went back to using methamphetamine.

After I left a recovery home in Whittier, I found a career and success for the first time. Living a clean and sober life worked for a while by following the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. But soon after, my grandmother – my best friend – fell ill with cancer. I saw her take her final breaths and gave up on sobriety. Jailed 2 more times and fighting serious legal charges, I was forced to cash out my 401K prematurely to pay for a lawyer and bail. I had lost my will for life. In 2015 I began posting personal ads on multiple web sites for prostitution and selling drugs. I indulged in terrible and destructive behaviors, while maintaining an “invincible” state of mind. I dove into heavy drug sales and worked my way up, managing drug territories across different counties. In my mind, I was untouchable. On October 25, 2015 while on a drug deal in Hawthorne, I was shot twice by a semiautomatic weapon. I spent several months recovering in fear and in pain. Six months later, my boyfriend was killed in a car crash. I overdosed from a cocktail of drugs and continued surrounding myself with criminals – a category I was now in. Finally, I was arrested; faced again with heavy charges I sat in jail feeling the emotions I had suppressed for a long time leading up to this moment. 

Within a few weeks I was released on probation and entered Heritage House North, a county program for women with children. One Friday afternoon, the women of NorthEast of the Well came to pick us up for a bible study. NorthEast of the Well offered what I so desperately needed: a sense of belonging and acceptance, showing me my place in life and faith. I was taught of a love I’d never known and I desired to learn more about this God. I was baptized and joined a NorthEast discipleship group. Relationships were formed in the ministry and mending started within my family. Pastor Laura became a mentor (the motherly figure I longed for) and the women I met became my sisters. Upon completion of my program I started volunteering at the NorthEast Anaheim gatherings but I wanted more – I knew I wanted to work for NorthEast of the Well. After many months of dedicated volunteering, sobriety and discipleship, I was offered a job with NorthEast to help manage their operations. Today I know Jesus Christ and I’m a new being. I walk in faith and not in fear. My life has been renewed and I have the ability to be a strong caring mother, daughter, sister, and employee.