My name is Melanie and I am 40 years old. At age 12, I started smoking cigarettes and weed, thinking I was cool. But I never felt like I fit in anywhere, was misplaced, misunderstood and alone. At 14, my parents divorced leaving me feeling even more unwanted. I started drinking and learned when I was drinking or high, I felt better. At 15, I met a man who introduced me to “crank” and I was instantly hooked and loved it. It not only made me feel good but helped me lose weight. It wasn’t long before I was pregnant.

By the age of 21, I had three young boys. I left their dad and was pregnant by another man. On Sept 22, 1994 my life was changed forever. I was 8 1/2 months pregnant with my only daughter and received a phone call telling me Bubbs, my third son (TJ), was dead. He was 14 months old and had drowned in his own vomit, and I was not there to protect him.

One week after I buried my son, my beautiful daughter was born. She tested dirty for meth and was hospitalized for four days. I was afraid to bond with her and didn’t want to love her and lose her too. When she left the hospital, she wasn’t released to me. She became a ward of the Court. I found myself alone again and more scared than ever. I had given up at this point and was afraid to be around my children. I was so broken and had died inside the day my son died. So I turned to what I knew made me feel good—-meth.

Eventually, my daughter was put up for adoption, and my two older boys’ dad got sole custody of them. He did everything he could to make sure I was a part of their lives, but I just couldn’t pull it together. I blamed myself and I blamed God for what had happened. I felt like my boys deserved so much more than I could give them.

In 1997, I was in an abusive relationship and pregnant with my 4th son. I was scared of losing him and I remember when he was sleeping, I would never check on him. I would make his dad do it, because I was afraid I’d find him dead. I stayed in the abuse for nine years.

A year after my sixth and youngest son was born, I left their dad, taking my three boys to raise on my own. I got away from the meth, but was still drinking all the time I went back to school and got my GED.

We moved to Paso Robles where it didn’t take long before I was using meth again. This time, we lost our home and was living in our minivan and motels. By 2012, I hated my life and so desperately wanted to change but didn’t know how. This life I was living was the only life I knew. I had been in and out of the hospital three times because of my alcohol and drug use. Each visit was at least a three-day stay.

After my last release, I packed up my boys and moved to Oregon with my nephew. I had been seeing this guy for about two years, who was in and out of jail. When he got out, I paid for his train ticket to Oregon, thinking we could finally be free from meth and settle down as a family. Boy was I wrong! Within three weeks, I walked away from my boys, leaving them with my 20-year-old nephew to come back to California with “my man.” I was convinced I was no good for my kids.

My hurt, addiction, and beating myself down for so many years led me to the worst place I had ever been. I was living under a bridge with this guy because nobody wanted him around and felt like I had to take care of him. With a needle, pipe and bottle, I cried, begging God to help me and forgive me. If I had to go on like this one more day, I would be dead with a needle in my arm.

By God’s grace, I was saved and forgiven. I was sent to federal prison, sentenced to 1 year and a day. That was the best thing that had ever happened to me. My time in prison was spent reading the Bible, going to church, learning everything I could about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. When I was released, I was ordered to a residential rehab.

One Sunday at New Life, a video came on about Captive Hearts. I knew that was the place for me. On Feb. 17, 2014, I entered Captive Hearts. Today, I have 18 months clean and sober, a strong relationship with my two older boys, and my 16-year-old is now living with me. By Sept., we should be on our way back to Oregon to be reunited with my 8- and 13-year-old sons. I truly believe had I not reached out to God that day, I wouldn’t be here. Since coming to CH, my relationship with God has become so strong. Because of the classes we participated in, I know and believe I am a princess of the most High God. I am loved and I am not a disappointment and I am never alone. —Melanie

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