Author: Janis Vescovi

Sarah

Sarah

As I write this, my heart is filled with joy and happiness.  I did it!  I graduated from Captive Hearts.  One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path.”

As far as I can recall, I always believed in God.  I considered myself a “good person” and always tried to do the right thing.  Every time I achieved a goal, I expected that achievement to bring happiness, but it seems like there was always something missing.  I desired to be praised and to feel wanted and loved, so I always tried to go above and beyond.  I was never really satisfied inside my heart and in my mind, there was an emptiness.  Growing up, my parents were very loving and supportive.  Of course, there was dysfunction, but I knew that my parents loved me and that’s all that mattered.

In high school, I was co-captain of the varsity cheer-leading squad, elected Homecoming Princess, play softball, was in the concert and marching band, was the yearbook editor, and took all honor classes.  I was very involved in most extra-curricular activities.  All of my achievements brought happiness to me at the moment.  I had hopes and dreams to be a news reporter someday.  Once I got accepted to California State University at Fullerton.  I just knew I was headed for success.  I declared my major in communications and it seemed like I was on the right path.  At the age of 19, I knew what I wanted.  There was nothing that was going to get in the way of me achieving my goals and dreams.

Then I met methamphetamine.  I never thought I would ever try drugs.  Addiction does run in my family, and I saw how it tore my family apart.  I remember as a little girl absolutely hating drugs because they took my older brother away from me.  I’ve seen all the hurts and struggles that he went through.  I never wanted to experience that kind of lifestyle.  It’s crazy how you can be so against something for so long, and then the next minute you’re doing everything you said you would never do.

I began to lose my morals, self-worth, and the trust of my loved ones.  My life had become unmanageable and it was like I was living two different lives at the same time.  It was exhausting trying to keep my drug habit a secret from my mom and my boyfriend.  I was so ashamed of the lifestyle that I was living.  All I wanted was to go to school and work as much as possible.  That was the only way I could hide my using and I thought that as long as I continued to get good grades in school and made money, I was able to justify my drug use.  My disease began to get ahold of me and my secret wasn’t a secret anymore.  Everyone knew and I was so embarrassed.  I tried to stop using drugs, but the truth was, I just couldn’t.

In 2006, I found out I was pregnant and I was so happy and relieved.  I finally had a reason to stop using drugs.  I believe that God gave me my little boy to show me how much He loves and cares for me.  After that day, I made a promise to God, myself and my unborn baby that I would never use drugs again.  I never told anyone about that day because the only one who was with me through everything was my Father God.  My life began to get better and I found myself truly happy again.  I was so excited that I was going to have my own little family.  My family trusted me and indeed they had their Sara back.

In 2007, I gave birth to my precious little boy, Dylan, my pride and joy.  I loved being a mom and having him was the best thing that ever happened to me!  When he was 6 months old, I decided to go back to school.  I really wanted to help women who struggled with addiction.  I was in college, working and taking care of my baby.  Life was hard, but my son’s dad and I really worked together to make everything work.

I felt like I was accomplishing a lot, and then I started using drugs again.  This time, it was meth, heroin and cocaine.  I dropped out of college, quit my job, and literally surrounded my life around drugs.  My son’s dad begged me to stop and I really wanted to, but I couldn’t.  I began to not care about anything and started running around on the streets and eventually just never went back home.  I felt so much shame and guilt and believed that my son was better off without me.

The next five years were a nightmare.  I was a hardcore addict in and out of jail and prison.  I engaged in criminal activity and used lots of drugs and knew that everything I was doing was going to get me locked up again, but I continuously did it.  On May 17, 2014, I believe God knew how hopeless I truly was and He heard my cry for help.  I found myself once again in the back of a cop car.  I was tired of living the way I was living, but the only way I could ever stop was when I got arrested.

I spent 17 months locked up in San Luis Obispo County Jail.  That is where I first heard of Captive Hearts.  I looked forward to every Tuesday because Ms. Judy, Lynn Frady, and Christa Spates would come in as jail ministry and loved on us.  Ms. Judy just has this light on her, and it brought a sense of peace to my heart every time I saw her.  Those women gave me hope when I was in there.  I’m so forever thankful for the jail ministry because that’s where my walk with the Lord began.  I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and began to put all my hope in Him.  The more I pressed into His Word, the more content I felt with Sara.  Although I was locked up in jail, I was the happiest I had been in a very long time.

Ms. Judy promised me that when I got released, there would be a bed for me at Captive Hearts.  I never quite understood why she loved us women so much, but I knew her love was genuine.  Being so far away from home was difficult for me.  All of my family was in L.A., where I was born and raised.  The jail ministry became my new family and Ms. Judy said to me that she would be my surrogate mother until I was able to be with my mom again.  By the grace of God, I was released 13 months early on house arrest.  Ms. Judy kept every promise she made to me, and I made it to Captive Hearts on Sept. 24, 2015.

I know and feel in my heart that going to Captive Hearts was the best decision I ever made.  I surrendered to Jesus and stopped running on my own self will.  Every day the Lord’s love and light shined through me more and more.  I received so much inner healing from all the classes we did and started to love myself again.  Being in a recovery home can be very difficult, but Captive Hearts is just full of love, and we are a family!  I made some friendships and bonds with a couple of women that I know will be a friendship that lasts forever. My entire life has completely changed.

Today, I know what I want, I want what God wants for me.  For the first time in my life, I feel free.  The love that LeeAnn and Cyd has shown me really made an impact in my life.  They believed in me and held my hand as I walked through the shame and guilt that I felt.  I don’t feel any shame or guilt now because I’m a new creation in Christ.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the creation has come—the old is gone and the new is here” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  I receive that with an abundance of Grace!  I have a relationship with my son again.  The Lord is good and I’m excited to live the life He planned for me.

—Sarah

Savannah

Savannah

SavannahOut of the five months previous to entering Captive Hearts, I spent more than three of them in jail.  My addiction that I thought I had hidden so well for years had officially taken over every part of my life.  During one of the short times that I was out, my mom made a call to her friend Chaplain Judy Boen to get me into the house. And as much as I wanted to get clean and for things to be different, I had no hope and I was a slave to the drugs.  

I will always remember one day in particular that my dad came to visit me in custody. We talked back and forth for awhile, and then came the questions.  He asked me when and where things went wrong and what he and my mom could have done differently.  For someone that seems to have an response for everything, I was completely stumped, so I paused and thought for a minute.  I went back as far as my birth. I knew my biological mom used drugs throughout her entire pregnancy, and I was born strung out on meth weighing only 4 lbs. But I had no recollection of that.

When I was a baby, my grandparents took me in and adopted me and raised me as their own.  As far back as I can remember I felt safe, loved and wanted.  For my entire life, my parents had always worked very hard and sacrificed whatever they needed to give me a solid foundation as well as the best education possible.

So, in response to my dad’s question, there was nothing more that they could have done to give me a better upbringing than I had or guide me in the right direction towards having a bright future.  The only negative thing I could think of was that maybe they were too strict and sheltered me a little too much.  After we discussed that back and forth for a few minutes, he asked me to make him a promise that I would never go back to the way I had been living—-getting high, picking up more charges, overdosing and every time ending up back in jail.  All of me wanted to make that promise to him, but the truth was I had lost control over my life a long time ago and didn’t know who to ask or where to go to get the help that I needed. 

It all seemed fun in the beginning. Around the time I graduated high school, I had started smoking weed and drinking.  I loved partying from the start and was having a good time while also doing everything else I wanted to.  I moved to Vegas, was taking college classes, bought a new car and felt like I was living life to the fullest.  Over the next couple years some things changed. 

I moved back to California, totaled my car driving drunk and broke off an engagement.  Even though I was in the same town as my family, I never really reached out to them.  Through all the changes going on in my life, there was one thing that was consistent and that was my daily binge drinking.  I never really saw my drinking as a problem until I got a DUI and, then exactly a month later, I got a second one.  When I went to jail for my first time and got sentenced to 80 days, I thought I was going to die, and not just from the detox after seven years of drinking hard alcohol. I was in shock that things went bad that quickly and I didn’t think life could get any worse. 

Then I got out of jail and tried hard drugs for the first time and was instantly hooked.  Three years of my life were consumed by my drug use before I started getting in trouble with the law again and had that more recent conversation with my dad. I left the visit that day and cried out to God.  For the first time ever, I fully surrendered my life to Him and was willing to go wherever He led me.  That is when doors started opening for me. 

When I found out a bed was available for me at Captive Hearts, I was excited but really had no idea how much of a work God was about to do within me.  Even though I had gone to Christian school and grown up in church my entire life, 10 years in active addiction had left me so broken. With over a month clean, my brain was still pretty burnt and I didn’t feel there was much I could grab onto.  But like my house mom always said, “God will meet us right where we are, but He loves us too much to leave us there.” 

One of the first church services we attended was on the difference between happiness and joy.  Happiness is based on circumstances and can constantly change. However, joy is something that comes from God alone and can never be shaken.

Then I attended class with my counselor Diane, and the first verse she shared with me was Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the ways of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” I felt the Holy Spirit in class that day so strongly and, for the first time in a long while, felt peace knowing God would repair all the damage I had caused by renewing, re-educating and redirecting my life.  And that is exactly what happened over the next six months at Captive Hearts.

I always joke around with my parents that they could have saved a lot of money by sending me to the house instead of all those years at private school.  And this opportunity obviously wouldn’t have happened had I not gone off the deep end there for awhile.  One of my favorite songs says, “Crazy how it took the night for me to get to know the Son.” 

Seven months ago when I got released from custody knowing I was going into rehab, I had no idea that I was about to accomplish the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life. We did so many different classes that helped me gain knowledge as well as deepen my relationship with God and others.  The women who run the program all helped me walk through some difficult things and always guided me with Godly advice.  In addition to doing the classes through Captive Hearts, I was also going to Drug & Alcohol five days a week for the IOT program.  From the beginning, God placed special people in my class as well as counselors to encourage me to keep pushing on even when I didn’t think I could.  The girls in the house became the best friends I’ve ever had and we all grew so much together. We especially looked forward to Wednesday and Saturday nights at Oasis Church.  Having spent most my life in church, I’ve never experienced anything like I did there.  There is such a revival of recovery in our area and it’s so much of a blessing to see God at work in so many people’s lives.  He set us free from the bondage of addiction and set a fire down inside us.

One day my therapist and I were talking about how during my whole life I’ve always been a people pleaser and tried to be a good person and found my identity in what others thought of me.  It’s been so freeing to learn that I don’t have to live a performance-driven life but know that my joy comes from an intimate relationship with Jesus and that I will automatically bless others because His love will overflow from me. 

I want to close with one of my favorite verses in the Bible that has really helped me on this journey: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen”  (1 Peter 5:6-11).

—Savannah

Mirtha

Mirtha

MirthaMy name is Mirtha and I am from Nipomo, California. Before coming to Captive Hearts, I had been raised Catholic and knew God from attending church with my parents. My biological father has never been in my life and in 2008, I had the first of my two sons, Jordan and then Junior and had the family I had always wanted.

My sons’ father and I used drugs and alcohol heavily and lived a lifestyle of partying every weekend. I always had a job, but drinking and using always came first, and I would end up calling in late or missing work. I usually ended up losing the job and had to look for another one.

This type of living lasted for about two years. It slowed after an incident one night. I’d been drinking and three people jumped me and, during the fight, I was sliced through my arm. An ambulance came for me and I was losing so much blood they said if the ambulance had come five minutes later, I could have died.

My parents were at the point where they would no longer help me until I started to get help, but I wasn’t ready yet. I ended up staying with people who used meth since my family wouldn’t come pick me up. I stayed with them several months before I came to the realization that this was not the life I wanted to live. I didn’t want to be this kind of daughter or mother. I found another job and stopped the meth but the alcoholism quickly escalated to more than ever before.

I lived with my boys from hotels to hotels and I eventually got us a place to live but quickly lost it after losing another job. Having nowhere to live, this drove me to drink more. I soon lost my boys, and they were ordered to live with their dad, which was a safe place for them.

I asked God to take me the right direction and in attending Drug & Alcohol Services, I heard about Captive Hearts. And when I learned it was a program that was revolved around God, I knew I wanted to go there.

Since being here, I feel the closest to God that I’ve ever been. I feel my head is finally clear and no longer foggy. I’m not as angry as I used to be and my family is talking to me more and treating me as an adult. I’m surrendered to God’s will and His guiding in my life. It’s because of Him that I have the good things in my life. I get to see my boys every week. I have new friends in my life who don’t use but also love Jesus. Having people around who want to live their life for Him has been an amazing experience, and I’m just excited for the plans God has for my life and the woman He is shaping me to be.

—Mirtha

Batavia

Batavia

TavI was 5 years old when the sexual abuse started by a neighbor, who did anything and everything to me except rape me. He was a much older man. I was friends with his daughter and used to go next door quite often to play with her. A lot of things that happened I’ve blocked out, but for whatever reason one time in particular stands out. I was swimming in the pool and my cousin was there. Not only did this man sexually abuse me but he also sexually abused her as well for at least 5 months. Fortunately, the neighbor moved away. Sadly, I lost a friend but thank God I no longer had my abuser living next door.

I remember one time when my mom, dad, siblings and I went to Circus Circus. We ran into the family and we stopped to say hi to them. I also remember my dad asking me if I was ok. He could see that something was wrong. I don’t remember my response but I know he could see that something wasn’t right. I remember feeling very scared and it was the first time I ever experienced anxiety.

At the age of 8, I was never touched by my uncle but for about one year almost daily, I watched him abuse my cousin who was also my age. Fortunately, he never touched me.

On my 11th birthday, my babysitter had school and wasn’t able to come watch us while my mom went to play pool for her billiards league. So her boyfriend, who was 19, sexually abused me while acting as the babysitter. I was on the phone with my friend and sitting on Mom’s bed when he came in, grabbed my hand, pulled me into a standing position. He sat down, set me on his lap while I was still on the phone, and put his hand in my pants. I remember grabbing his hand without saying anything, and he stopped and left the room. It never happened again. When my Mom came home later that night, I told her what happened and she told me I was lying. She didn’t believe me and from that moment on, I didn’t trust any females.

At age 12, I used meth for the first time. I walked in on my Mom smoking meth. We looked at each other right in the eyes, and I turned to walk out of the room but she called my name. I turned to look at her and she asked me, “Are you curious?” I never said a word to her but I did what she asked me to do. She had me sit on the bed beside her and she lit the glass pipe.

Another time, I was home alone one night and my Mom’s uncle showed up looking for her. I invited him in explaining that she would be coming home soon. My 7-year-old baby sister was in the bathtub at the time. He forced himself on me and tried to kiss me. I pushed him away; to me, he was an old man. I didn’t know him well, but I do know that he also abused my mother when she was a little girl.

One night we were in Oceanside near Camp Pendleton. I don’t remember what my Mom was doing and why she got out of the car, but she left me with a marine who neither of us knew. I don’t know what we were doing there, but what I do remember was him forcing me to give him oral sex. I was 12.

At 13, I was in foster care. My best friend’s parents took me in. I remember being with her and a bunch of older guys in a garage. We didn’t know them very well, but we were smoking meth. One of the guys, a tall, broad Hispanic who had gang ties, had started dating my friend. He was 19 and we were 13. I asked to use the bathroom, so he led me into
the house and showed me where it was. When I came out, he forced me into a bedroom nearby. He forcibly removed my clothing and raped me. I remember it was very hot and his sweat dripped all over my face and into my eyes. I remember crying and him biting my hand as I pushed his face away from mine. I never told anyone what happened. I was never sexually abused again from that point on until I was an adult.

As an adult, I was in a sober living home. I had been clean and sober for six months, but had relapsed. A few weeks earlier, this home was broadcasted on the news for a prostitution sting. Sadly, I did not realize the type of living situation I was in. Some of the females from the home were prostituting themselves out to sheriff and probation officers in town. I was sucked back into the lifestyle not yet realizing what had taken place or what was about to happen to me.

I remember being drugged, being video taped, being put on the internet and not really knowing at certain points what was happening to me. There were times where I felt as if I was dreaming, which is the result of date rape drugs. I remember having multiple fits of rage for no reason. I became violent, angry, hateful, and extremely suicidal.

My daughter’s father, along with other men, were taking complete advantage of me. Not only were they drugging me, but I was using multiple drugs as well, including heroin and meth. This lasted approximately 4 months, the first half in this sober living home, and the second half while homeless on the streets. Through my 10 years of active addiction, never did I once use a needle. But I do recall having track marks and bruises from being injected with drugs into my body. I was given different drinks and alcoholic drinks with date rape drugs as well. It was mind controlling though I didn’t know it at the time.

Towards the end of the 4-month period, I moved into the home of a man who prostituted women. He and my daughter’s father worked together in trafficking women. This man takes in different homeless people, has them work for him and has multiple vehicles that his so called “workers” drive. Tasks include driving to different areas in town to collect recycling items. This is how he draws in women to get them into his home and under his control. He puts a roof over their heads, feeds them, puts them to work and completely takes over their lives like they are his tools. The reason I know this so well is because I worked for him. He has a wife, a girlfriend, 3 young children, everyone lives in the same home. He calls himself “Jesus” or “God.” He is a very troubling individual. Because of my boyfriend at the time, my daughter’s father, I was not sexually used and/or trafficked by this man, but I witnessed other women being used by him.

By the grace of God, I was able to escape the lifestyle and start a new path through my discovery of the Captive Hearts recovery program. I moved to the Central Coast and got out of the dangerous area that was unhealthy for me. Thanks to God and Captive Hearts, I graduated the program and am almost two years clean and sober. I am happy, healthy, have a beautiful 4-year-old daughter and a wonderful husband. My life is full again.

–Batavia

Eli Rose

Eli Rose

Here I am, sitting here staring down at this blank piece of paper… I find myself without words, completely stunned with gratitude. I guess I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter how hard I try to explain all I’ve gained, what I’ve learned and how much I’ve changed, words could never describe what Captive Hearts has done for me.

I swallow hard, take in a deep breath, and whisper, “Lord, thank you for bringing me to Captive Hearts. Please God, help me find the words I wanna say, to somehow take my new heart and put it onto this paper, Amen.”

I see an image in my mind of the girl that walked into the Captive Hearts office on June 18th, 2012. The person I am today is not the broken, empty girl who walked into the office that gloomy Monday morning. Have you ever been so tired and exhausted that you couldn’t even sleep? Have you ever felt so much pain, that it hurts to breathe? That was all I knew…

I knew how to exist and survive in places that far pass even the worst of nightmares. I knew I would never be anything but street, junkie gutter trash. I knew everything in this world and on the streets came with a price, and that was even my own body. I knew that I didn’t care what I did out there to get drugs because heroin and anything else that took me out of myself (no matter the cost or how much it hurt) was better than the pain inside.

But what I also knew was that I couldn’t go on any longer, and the only thing that made sense and seemed right, was to kill myself. But God saw something more than garbage.

I walked into Captive Hearts completely desperate for one last chance in this world, and if they didn’t take me in, I could at least always end it. I walked in ashamed, dirty, scared, track marks, infected abscesses, pale, and shaken… but worst of all, I was hopeless.

I am again taken back, by feelings that are new to me: emotions I have yet to even identify, but all I can tell you is they feel fuzzy, warm and flutter all through me when I embrace them. They make me smile and laugh from the belly. They make me want to breathe people in when they hug me today. And they tell me “It’s okay to hug back, Eli…” I’ve learned I am worth something today.

Captive Hearts has taught me love and how to hope. I’ve learned to slowly take the stones out of my backpack and replace them one by one—with smiles, laughter, dreams, and gratitude. Each day, I awake in a real bed, with crisp, clean sheets, and soft pillow cases. I still awake in shock that I didn’t have to put a needle in my arm or didn’t have to wake up with some stranger.

The best part about it all is every time Chaplain Judy tells all of us, with tears in her eyes, that we are valuable… I believe her.

Dear “John”

I loved you more than words could say.
But instead, you hurt me in every way.
You lied to me, cheated and beat me up too.
When I swore I was through, I still stayed with you.

You took my laughter, my hope, and my time;
Time I can never go back and rewind.
You led me down dark, weary streets,
to places that still haunt my sleep.

My life became a game of Russian Roulette
as you hung that price-tag around my neck.
I told myself I didn’t care,
trembling there, naked and bare…

Insane I became, so desperate to run from the pain.
But still, all I cared for faded away.
I’ll never forget that last gloomy day I went with you.
The sky was gray. You were the predator and I was your prey.
You took my hand and led me away.

But to you I have to tip my hat,
because I almost never made it back.
So good-bye to you, I say again,
good-bye old friend, my Heroin . . .

-— Eli Rose

Tina

Tina

TinaIf you have ever seen the constant rolling of huge waves at sea, you know how restless they are–subject to the forces of wind, gravity, and tide.  Divided loyalties leave a person as unsettled as the restless waves.  If you want to stop being tossed about, rely on God to show you what is best for you.  Ask Him for wisdom, and trust that He will give it to you. Then your decisions will be sure and solid.  Morning starts at midnight, and then it is a new day.  I know without a doubt in my mind, God saved me that dark, cold midnight in November as I laid there on my back looking up at the stars, so afraid, so alone and in so much pain.  I reached up to a hand, a Hand that had been there all along waiting patiently as He always does.  God reached out and saved me that night, a fisher woman out of water, and a girl running out of time.  God led me to a place that truly saved my life. The place? Captive Hearts.

My name is Tine Lee and here’s my story.  I am 49 years old and I am an alcoholic.  My sponsor’s husband, Jim, said it best:  “Alcoholism is an equal opportunity destroyer.”  Here is the romanticized version of my life.

My childhood, looking back as far as I want to remember, was a good one.  I was born in Clovis, California.  My father was a farmer’s son and my mother, a preacher’s daughter.  I have one sister who I adored when I was younger and look up to as an amazing person.  My parents were very kind, loving, hard-working people and my sister and I knew the Lord at a very young age.  Truly, I think God was the first word I wrote.  We went to church every Sunday and Wednesday.  I can remember sitting in the front row at church watching my grandfather preaching with all my cousins and grandma.  What I remember most was sneaking down the hallway watching my Grandpa Henry study the Bible and type his sermons until the wee hours in the morning.

I always believed in God but, as I got older, I put Him on the back burner.  I married my sweetheart from high school and we had a son.  But ironically, I left him because he was an alcoholic.  Soon after, I remarried to a good man and he gave me a daughter.  At age 31, I had a good life, a husband, two healthy kids, a good job, the picket fence.  I was on the PTA, a Brownie leader, cheer mom, water polo mom, and my husband and I taught Sunday school at our church.

This disease does not care if you are rich or poor, old or young, educated or not; it can take a long time or a short time.  Alcoholism will take you out.  I was 42 years old when it began as just social drinking with my friends.  My husband did not drink at all.  Then I started drinking wine as I cooked dinner.  The next thing I knew, it was nightly and my marriage was failing.

In 2009, my grandmother, Alice, was 94 and needed someone to stay with her.  With my kids out on their own and my marriage a mess, I moved to Morro Bay to take care of her.  She passed away in March 2010.  I loved her as much as she loved the Lord.  My world fell apart that day.  I was 45 and for the first time I had no one to take care of.  I was alone, middle aged, full of guilt for leaving my family, and full of pain because my grandmother left me.  All I wanted was to feel nothing.  I always drank alone, never at bars, never so anyone could see.  Yes, I thought I hid it well.  We all do, but we don’t.  Well, I didn’t.  I would drink because I was sad.  I would drink because I was happy, I would drink because the sun went down or because it came up.

In 2011, I got my first DUI and 30 days in county jail.  I could not believe it.  After my sentence, I said never again.  That lasted two weeks.  My problem got bad fast.  I was drinking every day, and a lot.  Still always alone, my second DUI came 10 months later, and I got 120 days.  My family was at a loss about what to do.  From age 20 to 42, I had two jobs, and in the five years I was in Morro Bay, I lost four jobs because of my addiction.

In 2012, I started commercial fishing.  I was smart enough not to drink while working on the ocean, but when I arrived back, the drinking began at the dock.  I was living on the vessel and I saw the most amazing sunrises and sunsets.  I worked in God’s beautiful sea, and the only thing I saw was the bottle.

That fall, my family put me in a rehab.  They were afraid I would not live long if I kept drinking.  I left two months later.  On the bus home, I drank and have no clue how I got on a train to San Luis Obispo.  Back in Morro Bay, it got progressively worse as this disease does.  I was blacking out all over town.  I would sleep in my car, which I no longer own, because in a blackout week I gave the pink slip to someone!  This went on for two more times in jail and three trips to the ER for alcohol poisoning.  My life was out of control.  My family at that time gave me to God and prayed for me but had to stay away.  Not only was I killing myself, but I was hurting my family horribly.

On November 30, 2014, my life changed forever.  I was with a person who was in a blackout himself at 11:30 pm on a frontage road by the freeway.   All I could remember was I wanted to go home.  I tried to get out of the truck, but he would not let me.  On my third try, he picked me up and put me in the back of his camper and shut the top.  I knew I had to get out and fast.  As he drove off, the only thing I could think to do was slide out on my back.  So I dropped the tailgate and slid out.  What I remember was looking up at the stars, my hands were on fire and numb and I could not move.  I laid there in a crazy peace and all I could do was look up and ask God not to let me die.  The man once again picked me up and put me back into the truck’s camper.  The next thing I knew, I was standing up with police around me and him in handcuffs.  The police officer talked to me but did not arrest me.  Why they didn’t arrest me, still to this day, I know it was because of God.  Five times I was arrested in that town—they knew me!

They took me to my friend Jack’s ship in Morro Bay.  I had to sign a waiver that I would be okay.  The next day, Jack called 911 and off to the ER I went.  I was a mess.  I knew I had been saved by God and I knew enough was enough.
I went back to the Valley to my parents home to mend.  The second week there, I made the call to a place that heals the broken.  I called Captive Hearts.  (I met Chaplain Judy in jail.)  In two weeks, January 2, 2015, against all odds and lack of money, they took me in.

On my second week there, I had what I call my first of many “Ah Ha” moments.  I was in the shower crying out to God (really crying) that I love my children and I missed them and I would do anything to get them back.  (My daughter and I had not spoken in a few years.)  I wanted my daughter back in my life, and then it hit me.  God knew how I felt.  He felt the same way about me, I’m His child and He wanted me back.

The first few months here were so life changing.  I was safe, loved and truly at peace, but God did not stop there.  In the middle of February, my neck was hurting and my hands were going numb.  Captive Hearts took me to see Dr. Finnegan at CHC.  He is a chiropractor.  He examined me then said what I had was very serious and needed to see a neurologist. I am truly blessed because him.

I was able to get in to see a neurologist who then sent me to a neuro surgeon.  All in a matter of two weeks, and this surgeon’s office takes four months to normally get into.  (That’s my God again!)  I found out I had cervical spondylosis with myelopathy (in English, my spinal cord had no fluid around it and was being compromised).  This was very serious and was not caused by the fall.  I have had this for a while.  I had the surgery on April 14th.  While at the hospital, I was homesick, not for Morro Bay or Clovis where I was raised, but the place that I have called home for the last four months and the gals there—Captive Hearts, “God’s House.”

My life was such a mess.  I put myself in a place of risk daily, but one night I jumped out of a moving truck, but did
not die.  With my condition, it was miraculous.  The police came and did not arrest me as they always had before.  My family came and took me home, when they gave me to God.  Then at Captive Hearts, I saw a physician who told me this would have paralyzed me if I would not have found out about it as soon as I did.  Quoting my friend Nikki, “That’s how my Daddy rolls!”

My God in all His wonder that November morning, just past midnight, picked up a broken child and restored me as the daughter I always have been.

—Tina

Nikki

Nikki

Nikki

My name is Victoria Courtney Nicole, But I prefer to be called Nik. I’m from Tulare County and was raised in Porterville. I’m the youngest of five kids and come from a loving Christian family. It was a home filled with laughter and never a dull moment. I am the only addict in the bunch, and the only one with a rap sheet.

I got married in May 2003. We had our son, Cayleb Blaze in 2004 and a daughter, Kyli Rain in 2008. Life felt fantastic. My husband became a teacher and coached football. I worked lots of jobs but consistently coached volleyball for high schools and private clubs.

I started having chronic shoulder problems and needed surgeries. I ended up on pain medications for years and my husband as well. I developed such a dependency on OxyContin that I would become violently ill without it. My prescription would only last me about one week. I started buying and selling pills on the streets to supplement our addiction. During this time I worked two jobs, coached volleyball, attended church, raised my two kids and took care of my now out-of-work husband who was in a complete Xanax blackout. I was beyond running on fumes. I ran myself ragged trying to hold it all together so people wouldn’t know.

Being desperate to get off the pills, my husband and I started using crystal meth. That just created another addiction. Things went from bad to worse quickly. Our dream home burned down, my truck was totaled, and we were evicted from our new rental home. We were homeless, living in a campground with our kids. I bought an RV and the first night in it, my husband beat me up in front of our two terrified children. This is a pivotal point in my story because my children or anyone else had never seen this side of my husband. I wasn’t able to hide how bad things had gotten anymore. I called my older sister crying and telling her to come get the kids. She did, and they still remain safe and loved with her now.

At this time, I wish I would have made a change, but I was unable to deal with my husband hurting me and our life unraveled. The next day, my husband tried to kill us both. He was arrested and I was alone in my RV, doing and selling drugs. I found the streets and its rules as a rude awakening. I was soon sucked into the protection of the gang lifestyle, as well as other notorious groups. I was quickly involved in drug dealing, weapons, organized crime and not so organized crime. I was so far in over my head and didn’t even know it.

I moved out of Porterville to Visalia when my husband got out of jail. Wow, did it get worse. We were toxic at best. The abuse and drugs skyrocketed. I was now a slave to the heroin needle. My husband and I would get arrested on and off, when he would be in jail or I would leave him for a while. I would be on the streets living among homeless people and drug addicts.

I saw and experienced horrors I didn’t believe people could live through. I have many scars from knives. I would fight or get jumped, sex became meaningless. Robberies and theft was a way of life and survival, revenge became my motivation for everything. Overdose became common. Heroin was my daily staple so I wouldn’t be sick. I would mix it with any and all drugs. I wasn’t trying to feel good anymore, I was trying to not feel at all. I felt alone and had nobody to turn to. My family wanted me to get help and, until I agreed to do that, they had to keep me away. I’m grateful now that they did. I would make promises that I would go into treatment and asked them to find me a program out of Tulare County. In June, my other sister told me about Captive Hearts and that they would take me in July. I didn’t go, and again, I could go in October. I still didn’t go. I didn’t think my life could sink much lower, but I was sadly wrong. I found new lows of depravity and despair. I was out on triple bail with 13 warrants out for my arrest. I had been on the run for about 1 1/2 years.

On May 29th, I got arrested again. It was my ninth arrest in two years. I had 16 felonies and 12 misdemeanors. The charges ranged from strong arm robberies, commercial burglaries, petty thefts, assault on peace officers, illegal weapons, counterfeiting, fraud, possession of drugs. There are more as well. These 28 cases had an indicted sentence of 44 years. I was looking at serving 17 years of it.

Prior to sentencing, a probation officer came to me in County Jail for my assessment to give to my judge. I was honest with her and told her about my desire for help and that when I finished serving my time (whatever it may be), I wanted to get out of Tulare County and go to a Christian program called Captive Hearts. I should probably tell you this probation officer’s name was “Karma”! So I didn’t expect much from her recommendation. To my surprise, she spoke to the judge on my behalf. I was sentenced to a year in County Jail with a two-month early release to go to Captive Hearts. The judge told me she believed that I wanted help and would mandate some of my sentence in this program that they had never heard of. My judge looked just like Jesus to me that day. My probation officer, Karma, whom I now refer to as “Grace,” was my Holy Ghost, Hail Mary, on sentencing day. Hallelujah!

I was released 55 days early and allowed to come here to Captive Hearts. I thank Jesus every day for the healing taking place in my heart and body and the safety of our home. Many of you may not notice the importance of safety every day. Because of how I was living and the PTSD it has caused me, being safe is something I’m grateful for every hour. I thank Jesus for not giving me what I deserve, but instead giving me mercy and grace.

When I was abandoned, abused and alone on the streets and would inject more drugs than my poor little body could handle, I would be left for dead. God would restart my heart and weep over me. I know now I was never really alone. Thank God, He met me right there in that gutter, but loved me too much to let me stay there. I don’t even recognize that brokenhearted junkie girl I used to be. I am a new creation in Christ Jesus! The old has gone and the new has come. Amen.

Captive Hearts has given me the inner healing I needed. This last month so much has changed. I have broken bondage in my lineage and practice of the occult. I’m receiving counseling as I finalize my divorce. I get to see my children often and, God willing, will be living with them by this summer. I had so many worries as to how I will provide for them as a single mom with seven felonies on her record. So I have been praying for a unique job opportunity. Our Lord and Savior Jesus has granted me so much more instead. I just received the call that all my felonies are being dropped and that I get a clean slate! Yep, that’s how my Daddy rolls!!

When I finally surrendered all to Christ and decided to just change one thing, which was everything, God blew my mind. Through all of these gifts from Christ, I’ve been able to see how precious I am to Jesus. This realization has slowly sunk into my core. It has healed me from much shame and guilt as this beautiful, intimate and authentic relationship with Jesus develops. I have started crying, really crying. This is something I haven’t experienced in years.

WEEP

Though the tears had been long used up
If something happened to where I needed to cry;
Drugs could dehydrate those tear ducts bone dry.
I could achieve supreme numbness of no feeling.
To keep this up, I learned new lows of drug dealing.

I thought I finally murdered all those tears.
They hadn’t come around in many years.
Hardness of heart where tears cease to exist,
Then a foreign feeling rose up, so hard to resist.

The well of tears wasn’t empty or gone,
I just had that lid tightly screwed on.
Panic sets in of that weeping I FEAR,
I scramble for a way to make the cry disappear.

I can piss and moan with all my might,
But those tears win out with one heck of a fight.
All the pain, abuse and broken dreams
Fall down my cheeks in hot, rapid streams.

You can never make those toxic tears dissipate;
They will poison your well if you don’t open the gate.
Wait… nobody is hurting me because I’m crying?
The bottling up was why I was dying?

Why was I terrified of this freeing feeling?
This is my starting point of healing!
My eyes blurred with tears, but I clearly SEE:
The weep I avoided is what set me FREE!!!

—by Nikki

Melanie

Melanie

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

LeeAnn

LeeAnn

Currently, I am serving as a certified drug and alcohol counselor and staff member with Captive Hearts Recovery Services.  Even though I am not an addict, there is always a story to tell, and mine has been one of fear.

My mom was physically and emotionally ill my whole life and my father was violent, perverted and mentally ill.  Both of my grandmothers were mentally ill and my father’s dad committed suicide.  My father was evil and scary, and the females in the house were in fear for our lives.  He determined whether or not we were safe. 

At around the age of 8 or 9, my mom brought in a woman to help care for us (since she was under the covers in bed sick most of my life).  This woman was a controlling, raging and mentally ill person who was also scary and out of control. 

So, staying safe became the ultimate goal and FEAR ruled my life.  The unwritten rules were:  don’t talk, don’t feel and don’t trust.  Fear, I believed, had an important purpose in my life; it would protect me from these crazy, evil people.  Fear became my god, and I was afraid not to be afraid!  Inside, I believed I was innately bad, ugly and stupid and that there was something very wrong with me.  Was there even a reason for my existence?

On the flip side of the insanity, our family attended church every time the doors were open.  My father was a deacon in the church and mom was involved in all the different ladies organizations.  As a little girl, church was where I was always fixed up in pretty dresses, to look perfect and beautiful.  After all, if we looked good, then everything must be okay.  So, I put on a mask which I now refer to as the “Elaborate Appearance Management System” which is a really great term for wearing a mask.  My belief was that no one was listening to my needs and I really didn’t believe that God or anyone else loved me, or that my needs would be met, or that I would be safe.  However, if I was good (meaning if I performed well, stayed very busy justifying my existence, followed all the rules, stayed in control) maybe, just maybe, I would be safe and not rejected.  The fear of rejection and the need for approval from other people was overwhelming.  The problem with this “Elaborate Appearance Management System” is that beneath it I was terrified someone would see what was really going on.  Even God might see underneath this system and reject me as I had rejected myself.  So, on one hand, I needed to be perfect and, on the other hand, believed I was flawed, broken and could NEVER be good enough.

Some lies that are attached to the Elaborate Appearance Management System are:  1) what I feel is wrong;  2) it is selfish and wrong to have a need or to ask for help;  3) it is wrong to have a contrary opinion;  4) mistakes are NOT allowed (in other words, you can’t be human);  5) the external appearance must be perfect;  6) my best is never good enough;  7) I’m only here to be used (sexually); and  8) I must be good!  Meaning, remember only the happy times, thrive in chaos, never fail, let other people only see what is perfected and processed (not THE process), never be critical, do it perfectly the first time and always make others happy, no matter what!  (Talk about exhausting and unattainable!).

A few years ago, God allowed a very difficult period of intense darkness and heartache in my life, which finally helped to bring me to the end of myself.  A heart cry went up into the heavenlies and I was finally ready to begin the journey of truth and understanding.  This journey has not been easy, but it has been freeing.  For the first time in my life, I am on my own team!  Instead of self-hatred and the absolute overwhelming fear of man, I am beginning to love myself and, first and foremost, really believe that God loves me, that He didn’t make a mistake.  The deep fear and anxiety that has completely controlled my life has been exposed and is being resisted for the first time.  Denial has been strong and it has kept me in the dark for a very long time.  But (and this is the good news), I am IN THE PROCESS, as we speak of “being transformed by the renewing of my mind.” 

Jesus did come to destroy the works of the devil in my life.  Praise God that I have a new daddy, new family and new rules!  Wonderful GRACE.  Shame and anger are dissolving.  My religious beliefs are finally becoming a reality in that I truly believe God is for me.  Being authentic is a relief and it is not necessary to wear a mask and be afraid of what people will see behind it.  The person that God made is okay, just human, and it is okay to make mistakes.  The truth is that I am not horrible and bad.  My desire is to process so I grow and God gets the glory!  The truth is, it is IMPOSSIBLE for God to reject me; it is not in His nature.  So, thank God, the mask has finally come off.

Sheila Walsh, formerly of the 700 Club, wrote a beautiful poem after she received some deep inner healing in her life, and it rings so true in my heart.  It says, “Prayers are heard when children pray, though sometimes it takes years to find the strength to listen to the truth behind the tears. Her body grew, as children do; inside she lived alone, a little girl, her spirit bruised and trapped beneath a stone.  But one day in her prison cell, a tiny shaft of light began to burst through bars of steel, and lift the dead of night.  And as the little girl looked up, she saw herself all grown, and the hand she took that led her out looked strangely like her own.”

God longs to do this for so many of us that have lived in the lies of self-deception.  He wants to bring His light and love into the dark, hidden places so we can be free.  He is good and He really is the answer.