Jumat, 06 Februari 2009
"Here I am 14 months clean, and on staff at Joy Junction. I enjoy waking up every day without a drug hangover. I am ... spending time praying ... knowing that I cannot control my life very well and I must leave it in God's Hands."
By Jeremy Reynalds
Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (ANS) -- To say Cheryl had a difficult childhood would be putting it mildly.
Born the youngest of five children to a low income family, Cheryl grew up in poverty.
In a recent interview Cheryl said, "We ended up living in places like a barn-type building that leaked when it rained, and all of the kids had to huddle together when it was cold. (However), my mom did whatever she could to feed us and clothe us, and I love her for that."
But living in a leaky building was nothing like the trauma Cheryl experienced from her two older brothers. She said, "They did very evil things to all of us. The older one would hold us under water, bite us, and make us do sexual things when I was only about five or six years old. I think that part seriously messed me up as far as relationships go. He'd even have neighbor boys come over and try to have sex with me."
Cheryl said, "Our whole family wasn't quite there, I guess you would say." She said one of her step-fathers had more serious issues than anyone could imagine, one of her brothers was always stealing and breaking into things, and a sister got pregnant at 15.
Cheryl admitted she also battled many issues. "I started doing drugs and having sex quite often at 12," she said. "I can't even count how many times I had sex by the time I was 14."
And by then, Cheryl continued, she had also tried marijuana, cocaine, speed, mushrooms, alcohol, cigarettes and hashish.
She continued, "I started hanging around much older people, the ones getting high and drinking. I did very stupid things, like hitch hiking and getting raped. I'd get so drunk I wouldn't know what I had done or where I was. I would take off for days, worrying my mother to death. I ended up ditching so much school that my high school didn't even know I was registered for the second semester of ninth grade."
Cheryl and her friends would meet at the back of the high school in the morning, have someone buy them a case of beer, then go down to a vacant lot by a church and get drunk. As an alternative they would hang out at a Carl's Jr. until the arcade opened, stay until school was over, and then go home.
"Nice existence, huh?" Cheryl asked cynically.
Cheryl's life continued to spiral downwards. She said, "Going into 11th grade I had enough credits for one semester of high school. I also had a miscarriage on my seventeenth birthday."
Cheryl said, "I think because of my low self-esteem I tried to juggle three, and sometimes four, guys at once. I thought as they wanted to sleep with me, that they really liked me. That feeling has lasted through out almost my entire life."
Cheryl said she met her "first and only husband" while partying with the marines from Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California in 1982. She later found out he was on trial for killing someone.
She said, "We went out mostly drinking, smoking marijuana, doing cocaine occasionally, LSD a few times. And right before he was actually jailed for voluntary manslaughter, I found out I was pregnant."
However, Cheryl did have a little bit of good news. She finally graduated - after having to attend almost another year of school.
She said, "I went around telling people, 'I'm in 13th grade.' Even though I was almost seven months pregnant, I attended my graduation."
Cheryl's daughter was born in Sept. 1984, and she traveled to Jamestown, California, where the baby's father was incarcerated, to be married. The relationship didn't last very long. Soon after he was released, Cheryl ended up divorcing her husband.
During this time, Cheryl said, she started taking methamphetamines. That, Cheryl said she believes, led to her ultimate downfall.
"I still drank a lot," she said, "but I eventually gave that up. However, I never stopped doing meth, a total of 22 years. I gave birth to six children from five different men, again, I think, from the low self-esteem. If they wanted to sleep with me, I believed I was loved. I never used protection."
She added, "My drug use pretty much caused me to have six children, and it also caused me to lose three of them; two daughters to the state, and my oldest to drug use herself. She and I both have done terrible things for our habit, and have been in and out of jail because of it."
Cheryl recalled being a patient in a six month rehab program, and getting high two weeks after she completed her time there.
She said, "Towards the end I started smoking crack, and that lasted for over a year. I actually prostituted for crack money and lived at crack houses."
However, change was in Cheryl's future. She said, "I was tired, hungry, very sad and lonely ... and I actually didn't want to do drugs anymore."
Cheryl said she remembers vividly the night that precipitated her coming to Joy Junction. In Nov. 2007, she had been staying at a woman's apartment. There was also another woman there, Cheryl said, and they were drinking, doing heroin, smoking crack and pot. On top of everything else, she said, they were (mis) using prescription medication.
Cheryl recalled, "I had seen a man there overdose off a very small amount of heroin before. They had to carry him to the bath tub, turn on the cold water and put ice on him. He stayed dead, it seemed, for about five minutes. What a way to live."
However, Cheryl recalled that her time there was mercifully short. She was given her walking papers when the other woman staying there told her she needed to leave because she wouldn't "hustle" enough.
Cheryl left the few meager belongings she had, walked to a local convenience store and called Joy Junction for a van ride to safety.
She said, " I set my crack pipe down by a tree, and while I was waiting for the van I was propositioned and invited to go to a party. I know I was done, though, and I was dropped off at Joy Junction at about 9:30 p.m hungry and tired. I was given a place to stay and something to eat, and I felt safe. It took another week for me to join the (life recovery) program, but it has been wonderful ever since."
Cheryl said she came to Joy Junction with only the clothes she was wearing on her back.
Cheryl joined Joy Junction's life recovery program on Nov. 28 2007. She recalled that her first assignment, in addition to the regular class schedule, was working in the laundry where she had to wash a seemingly never ending number of blankets.
It wasn't something that Cheryl really enjoyed, but she was committed to her recovery and so she did a good job. Subsequently, Cheryl worked in a variety of assignments before graduating the program in Aug. 2008.
Cheryl was later hired for a staff position by Joy Junction where she works in the kitchen.
She said, "I enjoy cooking and learning how to work in a mission kitchen."
Looking back on her time so far at Joy Junction Cheryl said, "I have made some wonderful friends. Some of them have come and gone. One or two have passed away, and a couple were not ready to have God take over their lives. Here I am 14 months clean, and on staff at Joy Junction. I enjoy waking up every day without a drug hangover. I am in a good mood, spending time praying and especially knowing that I cannot control my life very well and I must leave it in God's hands."
Reflecting on her life in general she said, "I love the opportunity I have been given at Joy Junction and can't wait for what God has for me next. The next part of my life is in the Lord's Hands. I wait in anticipation of what He has for me."
Joy Junction Resident Services Manager Pat Feeney said he is delighted at the change the Lord has made in Cheryl's life. He said she is always willing to help wherever needed.
He added that with her new kitchen responsibilities, "she is turning into a pretty good cook."
The guiding philosophy of Joy Junction is to provide an environment conducive to allowing the Lord Jesus Christ to make changes in people's lives. That is what has been occurring with Cheryl. Our prayer is that Cheryl will continue to yield herself to Jesus, and that she will be transformed more and more into His image and likeness on a daily basis.