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.
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).
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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
Hi, my name is Catherine. Actually, the whole story is Catherine Bell, Ivett, Judson, Lemoine. I have always had one talent I was aware of, the one that allows me to be a chameleon. Not to say that I have always blended into the background, but to say I am adaptable. All my life I have known that God existed, that He was “there,” that He was with me and that I was not alone. I never sought to know more–that was enough.
I was baptized a Lutheran and raised in the Methodist Church. I was first married in Las Vegas, second in a chapel and third in the Penthouse suite of Caesar’s Tahoe. My two daughters were baptized Lutheran and sent to a Lutheran elementary school. I never felt I needed to go to church. God was always with me. Life was good, I was good. I was 37 at the time and was happy and “all was well.”
Then came the real test. For reasons still unknown to me today my life changed. Now I was dealing with betrayal, a sexually abused daughter, the agony of divorce, counseling for my child, and moving to a new location. I began to question my actions, or inactions. To freeze up as opposed to making another bad decision, to realize my failure to protect my child and to struggle with the responsibility of accepting that failure. It was at this low point that life had another blow.
My child of 14 was missing. She was gone. Perhaps she ran away, or was kidnapped, or dead somewhere. My tears lasted a very long time, living with not knowing what happened and being ineffective at everything. I no longer had strength inside me. I no longer thought about God, and I continued to make poor decisions. I left my other daughter with her father and I moved out. She was 16 and I left her. Just like that, and did not even give it a thought.
I had lost respect for myself completely. People would ask, “How are you?” “Fine,” I’d say, “Just fine.” “Have they found her yet?” I would answer no and look away. Inside my head was screaming, “her name is Joy, she is my daughter, I love her and Joy is gone… to somewhere…” I learned to live with that–looking away. I learned to live with the inner screaming and a blank spot in my head called “you’re never going to know.” “It was your fault, Cathy. You did not protect her.” It did not matter to me that I was told by many that I was a good Mom. I knew better–this did not happen to good Moms.
My oldest girl, De, was an excellent student and well liked. On a bright Sunday afternoon, I was visiting her and her dad. De was in the town parade. She was popular and riding on the back of a convertible holding a large bouquet of roses. She was first runner up in the Miss Crestline pageant, thus a Princess. Her academic accomplishments and beauty were a lot to be proud about. We had friends and family present. That same day, I received a phone call from the East Los Angeles Juvenile Detention Center. Joy was there. She had been there for awhile but would not give her real name to the authorities. De, her dad and I went to get her. Her name was now “Jouit,” pronounced “Shouu-ee.”
I wish I could tell you that I felt happy, astonished, or astounded–something, but I was numb. I know I spoke with God that night. I thanked Him for her return, for her life. I prayed for a chance to heal this huge scar in her life and mine. I prayed that I could learn to live with her “differences,” and love her more because of them. I prayed asking that He heal her inside.
In 1984, I was 40 years old and working three jobs, working in Property Management, working in the Health and Fitness Center and working weekends as a hair stylist. I “busied” myself. My daughter De was finishing high school and living with her dad. My other daughter Joy was on probation, living with her boyfriend and his family.
A lot took place between the years of 37 and 40. A month after my 40th birthday, a new man entered my life. He was different from the others. He was very sure of himself and I loved listening to him. He had dreams and plans and his whole life mapped out. He was 24 to my 40. This tells you something. By 1985, we had our first business together. He was one of the electronic whiz kids that helped to build and put computers in everyone’s home. We manufactured and sold his product internationally. Apple Computer had an interest in buying our company; but unfortunately before that could happen, the company fell into Federal Bankruptcy and began to run in Chapter 11. Then it was Chapter 13, over and out.
He and I had married in 1986, and he had won several gambling tournaments in Las Vegas and Tahoe, playing Baccarat. So my life took yet another path. I was working full time at whatever company we had running. I was in Las Vegas and gambling was a portion of my life with him. The next years were a series of businesses and corporations, of gambling and just working all the time.
Joy was staying with her boyfriend most of the time. She called me many times to get her out of jail, to come pick her up from here or there. She was addicted to heroin, but her boyfriend kept trying to keep her clean. Joy was in and out of every kind of rehab I could get for her. In 1990, she called and wanted to come home. She was 5’8” tall and 97 pounds. She was on crutches due to an injured knee and was trying to get clean–again. We started going to a methadone clinic. She could not go on her own, for all the reasons known to drug users. I started to get to know her again. Her highs and lows were apparent and she could not shake her addiction. Six months later, she died. She was handcuffed to a bed in General Hospital, her body so full of chemicals that she could no longer fight infections. She died of endocarditis, an infection of the heart caused by the use of dirty needles. She was 24, I was 49 and had failed yet another time.
The night before her death, I had prayed to God. I had prayed that if her whole life was going to be that of a drug addict and all that went with being an addict, that He take her home. That He not make her endure such an existence, such a suffering. Then, holding her dead body, I was numb when I should have been crying. I was happy God had heard me. I had no idea how to deal with this grief. I was numb when I should have been helping De and others to accept this loss. When I should have been thanking God and blessing Him for taking away her struggle, instead I was numb. I had no more emotion.
It was a week after her death that I had a dream. Upon awakening, I knew that she was with God, that I had been with God and He had shown me that she was safe now. If you have ever truly had God in your presence, you know that there is no mistaking the feeling, the warmth and joy of that moment. It is not forgettable. The colors are not of this world.
After the dream God gave me assuring me she was with Him, I wish I could tell you all was well, but it wasn’t. I was in a very difficult relationship. By that I mean, my husband was a very hard man to live with. He could be abusive and scary, but I got used to it. I got addicted to him. To his highs and his lows, to his gambling, and I lived my life vicariously through his. He was a risk taker and liked being “on the edge.” I got so I liked it too. Too much. I allowed him to change me, to make me everything he wanted, and then when he had me the way he thought he wanted it, he didn’t want it. He was good. I was always wrong. I was always to blame because I never understood. I came to believe this was real.
Our lifestyle was to be envied by others. We had two beautiful homes, money to spend, the Jaguar to drive, traveling throughout the world. Only those close to me could see the “bruises,” the bruises on my soul as well as my body. Only those who knew me well, knew I was someone else. I had literally sold out. I was tired of the struggle with him… so finally, I just did as I was told, knowing it was wrong, not caring that much.
In 1990, my husband was indicted by the DA’s office in Las Vegas for fraud. Then the DA’s office indicted me, but the charges were dismissed. A year later, a new DA superceded the indictment and my husband had to spend 18 months in a Correctional Facility. It was during this time that my daughter Joy died from the complications of heroin addiction.
It’s not hard to guess that shortly thereafter I was arrested. It was May of 2003. Now I was 59 and in a Federal Detention Center. So was he and was 43. Today, he is incarcerated and will be until 2009. I am out on bail and was released from jail in June of 2004. This is how long I’ve been “on bail.” The first thing I did after being arrested was to make a decision on my own. The first in many years of not making choices except what I wanted to order on the restaurant menu. My marriage had become my jail, and I lived in it without many privileges. Being arrested and taken to a real detention center had “set me free.” I could do what I wanted in jail. My time was my own. I had rules, but they were simple compared to what I had been living with.
It may sound odd, but I found my freedom to be myself in jail. God blessed me again when the attorney of my choice agreed to take my case. My family had to pay him, as I had no money at all. I cannot describe how bad this feeling was to me; I had had so much money for so many years, and now had none. What I did have was taken by the FBI. The charge on my indictment was that I “interrupted Interstate commerce,” a felony. I did not really care what the charge was, just how do I “do it and get it over with?” My decision to hire a man who has been willing to see me through to the end was a good one. A man who has gone above and beyond the normal representation. He is still my attorney and protecting my interests today.
In jail, I went to every type of church service offered at the detention center: Protestant, Catholic, Buddhist, Islamic and Mormon. Eventually, I settled on Catholic.
So at 60 years old, I was released into the care of my family and mother, who is 91 this year. That’s when I was given a brochure about Captive Hearts from a new friend and neighbor. It took me another six months before I came into the office and met with Judy and Joan. It is because of them that I have learned to believe in myself again. Once again, I have the confidence and self-esteem needed to be me, Catherine, a whole person who no longer stands alone. God is with me. He always has been. But like so many, I had lost my way.
Today, I am free of my addiction to the highs and lows of risk taking, to the highs and lows of having and not having money. I have gone from having millions of dollars to having less than none. The “valley of death” stands before me every day but I fear no evil. Whatever the future has for me, is okay.
I am now a happy 63-year-old grandmother, who loves and cares for family and has dreams of being an artist. I have been a heathen but I am blessed and, through the grace of God, have found peace in my heart. I have a peace and harmony inside me that I will never give away or lose again. I am healed! I am blessed! I am loved!
UPDATE: Catherine now works for Captive Hearts as the office manager.