My name is Alesha and I grew up in a small town in California. My mom worked in the medical field and my dad was a police officer. They were very busy with work, so I spent a lot of time at the babysitter and holidays alone. There was no emotional connection between us, but they provided. They bought my love and I got everything I wanted. So, on the outside we were the perfect all-American family. But it was a double life. Although their social life and public image told a different story, my parents were constantly at each other’s throats. There was always a party we were going to, or people who were coming over. Despite all of that, my mom still made sure to be in church on Sunday looking like we had it all together.
After my brother passed away, my dad didn't want to go back to church with my mother and I. He may have died before I was born, but my brother left behind grieving parents with a void to fill. I loved going to church and hated being home. If anything church was home. It was my favorite place to be. I always believed in God and knew He was there. But my view of Him was askew. God was like super-man in my eyes: there to fix my problems like a genie in a bottle. So, when I prayed and He did not deliver the way I wanted Him to, I became angry with Him.
My parent’s excessive partying continued on throughout my childhood. I never knew what to expect from them or the people they had around me. Anger was the staple of our home, someone was always getting angry and blowing up. There were constant fights at these parties and someone usually got injured. In this environment, I had to walk on eggshells and lived in constant fear.
When I was little, I would spend the weekends with my aunt and her husband when my parents would have their party. My aunt would leave and my uncle would sexually abuse me and my other cousins and make the boys watch. One weekend I was at their house and my aunt had left and my uncle locked us in the house and he lit the back of the house on fire and told us to stay quiet. I was afraid of him so I did what he said and did my best to help my cousins. I remember the smoke filling the house and then the neighbors pounding on the door to get our attention. Thankfully we got out but even after we were safe, the fear stayed with me.
I felt used and ashamed like I was worthless. I wanted to ask my parents for help but I knew it wouldn’t matter. I would love to say it got better from there but that was only the beginning.
It became hard to talk to people and even harder to talk to God. I didn’t think He cared. I was never taught to be open or cry or share your problems, so I didn’t know how to communicate that I was suffering. After the sexual abuse I stopped trusting everybody and built up a wall. I thought that I would always be protected and loved and cared for. But that reality I was living in went right out the window. I didn’t know what mattered. My cousins ended up living with us after the fire, so we always had a house full. At our house, the party never ended. The walls would shake at the blasting music, and my things would fall off the wall and break. With no one to watch me, I had to stay home while they self-indulged. I would pray and pray and ask God to make it stop but it kept going. I always would wonder why no one ever came to check on me or ever consider that I was in my room. I was just alone and scared, and pushed out of the way.
There were even times I would climb out my window to go pee in the backyard because I was afraid of all the people and didn't want them to see me. I never knew what they were going to do so I tried to hide. Even as young as 2, we were roaming adult parties without supervision resulting: getting drunk from alcohol off the counter. During the parties my dad’s friends would come in to my room and sexually abuse me. I remember a time I was 8 and my dad's friend came into my room drunk and he peed on my floor and then got into my bed and he passed out. I was terrified and had to try and sneak my way out to not wake him up. I finally got out and hid in the next room under a table and used a pillowcase to cover up with. I remember crying myself to sleep in the cold room. The next morning, my parents just laughed and thought that it was funny. No one was concerned with what happened. I became angry and bitter toward my parents and I wanted nothing to do with them. We were merely living together and I tried to avoid them.
By the time I was 12 I was sneaking out of my house getting high, but it didn’t take long to realize I could just walk out the front door and they wouldn’t care. I went about searching for love and for someone to care for me. I felt so alone, so angry, so used, violated and worthless. I became unlovable and full of fear, deciding I would never let people hurt me again. On the outside I tried to look strong and tough. I never let it show that things hurt me but at night I'd cry myself to sleep. Pushing everyone away, I was living in darkness by the age13. From cutting to eating disorders, self-harm became a way of punishing myself. One day I was so angry I ripped up my bibles and told God if he hated me so much to just leave me alone. I wanted to die and that's how I spent the next few years.
A routine of numbing the pain and trying to fit in took hold. Wherever I did find hope it never lasted. I found things I was good at and pushed myself to be the best: from my grades to athletics. Despite these achievements, my parents would follow up praise with harsh criticism. The hurt from never getting their approval cut so deep every time. I just kept working harder to gain more achievements but it was never enough.
I felt so empty and I just wanted my mom. But at this point our arguments had escalated. She would get angry and smack me so hard my nose would bleed. I wanted her to just listen and be there for me. I always wished I had a mom to encourage, help, and guide me in the right direction but I was more like the parent of the house. When my cousins lived with us I took care of everything I made sure it was all ok. I watched my parents rip each other apart with their words and sometime physically hurt each other. I was afraid of them but I put up a protective wall and tried holding everything together for everyone else.
I tried to fill the emptiness with everything I could: poor relationships that where always harmful, drugs, and alcohol... I even tried to fill the void with church and youth groups, trying to look good on the outside. I never took time to examine the issues in my own heart. The summer right before my junior year, I felt a huge blow. My grandmother, who was my best friend, became sick. I considered her my best friend and all I had. She would be there for me. When her time came, we headed out to say our goodbyes. But we didn’t make in time and she died the night before we got there. My parents spent the time we should have been with her at the casino in the motel we were staying in. When she got the call my mom came up for a quick moment to tell me grandma was gone. So they left me in the dark motel room to deal with it alone.
We spent a few days cleaning out her house and I acted like it was no big deal. But when we got back from that trip I got totally wasted and went out with a friend to seek a bigger high from guys we didn’t know. I was told after that the two men abused me. And when I needed my parents to come to pick me up, they were busy at their own party. Alone again. In desperate need for help, the church took me to two different youth camps and people prayed for me. God changed my life that summer and I didn't want to leave. I wanted to live my life in a different way. My perspective had changed and I found a new hope and wanted to learn more about God so I applied for a Christian college.
When I visited this school it was so beautiful. My parents went with me and we did the tour and it was perfect. But on our way out my parents looked at me and said I needed to face reality. My grades were not good enough and there was no way to pay for it. I remember in that moment my heart shattering for the last time. I lost what little hope I had left and had no more dreams. I gave up, I went back to the party life and graduated high school. I got my certified nursing assistant license and became a firefighter. I looked good on the outside but was dead on the inside.
I was lonely, sad, depressed, broken, lost, completely dead inside. I wanted to die but did everything to hide it. Outwardly, I was the party girl with all the guys. I was the one with all the friends and the new things but none of it really mattered. I moved out of my parent’s house as soon as I could and I was making good money. I got a new car and life just looked great on the outside. I went to church but I had a hard time believing God or anyone wanted me.
I was angry and couldn’t understand why he gave me the life I had. I didn’t believe he had a plan for me except to be used by others
When I was 20 I had lost my nursing home job and moved to Nevada. At this point I had been through different programs to try and overcome my addiction and it would work for a little bit but it never lasted because I was only focused on changing my behaviors. I thought just moving would help so I lived with my family and got into a new relationship, thinking life was perfect. He didn't do drugs but we drank a lot, which seemed normal to me. He was my friend for years so I thought it wouldn't matter if I did drugs and he always cheated on me. I refused to look at it for what it was, another toxic relationship.
Right before my 22nd birthday I found out that I was pregnant and my boyfriend and I were having more problems than ever. I called my mom and told her that I was pregnant and she told me she would call me back but she didn't. Once again I was lost, alone, and I didn't want to have a baby. I didn’t want to leave this relationship and thought we could make it work. He was living with me but a couple months later I found out that his ex was pregnant with his child also. So I told him to pick what he wanted and to stick with it. I told him that I wasn't about to play games and then one night he never came home. Again, I wasn’t good enough and I was alone hurt and afraid.
I called my mom just hoping that maybe she would understand this time, but she was only concerned about her own problems. I was still going to church but I was full of shame and wanted to stop going. Until one Sunday this lady from my CR group started talking to me and I had told her i was pregnant and I don't know what to do. Her and her husband had took me in to their home, made a room for me and this baby, and she went to all my doctor appointments with me. She was the one who was with me for the birth of my son.
God has blessed me with an amazing new family from church. But it was hard for me to tear down the wall I built up and the habit of pushing people away. On July 1, 2014 I had my son. He was so perfect and my love for him made everything okay at first. After developing seizures and breathing problems, the doctors told me I shouldn’t be surprised if one day he doesn’t wake up. And in that moment my heart stopped.
It was hard to look at my baby at times, thinking just like everyone else he was going to be gone soon and nothing good would ever last. We spent the first year of his life in an out of doctors’ offices and hospitals.
I had kept up this wall but was still living with this amazing family, going to church and serving, and being a mom. On the inside I was still broken looking for ways to escape. I was slowly killing myself in addiction. I was pushing people away that were trying to help but didn’t know how. On April 2016 my son and I got on a plane to Arizona to a 14 month program. I learned more about the Lord and His Word but I never let God in and I never let him heal my heart just hiding behind a mask. I stayed clean and sober but once we got out it didn't last.
God gave us amazing people to help us and support us but I just kept running. I went back to what I knew; bad relationships, drugs, drinking, lies, and hopelessness. Kevin's grandma was dying of cancer and at this point in Arizona life was a mess again. I had blown all my money in a relationship hiding an addiction and I was not being obedient to authority in my sober living home. I felt that I needed to get out and then Kevin’s grandparents invited us to go live with them in Arkansas. That was my ticket out so I ran. I packed us up and drove 2 days to get there. As soon as I got there I got sucked up into it all again... the pills, the drinking and everything.
On September 11th I sent Kev back to Arizona and I was given an application to get to Through the Gate, some place in Indiana. So I filled it out but never sent it in. I made the phone call to make it look like I was going but there was no way I was going to go to Indiana. I was done trying. I was hopeless and had given up, making excuses that I had to help Kevin’s grandma who was in her last days. But on September 20th I found out I didn’t have much of a choice: if I wanted my son back I had to go. So I kept calling this place and finally set my date for September 25th to give me just a little more time.
On that morning all my stuff was packed. At 3 am I was woken up thinking everything was ok and that it was time to get ready to leave but I realized something was wrong when I heard the words “she is gone”. Kevin’s grandma had passed. I got up, ran to her bed and kissed her head and I laid with for a moment trying hold back tears. But even while watching them carry her body out, all I could think was “this is the perfect reason not to go to rehab”. But knew I had to so I got in the car and left. I was about an hour into it and was ready to turn around, thinking this was a dumb and ready to just say forget it and turn around but then I got a message from some girl Lindsay at Through the Gate.
She said she was excited to meet me and then I quickly replied and I told her I was on my way. Every time I tried to think of a reason that I couldn’t make it, I remembered I had already told them that I was on the way and I just kept driving: people pleaser. Then I made it and stopped at the gas station for about an hour thinking I will only stay a few months just to get sober but little did I know that my life was finally about to change for real. The first few moths were the hardest. I fought against everything and was in Steve’s office at least once a week: sitting in the hot seat. I was angry and tried to control everything and check off all the boxes to get stuff done. But then I had a “come to Jesus” meeting with my counselor and I stopped fighting and started taking things seriously
Being at Through the Gate has saved my life. I was going to die if I didn't make it here this was my last chance. God has given me a new hope and he has restored so much in my life. The staff here has blessed me and I am so grateful for each of them . They are the best family I can ask for and all my sisters here.. I am so blessed by everyone here and all the volunteers. I remember how I wanted to quit and my favorite volunteer would hug me and tell me just to hold out for a few more days so I did. A few more days added up.
I'm so grateful God has given so much grace and that I have been welcomed into a family and a place where I can’t run anymore. Like the woman at the well Jesus met me here. In a time I was avoiding the shame in my life He called me out and gave me living water. I'm so blessed to have my counselor Aurora who helps me look to Jesus and reminds me that I'm not a mistake, that I’m a child of God. She has help me walk through the darkness of shame and really look in to my heart and work through the pain I spent so long trying to numb. She tells me God really does love me. As I have walked through the brokenness of life, I have found that for the first time I believe it and have hope in Christ.
I will never forget what she says to me every week, that my worth is not found in who people say I am but who God says I am. I have spent my whole life pleasing people not God. But today I don’t have to live like that and I am rescued, saved , and forgiven
I have learned that He is what I have been looking for all these years. God has been changing my heart in a way I never knew he could. Half way through my program my son got put into state custody and it’s been one of the hardest things to face but I'm thankful I don't have to walk this out alone and I can see God, good and gracious in it. I have learned that God is sovereign and has a plan and a purpose for everything. So I don't ever have to go back to that old life again no matter what comes my way. I now have a peace inside my heart. Just knowing it’s okay even when circumstances are ugly because I can trust that God is good, that He is still working and He is faithful. I want God more and more in my life. I want Him to keep changing me and I hope that one day He can use my story to help others. I have learned that no matter what I can run to God and that I always have Him. He won't ever push me away; He looks at me with love and grace .
The verse I picked out for my ring is Galatians 5:1 that says “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”
Jesus Christ has set me free and I never have to go back. I can stand on Gods truth, His word, and never be a slave to sin and shame ever again! I have hope that God will keep changing me and that he will restore everything- that soon I will see my son again. I have been learning how not to have him as an idol in my life but to a mom that honors the Lord. It’s Christ in me.
I'm learning more everyday. He was with me in every moment and He has never left me and never will. He says He has a plan for my life and I trust that it is good. His grace gets me through every day. He gives me peace , hope, and strength and I'm learning I don't have to be who everyone wants me to be. I don’t have to wear a mask anymore but can be who God created me to be. I’m learning to like who that person is- not a person full of hate and regret but a person full of joy and hope in the life Christ has blessed me with. I love you all so much and thank you for being a part of this journey with me. This isn't the end but only the beginning. Thank you
As for the ladies who are still in the program I just want to encourage you do endure, don’t give up early when it gets hard. Let the difficult experiences shape you and expose your heart, so that you can be changed. Don’t let your heart build a wall, it’s never too late. I thought it was over but it’s never too late. It doesn’t matter how many times you failed or got knocked down, God will meet you right where you are. It’s at the end of yourself that God shows up.