T was sitting in jail, not for the first time, when Celebrate Recovery came in.
“They played the song, ‘Oceans,’ and I had this funny feeling, you know? Like, it was something that I hadn’t really experienced before,” she recounted.
From that moment hearing the famed Hillsong Worship song, a spark was ignited for a Christ she didn’t yet know; she and three other women who shared this experience––who she described saying, “you could just feel Christ moving through them”––were bumped to a program where they would be given the chance to heal and recover. Her charges would be dropped after a year in that program, so the choice made sense to her. Yet, given her brief introduction to faith, she was determined to find a faith-based program, and her request lead her to Refuge for Women.
“The way that Refuge goes about the spirituality aspect, it’s absolutely perfect. They [encourage] you to pray, and they want you to constantly stay in the Word,” she described her time in the program, and the way these foundations were built into the curriculum. “They base the classwork off of the Bible. So, it definitely helped me grow closer to my Heavenly Father, to Jesus, because if I didn’t have them, I probably wouldn’t be here today.”
Still, T’s journey to Refuge was not an easy one, but she has found that family, as much as it has been a wound, has also become her most redemptive experience.
“I grew up in a very dysfunctional family. My mom was an addict––I mean, just about everybody in my family was an addict,” she explained where her trauma began, and how it spiraled into sexual trauma. “Eventually, around 12, I started doing drugs myself, with my mother. I ended up being in quite a few different abusive relationships, and my drug addiction… kind of just grew out of control. And I ended up prostituting myself, to feed my habit. And at that point in time I started going in and out of jail.”
It was that cycle, and her last stint of jail, that took her to her first program, which connected her to Refuge, where she has gotten the opportunity to heal and grow since May of 2020.
“Before, I had no self respect. I had no dignity. So I didn’t care about myself, and I also didn’t care about anybody around me. I treated them the same way that I treated myself,” T said, giving the stark contrast of entering Refuge and being caught off-guard by how “they were super loving, and I wasn’t used to that.”
“Like I said, my family is very dysfunctional, so I didn’t really understand the concept of love when I came. I had a very skewed version of it. But I just felt welcomed, and then they quickly became my family––people that I could call on and count on. I quickly knew that this was going to be my forever home.”
This journey, from emergency housing to the residential program to transitional living, has grown roots that have deeply formed T’s faith and life, in a way she never had the opportunity for before.
“Something that has stood out is the amount of love that they do give. And that was something that was special, like, every day,” she emphasized, “because it was a constant feeling of being accepted as who you are, and you’re not having to change who you are to fit in.”
Aside from the faith aspect that initially pulled her to Refuge, another benefit T sought out this program for was the opportunity in Survivor Made. The program, she says, has been a crucial part of her healing process, and she now works there full time, and with a recent promotion.
“The people that I’ve worked with, they’ve been so encouraging, and, I think, prominent in my recovery walk because they just want you to feel comfortable. They want you to feel confident in what you’re doing, and they make sure that that happens… I’m doing a lot of the leather stuff now. And I absolutely enjoy every second of it,” she laughed lightly. “I love the cutting, I love the sewing, the riveting––all of it.”
It’s been these simple opportunities that have built the most tangible impact in T’s life; introducing not just new skills, but necessary steps to a healed and stable life.
“I never knew how to adult before,” she laughed. “I couldn’t hold down a job. I couldn’t do the normal adult things. And now I am, you know, I’m free. I can actually hold down a job. I can be held accountable. I can be responsible for tasks.”
Within Survivor Made, T was empowered not only through her work, but through the continuation of the family she found within her Refuge journey in the first place, and that’s what ultimately stands out most significantly to her.
When she graduated, she was given a gift by her manager at the time that captured it well–– “She got me a necklace, and when she got me the necklace, she said, ‘I just want to tell you how much I trust you,’” these words, as T recounted, held tremendous impact. “I couldn’t be trusted before. That kind of stuff… it wasn’t freely given to me. And she trusted me, and knew that I was being honest. I was walking with integrity, in my walk now. And that made me feel really good;” she added, “we truly are a ‘little’ family.”
From the moment in a jail, stirred by the Spirit of God, to the impact of being transformed by community and the character of God, T walks with a love and responsibility she couldn’t have previously imagined. She expressed such a love as a feeling that flows through people, and it’s something that she now carries as she continues to grow.
“They’re still family,” she spoke confidently of her home in Refuge. “I’m not going anywhere. They’re not going anywhere.”