When God Has a Plan
No parent wants to get that early morning call telling them their teenager is in jail. Maybe this will be the first and last time, so I hoped, and life went on. Little did I know this was just the beginning of an emotional rollercoaster ride for my family. What started as a DUI for my 19-year-old son, Derrick, evolved over the next four years into a serious drug addiction. It started with a little drinking on weekends, then pain pills, and then any drug he could find. He began stealing from his loved ones, not coming home at night, and not answering my phone calls or texts.
As a single mother, the worry and heartache was taking a heavy toll and devastating our relationship. I couldn’t help but ask where had I gone wrong as a parent. I raised him alone. He didn’t have a close relationship with his father. He was brought up in church and once dedicated to his faith. Watching your son’s life change so drastically, and for the worse, is a pain that cannot be grasped unless you’ve lived it. Derrick was my only child, and I knew couldn’t help him by myself.
Derrick was 23 years old and addicted to meth when he was arrested for possession of a controlled substance. He stayed in jail for 35 days with the ultimatum to either find a rehabilitation program or face a long jail sentence. A friend had told me about Teen Challenge, and with her help, along with the help of a local church, Teen Challenge accepted my son into the program.
I will never forget the day I drove my son from jail to the Teen Challenge facility in Selma, Alabama. This was really happening. My son would be away from home for a whole year, and what an amazing year it proved to be. Derrick was able to work a job to help pay his expenses. He attended two church services on Sundays as well as a daily Bible study. He read motivational books and took part in Teen Challenge rallies. The Lord did a significant work in his life, leading Derrick to rededicate his life to Him. After just three months in the program, I was overwhelmed and grateful for the transformation I saw in him. Through the counselors, new friends, and the grace of God, my son was slowly coming back to me.
On July 18, 2015, Derrick graduated from Teen Challenge. This was the most emotionally gratifying day of my life, the culmination of a long journey of constant prayer on bended knees. I am thankful for Teen Challenge and all who make the program possible. I am thankful my son has overcome.
To those who know someone struggling with addiction, please know where there is life, there is hope. There are people out there who care. Never give up because God has a plan: “For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you, not to harm you” (Jeremiah 29:11)Get hope now!
Nothing Short of a Miracle
Julieta was 23 months old when we adopted her from an orphanage in Romania. From the outset, she was an angry child. Her initial two years of abuse, neglect, and unrequited screams had done their damage. She believed she could trust no one to meet her needs. Now in a new home where she found she had some control, she was driven to never lose a battle.
For years we tried to show her she was “safe” and “loved” but neither we, nor a string of therapists, could convince her of it. For Julieta, relinquishing control over an issue, large or small, was a matter of life or death. Her fear of losing someone she loved convinced her to keep potential friends at bay. She built stone walls around her heart, adopting an unapproachable demeanor that inspired bullying from others. She attended three schools, but never graduated, though she was the smartest member of our family.
Her angry fits escalated as we searched desperately for a solution. The harder we tried to prove our unconditional love, the more she showed us how far she was willing to go to block any demonstration of it. We were running out of options. We hired a broker to find someone qualified to handle the most extreme Reactive Attachment Disorder control issues (a disorder commonly associated with children coming from orphanages), and found a group home director who claimed she never had a failed case. 12 weeks into her program, Julieta sabotaged the experience and earned herself a one-way plane trip back home.
It was part of this director’s contract that in such a scenario, we had to commit to dropping Julieta off at a homeless shelter so she could understand the gravity of the “end of the line.” We picked Julieta up from the airport and to her shock and dismay, dropped her at the local shelter. It was an emotional moment. We could not hide our feelings of 19 years of dismay and failure.
It was around this time we first learned of Teen Challenge and its services to people with life-controlling issues, anger and control issues included. When Alabama Teen Challenge heard our story, they agreed to work with us. We were so surprised that our long-awaited answer turned up at our back door!
Julieta agreed to fill out the Teen Challenge application after three days at the shelter. When she arrived at the center, she gave up every ounce of control she had over her life: the ordering of her time, what she said, what she wore, and what she ate. What happened next was a miracle – what couldn’t be done over 17 years happened in one. Julieta received the greatest gifts we could have asked for: new eyes, a new heart, new hope, and the source of it all, Jesus.
Of Julieta’s time at Teen Challenge, the staff have said, “Every now and again, we have someone come through who impacts our lives like no other [. . .] It takes the whole village to raise these girls up, and we all worked together. We enjoyed the ride!”
In the years since, Julieta has/; passed her GED with the help of a Teen Challenge tutor, and is excelling in the Birmingham Metro Master Program at Kingwood. Her dream is to help begin a family Teen Challenge center in Alabama to serve the children of the mother’s in the program.