Growing up I had a good life. I was raised in the church and I had parents who loved me. But things didn’t stay good for long. When I was 7 or 8, our family was torn apart as my mom packed up her stuff and left. I remember chasing her van down the road, but she didn’t stop. Looking back, I think that was when my downward spiral began.
After my mom left, I was very angry at everyone. I couldn’t understand how she could just leave us. I thought something was wrong with me. I thought she didn’t want me anymore. Being a child, all I wanted was to be with my mommy. Eventually, I got that. I went to live with my mom and her boyfriend in Illinois, but that didn’t last long. Not even a year later, my mom made me move back in with my dad. Again I was hurt and I felt shunned by my own mother. Eventually, my mom came back to us, but for me, that just made things worse. This woman who had hurt all of us was just welcomed back without a second thought, and now she had the chance to hurt us again.
All I wanted was to be accepted, to be loved, and to be wanted. I would do whatever it took to gain new friends. That’s when I started smoking, cutting myself, and becoming sexually active. I never listened to my mom when it came to curfew or who I could hang out with. I basically did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, with whomever I wanted. That attitude brought me down a dark path.
When I was 12, I got the biggest shock of my life. I found out I was pregnant. I was scared and confused and I didn’t know where to go. My parents also didn’t know what to do. They helped me with everything I needed, but we didn’t talk to each other much. At 13, I gave birth to a baby girl. Being a child myself, I had no idea what to do with a baby.
After a while, I went back to my normal routine. I did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, with whoever I wanted, and my mom raised my daughter for me. We argued all the time, and things got bad enough that I just ran away. I believed that my daughter was better off without me. That’s when my mom called Cookson Hills.
At first, I was so mad that my mom would just send me off. Cookson Hills seemed like a strange place with strange people and strange rules. I just wanted to leave, but I couldn’t. I was placed in an all-girls house with 9 “sisters” and “parents” I had never met before. I was forced to go to counseling and talk to someone I didn’t know about things I couldn’t grasp. But things quickly changed.
I quickly realized that all these strangers around me truly cared about me. They didn’t know me, but they were worried about my well-being. I soon fell in love with all my sisters and my parents. I felt like they were really my family. The teachers at the school guided us with love and patience. I was overwhelmed with all the compassion everyone had for these kids who nobody else seemed to want.
I got the opportunity to do things at Cookson Hills that I had never done before. I took care of horses, I played on the basketball team, I learned to fix cars, and I gained a sense of responsibility that I never had before. I was happier there than I had been in a long time. One of my favorite things was our family Bible study. Every night we read the Bible together, but it was more than just reading. We got the opportunity to ask questions and to learn. God helped me get rid of the anger in my heart.
Overall, Cookson Hills was an amazing experience for me. I left there a completely different person than when I arrived. Just knowing that people genuinely cared for me made me want to do better. And it made a lasting impact because it was all rooted in Christ.
I’m so grateful for all those who believed in me when I couldn’t and helped me become the woman, mother, and wife that I am today.