My mom left my dad when I was two. I was little but still recall the violence. She was a nurse and worked hard to provide for my older brother and me. She remarried when I was ten. There are four of us total. I spent many weekends with my dad and his live-in. The first time he punched me I was 6.
I took my first drink at age seven which is when I also began my career in the resource room at school. I acted out, both verbally and violently and consistently fought with my teachers and mother. My dad used me as a punching bag on a regular basis and shared with me repeatedly how stupid I was and that I would never amount to anything. There are some good memories with my dad, but the abuse overpowers them.
One day when I was thirteen, my dad started in on me- I’d had enough and retaliated. He called the police. That day I got a broken nose and a trip to Juvy. I spent the next two years there. My mom came to see me often. My dad did not come. I was glad.
When I was fifteen I got out and immediately started running the streets- getting high or drunk whenever I could. After many attempts to get me to follow the rules, my mom made me leave the house. She said it wasn’t safe for my younger siblings. I started couch surfing. For a while I found shelter at a disabled man’s home. I would walk his dog, clean and run errands in exchange for the couch, a shower and food.
Somehow I stayed in school. There was this teacher, Caroline Cloat. She said I couldn’t quit. She wouldn’t let me. She always told me she cared about me, my future, my life and no matter what she wouldn’t give up on me. I don’t know why I stayed. I guess because of her. I was still homeless and learning what it meant to sleep outside and be hungry and often dirty, but I was in school. On graduation day my senior year, my mom picked me up, we went, I graduated and then I left. She wanted to have a party for me afterwards. I told her don’t bother.
Next came heavier drugs. One night I got in a fight with my step dad and the cops were called. I got in a fight with them too. I was arrested on two counts of battery. This began my criminal career. Around the same time my dad was arrested in a knife fight. He went to prison for four years.
I couldn’t handle probation so I left town with a traveling magazine sales crew. I lasted a month and then hitchhiked to Concordia. Not long after I was arrested again for possession. I ended up in Salina and eventually was picked up on a probation violation and did a year in jail. The whole time I was there I never thought about changing. I only thought about getting out and running the streets. I had nobody and nobody cared.
Once out, I began using and stealing. I met a girl. She got pregnant. I loved her. I tried to straighten up. I got a job and a place at a friend’s for us to stay. I desperately wanted it to work. I desperately wanted a family. All my money went to supporting us. I was not paying fines or going to probation meetings. One night my girlfriend and I had a bad fight. The next day she took some pills and lost our baby. I was devastated. To this day, that was the absolute most painful day of my entire life.
Because I had failed to meet obligations with the courts, I was picked up and at age 23 I went to prison. When I got out, more of the same happened. I spent the next year sleeping outside or at the Salina Mission. My life was going nowhere. I met another girl. I came to McPherson. During a stay in jail here, I heard about the Omega program. I also got a job in a local restaurant. The boss treated me good. There was another lady there. She kept talking about Circles. She kept hunting me down to talk to me about changing my life and getting clean, and God and a future. I went to the Omega house. I stayed clean for six months and joined Circles. I began saving money. I bought a computer. I got Allies-Gerry and Jay.
For the first time since I was a kid, I was clean, had a steady job, a church and was a part of something. I had men in my life I could look up to. I had relationships and goals. The first and only time I ever drove a car Gerry was there. Jay took me to his farm and taught me about milo and begun to teach me to weld. I looked up to both of them in different ways. Honestly, Gerry, is the first and only man, I had ever felt loved by. Jay spent time with me and showed me stuff “men” know. I needed them both. Yet, I was terrified I would let them down. So I did.
I relapsed on chemicals and the girlfriend. Next thing I knew, I was broke, homeless and screwed up again. I stopped going to Circles and seeing my allies. After my girlfriend sold all my stuff and then physically assaulted me, I went to find the lady from Circles. We talked. She told me I had to take time off until I was six months clean again. She suggested I go back to the Omega program. I saw the house leader of my house. He talked to me about grace and forgiveness and coming back. Not long after, I did.
Today, I have been clean for nine months. I am back in Circles and I am about to be hired permanently at a local factory. I work hard every day and walk to work at 4:30 every morning. I have goals. After I am hired permanently, I will have insurance and with a little bit of time I will be out of poverty.
Today, I have Circles, my Pastor, my house leader and soon I will have Allies again. I also have dreams. I want to learn to drive and get a license. I want to get a car. I want to be a welder and have a trade. And someday I want to open a martial arts studio and get kids like me off the street and into something positive. I want to give back. I guess telling my story is a start to that.
God has always loved me. I know He kept me alive because He has plans for my life. He is always with me. Now I have people too and I am learning to trust. I am a long ways from where I want to go. Most days I am still scared- yet I am learning not to run. I have Circles and the Omega program, it is a start.
I saw my mom a few months ago. She hugged me tight and told me she is proud of me. That felt good.
A Circle Leaders’ Story as told to Rebecca Lewis