An innocent, newborn baby…what, exactly, did Mikhayla do to deserve the cruel life she was given? Why did she have to endure a world of such pain few of us can fathom, from the day she was born? The ninth child in a hopelessly broken family, the cold, cruel answer is…nothing. Nothing at all. Like all children, her lot in life was not of her own choosing. Her innocence became irrelevant in the face of her mother’s severe drug addiction. Child Protective Services stepped in and separated her from a mother she knew for only a brief moment.
An endless circle of pain, this story however, started long before Mikhayla was conceived. Her mother, Alicia, was also born into a very frighteningly similar world of drugs, abuse and shattered confusion. Repeatedly molested at nine years of age (by her mother’s boyfriend), it wasn’t until her younger sister was also raped that she was able to gain the attention of a wary teacher who brought in the authorities. While this ended the physical abuse, her mother became convinced Alicia had lied, concocting her wild story only to gain attention. Ultimately, she turned her back completely on Alicia and shut the door behind her. Taken by Child Protective Services, Alicia was thrust into a whole new chapter of foster care and a dark, bottomless well of despair.
“It crushed the person I was,” admits Alicia. “I never smiled. I couldn’t laugh. I was just broken inside.”
By the time she turned thirteen, Alicia became pregnant. After an abortion, barely thirteen years old, she was considered one of the many hopeless cases and sent to a children’s receiving home to await whatever the State dictated was in her best interest. There was nothing for her. By the time she turned twenty she had already been married three times, given birth to two more children, and decided against another. Alcohol and methamphetamine became a daily diet, openly injecting herself in front of her children. Then, after a particularly severe beating by her drug-crazed husband, he was arrested and deported, leaving Alicia suddenly alone to feed and care for several children, with no roof over their head.
The rain continued to fall. Eight children later, her dark life accelerated, the addictions becoming hopelessly severe. With no education, no social, work or life skills, and no place to call home, Alicia spiraled out of control. While living on the streets by day, sleeping in shelters by night, it felt as though this burden could not possibly get any heavier…when Mikhayla was born. With no feasible means of caring for her, the authorities immediately whisked the baby away. Beyond devastation, Alicia crashed. Like a dead light bulb, life was over. She was finally finished.
“Most of my life, I felt someone or something was trying to kill me… I have these dreams of the Devil, tying me up, laughing…”
Alone and broken, Alicia entered Saint John’s eighteen-month program. It was the first step that would turn her entire world around and begin to provide her with tools she had never known. Life tools to help rebuild her world from the ground up. Counseling, schooling, training and job skills that, for the very first time, gave her the foundation and the strength to stand confidently on her own two feet. Best of all, due to the structure and success of the program around her, she was able to reunite with her daughter, Mikhayla.
After graduating from Saint John’s, Alicia persisted. She fought to maintain her growing accomplishments. Four years clean, sober and strong now, she has held down the same steady job, rewarded twice with promotions. She pays her own rent. She pays taxes. And something she never before could have imagined, she faithfully contributes to her own 401k. Steadily, brick by brick, Alicia has continued to build a new life. And that life now includes a real home…a warm, stable and loving place where young Mikhayla and sister Hillary are safe, nurtured and loved. The seemingly endless and desperate cycle of pain, one that would surely have destroyed them all…has been broken. Finally, now reunited with all nine of her children, they all are rebuilding their relationships, their family, and their lives.
David Flanagan serves on the Board with Saint John’s. He is a co-owner of Misfit, a California-based brand/marketing agency. He is also the co-owner of Red Rocket AutoTech in Sacramento and Folsom.