Round and round and round we go. So many of our clients at Saint John’s, women who are trapped in a vicious cycle of addiction, abuse and poverty, women who were raised in families wrought with domestic violence, crime, substance abuse, mental illness and dysfunction, are desperate for a way out. Breaking this cycle is no small feat, one that may be insurmountable for many, but at Saint John’s, women begin to see a way up and out.

Such is the case for Nila N., raised by parents who are addicts, her father diagnosed with schizophrenia and now in prison, her mom also serving time for check fraud; three siblings, all addicts and suffering mental health challenges of their own. Nila’s mom never brought her to school, nor to the dentist; she assumed the role of “the parent” at age 10, taking care of her mom and her siblings, became an addict herself at age 13, and the caregiver of her newborn sister at age 16 when her mom couldn’t cope.

“Saint John’s is like a sanctuary for me – there is no arguing, no yelling, no screaming.”

Nila’s journey as an adult, up until six months ago, was a rinse and repeat of her upbringing. Suffering from severe depression, a debilitating addiction to heroin and mental, physical and sexual abuse, living place to place and car to car, CPS eventually stepped in and removed her four children from her custody to be cared for by relatives. The writing was on the wall.

“I cried for God to help me,” remembers Nila. “I didn’t know where to turn, I was ready to give up, but He showed me the way. I am now, for the first time in my life, understanding God’s purpose, and I’m focusing on getting myself as healthy as I can be.”

Sober now for six months, the first time since age 13, Nila is inspired by her “sobriety sisters” in the program, and for the first time in her life, she is learning about structure, adhering to a schedule, creating and maintaining a budget, how to be a good parent, what a healthy relationship looks like, how to manage anger and how to live sober. She is attending school at Saint John’s on-site Highlands Community Charter School, and has just 30 credits left to earn her high school diploma. She is Facetiming with her children Alina (11), Khaleesi (6), Kin (5) and Arthur (4) during the pandemic, and looks forward to reuniting with them later this summer.

“God does what we can’t do for ourselves,” says Nila. “He has given me the chance to have my children back in my life. Saint John’s is showing me how. It’s hard work, but I’m committed to succeed.”

By Sue Cawdrey, Grants and Communications Manager, Saint John’s Program for Real Change

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