Erika’s Story

Erika “It’s been a long journey and a lot of hard work,” the mother of three says, calling Saint John’s Program for Real Change a real blessing.

Despite her seemingly tranquil nature, Erika, at age 30, has been haunted by fear for most of her life. Fear of going to school in aging, often unwashed clothing; fear of her mother’s frequent absences in search of the big win at the gaming tables; fear of being evicted from the family’s apartment; fear of the unknown. Living with fear became her accepted and habitual way of being.

One of four daughters, Erika grew up in a home with a mother addicted to gambling and drugs, and with a father who enabled her behavior. She often questioned whether this was the norm but was taught not to share her home life with classmates. Without anyone to share her disquietude, Erika became increasingly anxious about being anxious.

After losing her father at age 18, Erika met Anthony, hoping to find the stability of what she thought would be a “normal” Rockwellian American home. He introduced her to methamphetamine, and, over time, the relationship became turbulent, only growing more unsettling and physically abusive after her first child was born. He was controlling, manipulative, but Anthony was the drug breadwinner and so Erika held on. That is until he stabbed her one night, landing him in jail for a two-year stint. Then Erika’s mother died.

By then substance abuse had taken over Erika’s life. While drugs seemed to sustain her, she was actually spiraling downward. With two more kids from a second man, Erika was unable to pay her rent. Enter Child Protective Services: Erika went to jail for three days and her kids went into foster care.

That was Erika’s “rock bottom.”

Now with rehab and therapy behind her, Erika is healing with the support of Saint John’s. She is discovering herself…learning about healthy relationships, boundaries, budgeting and accountability. Two of her children are by her side; the oldest is under the care of his paternal grandparent, but her hope is that she will soon be reunited with him as well.

Erika’s fears and anxieties are ebbing, opening up new possibilities for her and her kids. She is studying for her high school diploma, and a new job is on the horizon.

As with so many of the women who enter Saint John’s red door, Erika is discovering hope in a safe and caring environment, a setting that is giving her the skills to resolve her inner conflicts, empowering her to fulfill her potential, and embracing her capacity for change and personal growth.

Blog by Guest Writer Laura Wendel , Saint John’s Program for Real Change Volunteer

Blog by Guest Writer Laura Wendel , Saint John’s Program for Real Change Volunteer

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