Kids are full of wishes, hopes, and dreams – especially around Christmas time. Many of us can remember staring at all the brightly colored presents under the tree, hoping against hope one of them was that special gift.
That wasn’t the case for Nicole. Her heart’s desire couldn’t be found under a tree. It wasn’t something that could be purchased and wrapped in a box.
“I would see other kids who had moms and dads,” she remembers, “and that’s all I wanted – a family that was stable.”
Every year she was disappointed. Every year, the decisions that were made for her and eventually, the decisions she made for herself, pushed that dream further and further from her grasp.
That is, until God’s grace and your support converged to give Nicole a gift she had long given up as impossible.
Nicole’s family was torn apart from the get go, long before she had a chance to experience the meaning of the word.
When she and her brother were still small, their mother was murdered in a domestic violence situation by an angry boyfriend. Her father, who was in prison for selling drugs, couldn’t offer any support.
“We were shifted from one family member to another,” remembers Nicole. “We didn’t know what was going on, but we knew enough that we felt the rejection.”
Time and again, she remembers suffering physical and emotional abuse at the hands of distant relatives. It was incredibly painful. But she did her best not to let it show. She wanted to be strong.
But stuffing all that emotional hurt inside turned Nicole into an angry, rebellious young girl. During her teenage years, she was in and out of jail for fighting and truancy. Her home life was a train wreck. But it was at 18, when she turned to drugs for support, that Nicole checked out completely.
“I just couldn’t stop. There was this craving, this phenomenal craving that was so powerful. I told myself, I’m going to get over this in a week or a couple of months. Just let me enjoy myself for now. But it didn’t turn out like that. I ended up running around in the streets. I was couch surfing, living in hotels, doing drugs, drinking every day.”
The desire to keep the pain at bay was so overwhelming that when she had her first kids, two daughters, she abandoned them with their father to continue to chase the party lifestyle. Years went by. In her mid-twenties she had two more children, this time two sons. Both were taken by the Department of Child Safety [DCS] at birth because of her addiction. Nicole had another daughter in 2016, Madison. Yet again, DCS took her child.
“I went back to doing drugs and a couple months later I was pregnant with my youngest son, Ray, from a different guy. My life was out of control.”
But there was something different about this pregnancy. Nicole soon began bleeding. Small amounts at first, but eventually it was enough to send her to the emergency room.
“I ended up having Ray at 26 weeks. When it happened, my bladder burst, my body went into shock, I needed blood transfusions, I thought I was going to die. I reached out to God and repented for what I had done, I told Him I wanted my kids to live a happy life. I asked him to forgive me. Then I felt the overwhelming presence of God. I woke up three days later.”
When she woke, she felt changed.
“I saw Ray fighting for his life in the hospital, connected to all the tubes and everything, and I knew I couldn’t be selfish anymore. He was fighting for his life… why couldn’t I fight for mine? The only people I had to go back to outside the hospital were my old using buddies. I didn’t want to go back there. So I reached out for help. One of the counselors pointed me to the Phoenix Rescue Mission.“
Thanks to your support, Nicole’s life turned a corner that day, and she’s never looked back.
“It’s changed my life! I was able to work through the trauma from my childhood. Phoenix Rescue Mission helped me get my kids back. They advocated in court for me and wrote letters. It took a year, but I finally got them back!”
I’ve learned how to be a good parent here, how to create routines for my kids, how to pray together and have family dinners.
“We plan out family activities once a month. We go to church together. It’s a lot different from what I grew up with. Everything is centered around God.“
Today she’s sober, a graduate of our recovery program, and a graduate of our rigorous Servant Leadership Program. And she’s busy! In addition to taking care of two adorable children, she volunteers her time as a table captain for Celebrate Recovery and she has a position at Community Bridges, helping the homeless find housing. But that’s not all.
“I’m going back to school in January, I’m enrolled at Phoenix College to start doing my general studies in preparation for either nursing or counseling, where I can apply my behavioral health training and my peer support specialist certificate I received while I was here.”
Nicole has a bright future ahead of her. But even better, she finally has what her little heart desired all those years ago, thanks to friends like you – a real, stable, and healthy family she can call her own.
Thank you for the support that makes stories of transformation like this possible. On behalf of us all at Phoenix Rescue Mission, we wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas!