How Desiree found the strength to make a change
Desiree grew up on the Maple Plain Reservation outside of Cumberland, Wisconsin as part of one of the Ojibwa Tribes. Her mother was very young when Desiree was born, so much of her upbringing came at the hands of her very traditional grandmother. Desiree was sheltered, rarely leaving the reservation and depending on her grandmother to teach her all she would need to know.
"She taught me how to be a woman," Desiree shares. "She taught me how to cook and take care of kids, and she made sure I understood what it meant to be a Native American. When she died, my whole world died."
Unsure of how to navigate the world without her grandmother, Desiree got married and started a family of her own. Her four children were born over the next few years, but as her relationship with her husband deteriorated, Desiree began to grow apart from her husband. Eventually, he asked for a divorce and rather than put her family through a custody battle, Desiree gave him their children and left.
"I believed him when he told me that I wasn't a good mom," she says, shaking her head. "It's one of the biggest regrets that I have, but I let him have the kids. After that, I just spiraled into alcohol and partying."
On Her Own
Desiree was on her own for the frst time in her life. She had a good job in a casino, enrolled in college classes, and embraced life as a single woman. Soon, she had a steady source of income, partly from her job and partly from a much darker source.
"I knew how to sell drugs," she says. "It was common on the reservation, and that's what I would do. Work during the week, then spend the weekend drinking and partying."
Soon, Desiree's lifestyle came crashing to a halt. She got a DWI, ended up in jail and lost her job. She dropped out of school, and to continue to support herself, Desiree returned to selling drugs. Unfortunately, this time, she also began using them.
Desiree developed an addiction that she's battled for the last several years. To distract herself from her situation, she got involved with a man half her age who turned out to be physically abusive.
"I had never had a man punch me before. But soon I had black eyes, a broken nose… I was lying to my friends, hiding from my kids, and still I felt that I needed him. People tried to help me; they wanted me to come live with them because they saw what was happening, but I always found my way back to him. Finally, I just stopped caring."
The Last Straw
Desiree's drug use increased steadily. Her family cut off contact with her, and with only her boyfriend as company, she was isolated and afraid. Finally, she took all the drugs she had and sat outside on her deck waiting to die.
"Nothing mattered to me anymore. Not my kids, not anything. But while I was there, I felt like someone was talking to me, saying, 'What are you doing?'
"I was really out of it, but I realized that I didn't want to die. I didn't want my kids to cry for me, so I packed up my stuff, and I spent a week on my friends couch. Once that week was up, I called Hope Gospel Mission.
"I didn't know it was a Christian place, but the person I spoke to said, 'You need help. We can help you, but you've got to make the choice.' I told her I was ready and that was it. I got my bag of clothes and I decided to stay."
Desiree's first few months here were a blur as she went through withdrawal and struggled to manage another chronic health condition. Her previous relationships had left her depressed and fearful, and for the first time, she realized how sick she truly was. But eventually, her body — and her mind — began to heal.
Though she had no real knowledge of the Lord, God began to work on her heart as she went through the program. She found herself surrounded by people who truly cared about her, and her growing relationship with Christ helped restore her self-worth. Eventually, Desiree gave her heart to Him.
"God found a way to me somehow. He loves me and He has forgiven me, and if it wasn't for that love, I couldn't have made this journey. I just knew I had to open my heart and let Him in."
Just Do It!
Today, Desiree is sober, and she's busy making plans for her future. She hopes to have her own food truck so she can sell foods like the ones her grandmother used to cook for her, and she's happily reunited with her children. She even has some advice for those who are in the same situation she was once in.
"The only way you're going to get better is to realize how much your life means. So when you come to the Mission and you need to go to school or church or do whatever they ask you to do here, just do it!
"When they teach you about character or talk to you about
work, just listen. God brought you here. He saved your life, and
He has a purpose for you.
"I was tired of crying. Tired of being sad. I spent so much
time thinking that no one cared about me. If it weren't for the
people here, I would just be another statistic," she says. "I've been
to treatment and I've been to jail, and I've never felt the love and
the encouragement that I've felt here."
"It was time to change," she smiles, "and that's what Hope
Gospel Mission did for me."
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