Giselle grew up in the Colonia area of Oxnard, not too far from the Lighthouse. She started experimenting with drugs when she was 17, met her first love at 18, and they had a son at 19. “Everything was good until he was 2 or 3,” she said. “We started having arguments, and we separated. I was using drugs, but discretely. My partner didn’t know. But when we separated, I went deeper into drugs.”
Giselle continued to take care of her son, but when her parents got home from work in the evenings, she’d leave the house and not return until the next morning. “My son’s father stepped in and took him. I spiraled deeper into addiction. And I’ve been using drugs heavily ever since.”
For the next several years, Giselle would put together a few months of sobriety, but would always relapse. Last year, she moved in with a boyfriend and became pregnant. “It didn’t work out, so I moved back home,” she said. “I relapsed. I neglected the care of my whole pregnancy. I only went to the doctor’s once. I was drinking heavily.”
At eight months pregnant, Giselle started noticing pain and numbness in her arm, as well as swelling in her legs. She was diagnosed with preeclampsia and was hospitalized for the duration of her pregnancy. “They told me it could literally lead to death for my daughter and me,” Giselle said.
Giselle gave birth to her daughter, Alexa, in November. Because of her previous drug use, her child was put into foster care. “They came and got her and I broke down,” she said. “I grasped for God. There was a pastor there, and I asked for prayer. I asked God with all my heart to help me. I didn’t want to spiral down back into my old behavior. He gave me peace. He gave me strength.”
Giselle went home for a week before entering the Lighthouse. “I came here broken,” she said. “I prayed; I humbled myself; I hit my knees and asked God to restore me and help strengthen me and straighten me. He has. Every time I walk out these doors I see old friends. I could walk down the street and get high. But he gave me the strength and I chose to stay.”
Alexa joined Giselle at the Lighthouse less than three months later. She’s now 6 months old and crawling. Giselle has also reestablished a relationship with her 10-year-old son, Angel, who lives down the street with his dad. “He comes every Saturday to visit me,” Giselle said. “I love him so much. And I’ve always loved him. I was in my addiction and I just wasn’t seeing clearly. But he was always in my heart.”
Giselle used to have fears about being back in her old neighborhood. “Now, I can go for walks around my own neighborhood and people see me—not the drunk Giselle, or the drug-addict Giselle. They see the mom Giselle, the self-controlled Giselle. I hope this helps other people to see there is a way out. It’s just a matter of opening our hearts and accepting him.
“This is my home, for now, so I can get on my feet. Everything is taken care of for us until we are stable and stronger in our faith. It nourishes our souls. We are broken when we get here and this place heals us immensely. It’s an opportunity for women like us, who are on the streets or addicts or moms who have lost their kids, to have another chance. It’s never too late.”