Julie can trace back to the time in her life when things took a dark turn. Although her “family was very dysfunctional” and her household was “chaotic from the beginning,” Julie said it was when a relative began to molest her that she was truly shook to the core. She started drinking at 14.
“The alcohol would numb me—my feelings and emotions,” she said. “I used to think that the molestation wasn’t a huge part of my story, but it is in fact a huge part. It doesn’t matter the extent (of the molestation)—even if it was just waking up to him lying next to me, touching my body parts. That’s still serious and you don’t do things like that to people.
“That’s when I started not wanting to be home anymore. I was ditching school all the time, drinking, getting suspended. I finally ended up telling my brother what was happening, but the pain was still living inside me.”
At 15, Julia started using meth, and eventually she dropped out of high school. “I thought I could control it,” she said. “But looking back on my life, I see I wasted 11 years. I wasted all that time with nothing to show for it.”
At 18, Julia met her daughter’s father and she found out she was pregnant the next year. After staying sober throughout her pregnancy, she began to use again a month after Mariah was born, as she was struggling with postpartum depression. “My drug use spiraled,” she said. “I hit rock bottom.”
The couple fought often. “He was really verbally and emotionally abusive for a lot of our relationship so I always had to be ‘the tough one’ and protect myself the only two ways I knew how, verbally or physically. I was abusive towards him just as much as he was towards me. Our toxic relationship was getting worse. I was hurt and angry like I had been a lot of my life and it showed.”
The two split after seven years. Julie was a medical technician, but was in between jobs often due to being “too high or hungover,” she said. She and her family lost their home after her mom got cancer.
“We were bouncing around, dealing with homelessness for years,” Julie said. “My mom and brothers and I slept in the car, and Mariah would sleep at her grandmother’s (her father’s mother) house. I wasn’t welcome there most of the time. I was repeating the same cycle of raising my daughter in chaos.”
In 2019, Julie’s oldest brother, a San Diego police officer, was hit by a car and died. Her drug use intensified. Later she found out she had a warrant out for her arrest for not showing up to court in the past. She was arrested again after a night of drinking. “No matter what I couldn’t get things right. I was feeling so helpless and hopeless.
“It was the trauma of going through postpartum, being homeless, my mother getting sick … I felt lonely all the time. I was in and out of shelters. I burned a lot of bridges. Mariah’s dad began to threaten to take her. I knew I needed help.”
Last year, Julie, while intoxicated, stole her mom’s car and crashed it. “The accident made me realize that God had always been with me,” she said. “I didn’t get hurt.” She was facing several charges, but the judge agreed to Julie’s request to enter the Lighthouse program.
“When I came into program, I was angry at myself and took it out on others,” said Julie. “I am learning not everything needs a reaction and it's so important to be mindful, especially when you have no idea what someone else is going through.”
Julie’s tough persona has changed. “I needed to stop that when I came here because I didn’t have to protect myself from God. I needed to surrender and eventually that's what I did. I give it all to God. He knows us, everything about us, and accepts us, loves us and always forgives us.
“I still have days I fall short with my anger but I'm quick to correct myself and always apply God’s word into my life, and more importantly, my heart.”
Julie graduated from the Life Recovery Program last month on her daughter’s 7th birthday. She’s now in the Lighthouse’s transitional housing and will be an intern. “I am excited to give back the same love and support that has been shown to me throughout my program,” she said. “We're a house of women eager for change and I can't wait to see other ladies transform their lives.”
Julie said the program has not only impacted her own life, but her daughter’s too. “My daughter is so proud of me,” said Julie, who added that Mariah seems to have a special gift of feeling when others are hurting. “She walks over to some of the ladies here and just hugs on them or holds their hand. She feels when others are sad. She has a gift. She is so gentle. She deserves the best because she is the best.
Mariah sings songs and works on her memory Bible verses. “I am so happy she has the seed of God planted in her life,” Julia said. “I never had that. … But now, I see how far I’ve gotten in a year. God deserves all the credit, and the Lighthouse led me to Him. I am getting a lot of healing here. My mind, body and soul is being healed. It’s a process but life is a process. I have been transform, renewed and delivered.”