When Jacki, 25, found out she was pregnant, she was already three months along. Her fear was immediate—she’d been using meth, and she was worried for her unborn child. Jacki quit that day and remained clean for almost six months, until temptation overwhelmed her.
“On October 15, 2017, I took one hit and I went into labor,” said Jacki, tears running down her face. “He wasn’t supposed to be born yet. The way it happened, it was just … I think it was God.”
Jacki was beside herself with regret, fearful for her baby, and tearfully apologizing to her boyfriend that they wouldn’t be able to take their son home. “I knew that when you test positive for drugs in the hospital, they take your baby immediately,” she said. “I thank God to this day that I got to leave the hospital with my son.”
Baby Jack was clean, but Jacki tested positive for meth. A Child Protective Services worker helped her find the Lighthouse, where Jacki and her son moved in after he was released from the NICU. “That was his first home,” Jacki said. “They blessed me there with everything I needed. I never thought I would be able to enter a program—I’m not used to structure or being around a lot of people. … Now I know God had a plan for me.”
Jacki was born and raised in Ventura County, mostly living with her Dad and stepmom. In her teens, she moved in with her mom at a family friend’s home. She graduated from high school and had her first son, Isaiah, in 2011. She started using meth with her ex, Isaiah’s father, about five years ago, and for the past two years, also used with her mother. “It’s not a healthy relationship,” she said. “I love her to death because she’s my mom and I don’t blame her for letting me use, I just wish I had more guidance and discipline. I feel like … I know she loved me, but she didn’t care enough to consider the consequences.”
Last year, while she was pregnant, Jacki had to move out of their home. When she became homeless, she signed over guardianship of Isaiah to her sister-in-law, where he still lives. After Jack was born and they spent some time at the Lighthouse Emergency Shelter, Jacki officially entered the recovery program.
“Everyone was so welcoming. They wanted to know about me—not about my personal business—but if I was comfortable, if I was feeling at home—they were so friendly and nice and caring. From day one they were praying for me, praying that I had the strength to stay here.”
Jacki said the environment has changed her. “I’m used to always having to stick up for myself, always having to be defensive. And here I can just be myself. It’s the only place that I’ve ever felt comfortable and loved. I’ve never had those two things together at the same time.”
Jacki’s boyfriend, who quit using when their son was born, picks up Jack before she starts her day in the kitchen, where she and some others serve lunch and dinner to 60 women every day. He drops Jack off after dinner and also keeps him during the weekends, so Jacki has time for her chores and to go to church. She is hopeful that after she graduates and finds a place of her own, Isaiah can come home to her. “It feels good to be appreciated and do things that would make God proud,” Jacki said. “I’m so used to making bad decisions and now I’m focused and being responsible. All the good traits in me that I didn’t know I had are now coming out.”