After Joanna graduated from a local high school she started her college classes, but soon got distracted. “I didn’t stay in school,” she said. “I started partying too much. I got distracted from my actual goals. I was working as an administrative assistant, and I decided I’d rather work, and I’d rather party, than go to school.”
Joanna had her first child at 25. “It’s been a pretty rocky,” she said. “It’s a new experience taking care of someone else, not just myself.” To make it more difficult, Joanna struggled with drugs. A Child Protective Services case was opened due to a child endangerment charge in 2016. “It was drug related,” Joanna said. Her child was 2. She went to the Lighthouse shelter at the time, and entered the program for a month before transferring to a local secular program.
“That program helped in the moment, but I didn’t have a foundation or anything to lean on,” she said. “(Narcotics Anonymous) didn’t work for me either. I had learned how to live sober (for periods of time), but not how to change my lifestyle. I worked. I didn’t have any healthy ‘me time.’ You can only do that for so long before relapsing.
“In my relapse, I remembered the Lighthouse and that it was faith based. I decided to come here and get help, a different type of help. From when I came here in 2016, a seed had been planted in me. Also, I really felt like I wanted to recover my life. I found myself pregnant again and came back.”
Joanna’s life has changed. “I learned to trust God, something I didn’t know how to do when I first got here,” she said. “I didn’t trust anyone. I just knew I needed help. I just knew God could help me. I can now say I love the Lord. I never imagined I’d get to this point. My heart is in it this time.
“I now have a stable place to call home. This is where I want to be. I feel I have a renewal of the mind. It’s amazing. I didn’t know it was going to happen to me, all the changes that have taken place. It’s all God. I don’t find myself contemplating all the negative things. I leave it to the Lord—I know he’s got it.”
To Joanna’s surprise, she has really enjoyed the biblical counseling. “It’s a different approach,” she said. “I’ve had therapists assigned to me before, and I’m not comfortable. I never go back for a second meeting, or definitely not a third. But here, I look forward to my one-on-ones. The approach is biblical, and that works for me.
“I grew up Catholic so I have some (religious) foundation. With my counselor, the focus has been on learning how to trust God. The different assignments she gives me, they’re more personal, but I don’t feel judged when I open up to her. That definitely helps. It’s nice to be able to get things out. To trust in someone who believes in the Lord.”
Joanna recently had her baby son, Jacob. “All of the sisters welcomed us home and have supported us,” she said. “There is such a sisterhood. I was scared to make friends in the church—now I’m excited. It’s so different, learning to lean on him. Now that I trust him, I don’t have the same anxiety. I don’t feel the fear creeping in. I know how to reach out to him.”
Joanna’s older son, Izaak, is 6. He lives with her mom during the week and comes over on the weekends. Jacob is with her at the Lighthouse.
“I really feel like I’m getting a second chance at my life, to become a new creation in Christ,” she said. “It really is real, if you really genuinely believe it in your heart like I do. I don’t dwell on the past like I did. I’m so grateful to everyone, to the donors—they are really giving us a fresh start.”
Joanna is set to graduate at the end of the year and plans to move on to the Transitional Living Program.