Shalina revels in becoming a ‘present’ mother to her young daughter

Shalina grew up with both of her parents and two older brothers in Oxnard. “I had a great childhood,” she said. “We traveled, and I never heard my parents argue.”

She graduated from Oxnard High School and went off to Jobs Corps and received her certificate in medical administrative assistance. But when she returned from school, Shalina decided a job handling paperwork at a front desk didn’t appeal to her, and
she became a security guard. “I was working the graveyard shift and I began to use drugs, telling myself it was only for work,” she said. “I started hanging around the wrong people and fell more into drugs. “It got out of control and it started to take over. It got to the point where if I didn’t have it, I didn’t go to work.

“Before, I was happy. I was staying with my parents and I started avoiding them. I didn’t want them to see me. But they knew. People were telling them. I started sleeping in my car and I was out stealing.”

Shalina got pregnant when she was 25. “I used until I was five months pregnant and then stopped,” she said. “I was able to bring my child home. But I fell again and went back to drugs.” When her daughter’s father found out she was using, the couple separated. “I left and took my daughter with me,” Shalina said. “I was running the streets with my daughter. My mom would have her sometimes but then she stopped. She said, ‘I’m just enabling you. I’m not going to keep her anymore.’ I’d have to have her with me. I wasn’t enjoying myself. I’d look in the rear view mirror and she’d be there.

“I’d turned into the mother I’d never thought I’d be. I was homeless at that time. The last month and a half, my mom literally wouldn’t take her at all. She was with me every day. She was crying. She’d ask me, ‘Mom, where are we going?’ We would drive, with no destination, in the middle of the night. She slept with me in the car. I knew it had to stop. She was my motivation for getting help. I ended up coming to the Lighthouse. And that’s when my life changed.”

Shalina first went to a local, secular program. “I felt like I had somewhere to lay my head, but I wasn’t getting any tools to change my life—just tools to stay sober. When my time was up there, I heard about the Lighthouse. I was raised in the church—I was in the choir and went to church every Sunday. The faith-based (aspect of the program) was no problem for me.”

Shalina, now 30, got to the Lighthouse December 2nd. “They welcomed me immediately, and my daughter also,” she said. “The classes were amazing. My daughter was learning and praying, and she was raising her hand to answer questions before I even started to. I turned my life over to God and things began to fall into place for me.”

Shalina said her bond with daughter, Zei’yani, who will celebrate her 5th birthday in November, is stronger than ever. “My daughter and I have the best relationship,” she said. “I’m present now. I was there before, but I wasn’t ‘there.’ Even with my aunties and my brothers, they trust me again. I restored my relationship with my parents. Before I came here, our relationship was gone because of all the choices I had made. My parents were just done with me.”

Shalina graduated the Lighthouse program last month and has secured housing. She’s planning on going back to work as a security guard. “The doors are always open here, and the ladies are so loving,” Shalina said. “I needed to just turn everything over to God, and completely depend on him, and they helped me do that. It’s like family here. We are a family here.”