Crystal’s father died when he was just 24, leaving behind a 21-year-old wife and three young daughters, ages 3, 5 and 6. “He had a heart attack, and all of my sisters and I were present when he passed away,” Crystal said. “It was tough. There was a lot of trauma from the beginning.”
Crystal rebelled in her teen years. Her mother had remarried and had two more children, and as the oldest, Crystal was often charged with looking after her siblings. “I felt like I was being stripped of my childhood,” she said. “There was always a reason I couldn’t go out. So I started missing school to hang out with friends.”
When she was 15, Crystal met her future husband. He was 16. At 18, they moved in together and she got pregnant with their first daughter. This is when the domestic violence started. At 20, she had their son. “When I was 22, I began to try drugs,” Crystal said. “My husband did it, and I wanted to fit in with him. I wanted him to be home, not out with other women or with his friends. The shoving then moved to emotional abuse, which hurt more than the physical.”
Crystal moved from doing drugs occasionally to try and fit into her husband’s life, to using whether he was home or not. When she got pregnant again at 26, Crystal quit, but fell back into addiction after the birth. Now 31, Crystal said she intended to leave her husband many times. “I tried leaving, but there were always promises of being better. I always thought we would do better eventually.”
Crystal found out she was pregnant with her fourth child in 2018 and quit cold turkey while her husband was in jail. “I found a job and was a pregnant, single mother of three—and I was supporting him in jail. When he got out, it looked like we were going to do good. But he relapsed, and a month later, I did too. I lost all sense of control and all function. It was a sink hole of emotion and detachment. I wasn’t a mom. I wasn’t a person.
“I thought we were soulmates. I was grasping for this person. His abuse was changing. I had to ask permission to go to the bathroom. If he said I couldn’t go out, I wouldn’t.
I wanted to make him happy. I was conditioned. There was no outside world. It was his world, telling me how we were going to be happy.”
In May 2019, Crystal had enough. Her sister and mother watched her kids while she went to a program. “I left everything I knew to start something different. I knew it would be better, I just didn’t know how. I thank God every day. I prayed and I prayed, even in my worst addiction. I knew there was more God had for me. I knew he was what was going to keep me from killing myself, from losing hope entirely. I don’t remember anyone instilling faith in me, but I’ve always had it.”
When Crystal got out of her program, she and her kids came to the mission. “Not having a place to live, that’s humbling. But everyone here is so invested in us. There is not one person who works here who I can’t talk to. We all have different hurts, traumas, healing processes. They are trying to meet each person’s criteria differently.”
Crystal said she’s most thankful to have a bed to sleep in. “I’ve been on the floor for so long. We’ve lived in a shed in the past. We’ve slept in the car, on couches everywhere. The bed and the peace and quiet, it’s such a relief to have that. It doesn’t hurt your back, and you have energy when you wake up. I take six busses a day to get the kids to school, to the babysitter, and me to work. And to know people donated so families like us can sleep on a bed, that’s what I’m mostly grateful for.
“Everyone here has been a blessing and I thank God for them. Literally, I’m like a baby wanting to cry. In my addiction, I’d never go to sleep. To be here in a bed, going to sleep with my kids, that’s all I want.”