Reliving life

Women learn to move forward from past in Rahab’s program

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Crystal Henderson’s life changed when she moved into her room at Rahab’s Retreat and Ranch a year ago, ending a life of drug addiction and abuse.

After getting knocked down to her lowest point and losing her kids, Henderson has found new life at the facility and is one of the facility’s first graduates.

Henderson successfully completed rehab in the fall of 2016 – her second attempt – but it would be another four months before she could find her new home in Kilgore.

“It was supposed to open a week after I got out of rehab, but they didn’t get the certificate of occupancy for four months,” she said. During that time, she stayed clean, but her case worker at Child Protective Services kept telling Henderson she needed to just pick a home because it was starting to reflect negatively. “I was like, ‘I can’t. I have to go to this one. God’s told me I have to go to this one.’ I knew for a fact I had to. I’ve never heard anything more clearly in my whole life than God telling me to come here.”

Scared, Henderson walked through the doors last January and found her room, decorated by volunteers in the months leading up to the facility’s opening.

“It’s not just about recovery here. It’s about life recovery. It’s changing everything,” she said. “My foundation was wrong. My foundation was on drugs; that’s how I dealt with life. They give us a spiritual foundation, and they teach us to renew our thoughts. They teach us to go to God in prayer and keep positive communication with him. They taught us how to completely relive life.”

There was some tension when the first group of women moved into the Stone Road home, each bringing with them their own history and struggles. Over the last year, though, they have formed their own family, Henderson said.

“Now I love them. I would give them the shirt off my back if I had to,” she said. “You just love them like God wants you to love them.”

With her parents living in Van and Flint, Henderson said, Kilgore represents a new start for her and her two sons.

“I love Kilgore. I’m not sure I want to leave Kilgore,” she said, with a laugh. “I don’t have a past history down here. When I go home, I see things, and I’m like, ‘I did this here.’ Especially when I go to my dad’s, I did so many drugs there. It gives me this [disgusted] feeling. Here it’s all clean, all of it.”

When she was eight years old, Henderson’s parents divorced, and by the time she was 12, she was smoking and drinking. Her introduction to drugs came a few years later when her mom had a “mental breakdown” and Henderson went to live with a friend.

“At 15, my mom stopped taking care of us and we didn’t have anywhere to go. So I went to live with my friend. Her parents did drugs; they let us party and stuff like that. I remember crying on top of the bunk bed and wondering why my mom didn’t want to take care of me,” she said. “And her mom comes in with this meth on this tin foil with a straw and was like, ‘Do this, I can’t see you in here crying anymore; do this to make you feel better.’ So I learned at a young age to cope with drugs.”

She continued to use meth for four years before overdosing at age 19 when her family sent her to live with her brother in Tennessee where he worked as an Army recruiter.

In Tennessee, Henderson said, she “sobered up,” to where she was only smoking marijuana, which she did not consider a drug at the time.

“I was doing pretty good, and I met my oldest son’s dad,” she said.

They drank while she was pregnant and she smoked marijuana throughout the pregnancy, thanking God now that her son was born without any problems. A few months after her son Blaise was born, though, she found pain pills, which led to her shooting up morphine.

“I was strung out worse than ever,” she said. “I lost everything, and ended up living in a motel.” With no any other options, Henderson continued living in an abusive relationship. “They came to my work. I managed to work that whole time somehow because I needed the money to feed my addiction.”

Her parents brought her back to East Texas, only for the summer they said, but it was a much more permanent move.

“They had no intentions of taking me back because they knew I was strung out,” she said.

Unable to use morphine, Henderson went through withdrawals but said her parents didn’t notice because she was still recovering from gall bladder surgery. She then turned to meth again.

It was during this time she became pregnant with her second son Carson, and, again, smoked marijuana throughout.

“Luckily, Carson’s perfect; nothing’s wrong with him, thank you Jesus,” she said. “I had Carson and still as soon as I had him I was shooting up, doing drugs. I would pretty much do any drug that you put in front of me. I was just an all-out drug addict.”

Henderson’s dad saw what was happening, she said, and called Child Protective Services to remove the children from the situation.

“So at 2 o’clock in the morning, they came and took Carson out of his playpen and gave him to my dad, and Blaise was already with my dad,” she said. “Of course I tried to clean up. I didn’t do a good job of it for a year and a half. I kept relapsing.”

Henderson tried to go to rehab, but was kicked out and couldn’t go back for another three months due to the wait. After leaving another abusive relationship to stay with her mom, Henderson said, she continued using drugs surreptitiously.

Once the three months were finished, Henderson returned to rehab with a different mindset.

“I shot up the last time in the parking lot, I went in, and I was ready to be done,” she said. “I wanted my kids back. I was tired of the life. I was officially done… The second time I went into rehab, I was completely different than the first time. The first time I was just rebellious; I wasn’t ready for it. The second time, I embraced it.”

After four months at Rahab’s Retreat, Henderson got Blaise and Carson back, but her dad remains primary managing conservator.

“My kids are my rock,” she said. “They pulled me out of such a dark place.”

As 2017 turned to 2018, Henderson was celebrating one year and four months of sobriety and will begin her second semester at Kilgore College this month. Studying medical diagnostic sonography, she earned a 4.0 GPA last semester.

“This place has completely changed my life, and I am so grateful to be here,” she said. “It’s really just a reminder of where I don’t want to go ever again. You want to walk away from your past, but you don’t want to forget – you can’t forget – because you have to learn from your mistakes. Being away from my kids, and as much as it hurt and I was self-medicating with drugs, but it wasn’t filing that hole that my kids filled. Having them here now, I will never go back to how I used to live – never. It won’t happen, but I know I have to keep God with me to stay that way.”

As new women enter Rahab’s Retreat, Henderson said, she understands them and what they are suffering. She also sees them growing as they continue the program, which includes three phases consisting of Bible classes, parenting classes for whom it applies and, finally, attending school and earning their GED or college degrees and certificates. It is only during the final phase that the women are able to have access to their phones and leave the facility without a chaperone.

If she had not surrendered to God in the parking lot of the rehab center that day and had instead gone back out, continuing the life she was living, she said, she does not know where she might be.

“I wouldn’t trade my past for anything because I’ve learned so much from it. I’ve learned to take advantage of the opportunities that I have. When you surrender to God, He opens your eyes and shows you how it’s supposed to be and then you go for it. I’m just blessed. I’m blessed all the way around. Everywhere I look I’m blessed, and I love it. I’m thankful and grateful for this place,” she said.

She is one of the original women who began the yearlong program Jan. 13, 2017. Now, they celebrate the completion of their first year in the program Saturday.

Their journey is not finished, though.

After completing the program, the women can stay at the facility, rent and childcare free, while they finish school. Henderson plans to continue living at Rahab’s Retreat until she completes her bachelor’s degree and can support her family.

“This is home. It’s nice to have a place to call home,” she said. “That stability is something I’ve never experienced, even growing up. My family, they split up and then we’d move and nothing was ever home… It’s nothing like I’ve ever experienced. It’s that home I’ve always wanted.”

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