Ellen grew up with eight brothers and sisters. Her dad never took an active role in their lives, but her mom worked hard at a factory job to give her kids a better life. Yet like many young girls, Ellen struggled with low self-esteem. At 15, she began drinking, smoking pot and cutting classes.
“I always felt like I was in a hole, trying to get out,” she says. “But I also felt like there was something better for me because I had compassion for others.”
After high school she found work and began the life of a “functional addict.” At 20, she was introduced to cocaine, which provided an even deeper escape from her insecurities. At 27 she had a daughter, but her relationship with the father ended a few years later, and Ellen hit rock bottom.
“For the next 22 years, it was a battle to survive,” she recalls.
Her habit sometimes cost $100 a day. Sadly, thinking they were helping, her family enabled her destructive lifestyle by lending her money to pay bills and take care of her daughter’s needs. But she squandered away their generosity on drugs.
Finally her addiction broke her down. She lost her job and was being evicted from her home. At 49 years old, she decided to end her life. She overdosed on pills and woke up on the floor of her dark apartment, knowing she really didn’t want to die.
“Lord, help me!” she called out.
Suddenly her phone lit up and she hit the last number she had dialed. A friend answered and sent help to her door. When she was released from the hospital, she came to Rockford Rescue Mission . . . and found the power of change in our Life Recovery Program.
“I was just so tired. I really wanted to learn how to live again, and I knew I had to surrender my life completely,” she says. “The people at the Mission started loving me until I started to love myself.” Then she accepted, God’s love too. “I learned to put God first in my life. I know now I am His beloved child and He is with me always.”
Ellen graduated from our program in 2011. She has a good job, belongs to a church and feels blessed by the wonderful relationship she has with her daughter. She’s on the board of Credo—a Christian-based recovery program that holds retreats for addicts—and hopes to one day have her own ministry that helps women embrace the power of change.
“If it weren’t for Rockford Rescue Mission, I would still be struggling to figure out the purpose for my life,” she says. “I had been walking around like I was dead. Now I have a new life in Christ. My life is so wonderful now. I have joy, joy, joy — and without joy, there’s nothing!”