Women of Courage: Jana’s Story

By Carla McRee

Today’s Woman of Courage is Jana, a young woman who graduated from our Brentwood women’s recovery program this past October along with 5 other women. Because of the kindness of donors and volunteers, the encouragement of SG staff, and the grace of God, she has made big changes and is on her way to a new life.

Like many women who come to Shepherd’s Gate, Jana’s story turned tragic at a young age. As a young child, she saw things that forever shifted her ideas about what was “normal.” She saw abuse and was abused. An older cousin took advantage of her in the worst way possible when she was only ten years old. Drug use and promiscuity soon followed. When she was 14, Jana quit school and moved in with a man who was 19, only leaving after he was unfaithful several times. Then she began using meth. After leaving the man’s house, Jana moved back in with her grandparents and re-enrolled in school, eventually graduating. No one knew she was using drugs except her uncle, who was secretly manufacturing meth on the property and supplying her habit. It wasn’t until police raided her grandparents’ property — the only people who had really been there for her — that Jana kicked her habit and was clean for two years. The next decade was filled with ups and downs — and the downs were very destructive. For years at a time, Jana would get off drugs and into a semi-stable relationship — even attending church and trying to keep it together for her two young boys— but when her dysfunctional relationships crumbled, so did her resolve, and she’d return to using drugs again. For Jana, the breaking point came when she was trying once again to get things turned around. She was getting involved at church, and taking her two young sons along with her, but her boyfriend had lost his job and was beating her. Jana’s cousin Eli saw her at church and he said he knew something wasn’t right about her. “My heart dropped when he said that to me because I knew he was right. My cousin had become an awesome man of God. It made me feel like I needed to get out of the situation I was in.” Someone told Jana about Shepherd’s Gate’s programs for abused women in California, and she began calling once a day, every day, trying to get into our Brentwood or Livermore women’s shelter. Every day she would quietly pack up a few more belongings. When her boyfriend found out, he beat and choked her so violently that she ran from the house as he threw rocks at her.

Jana arrived at Shepherd’s Gate the very next day, and entered the Shepherd’s Gate Recovery program. It wasn’t easy, but she faithfully worked her way through our 12-step program, parenting classes, counseling, and life-skills classes. She says, “Here, I’ve found a relationship with God and a healthy relationship with my family. On a Wednesday night at church I saw my cousin Eli again and he said I was starting to look like me again. It made me feel so happy! I thank God every day for bringing me to Shepherd’s Gate.” Who is your Eli? Have you ever had a friend or family member say exactly what you needed to hear right at the moment you needed to hear it — and it helped make a big change in your life? Those moments are powerful, and we would love to hear your stories in the comments section below!

Carla McRee Associate Director, Shepherd’s Gate

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