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“I’m proof that it’s possible to recover. It’s a lot of work, but if you’re ready to do the work, I’m ready to back you up.”

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By Christina Hernandez

I witnessed the murder of my partner when I was four months pregnant. After my son was born, I fell into a deep depression. I started to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.

I’d never been in trouble before, not even as a teen. But after my partner’s death, I hit rock bottom. I became homeless. I would leave my kids with my mom for weeks at a time while I slept in my car. Then I got arrested and went to jail on a drug charge. Child Protective Services (CPS) opened a case against me and placed my kids with my mom.

My son had told his teacher, “We slept in the car.” It broke my heart to read that

When I was in jail, I received the papers from CPS. I read about how my kids were questioned. My son had told his teacher, “We slept in the car.” It broke my heart to read that. Throughout my time in jail, I kept the CPS report close to me and read it every day. It was the fuel I needed to turn my life around.

After I was released, I had to complete a court-ordered addiction treatment program, which took seven months. My kids could visit me at the program, but they couldn’t sleep there. It was really hard to be separated from them. When I finally got my kids back, it felt like my greatest achievement.

Therapy was a big part of my recovery. I had to work on myself. I also sought out communities: I joined groups that helped me forge healthy friendships, like The Healing Circle, a community for families that have been victims of homicide. I also joined support groups at the Homeless Prenatal Program, a nonprofit that works to end childhood poverty and homelessness.

But even as I got treatment, I still faced huge practical challenges. I had to find work after a ten-year gap on my resume. For months, I didn’t have a car. Every day, my kids and I spent three hours on buses to and from school.

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My life changed two years ago, when I got a job at the Homeless Prenatal Program I attended. They trained me to become a community health worker. They guided me back to school, and now I’m working toward my California Association for Alcohol/Drug Educators certification.

When you’re recovering from addiction, it’s important to stay busy. It gives you responsibilities to meet and goals to work toward. 

I’m in school two nights a week, I have my job, and I take my kids to all their activities. My daughter’s a cheerleader and my boys play football. One of my sons does boxing. Even when I’m tired after school, I’ll rally us both to get to the gym. Keeping my kids motivated helps me stay motivated.

I’ve grown professionally at Homeless Prenatal, and I now lead a support group that I used to attend as a participant. It’s for parents who have open CPS cases. It’s so rewarding to see their progress. I let people know from the very beginning that there’s no judgment in the room. They know that I had my own case, too. I’m proof that it’s possible to recover. I tell them, “It’s a lot of work, but if you’re ready to do the work, I’m ready to back you up.”

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Christina is a proud mother of four and a grandmother of one handsome little angel. Although she's had many struggles in life, she's been able to lift her head and keep pushing forward with the strength of love that she has for her children and self.

Image Credit: Norman Jean Roy

Incarceration Parenting
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