By: Andy Kozlowski | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published May 21, 2021
STERLING HEIGHTS — Christa Mitchell’s journey through life has been anything but smooth, but today she’s in a much better place — thanks in no small part, she says, to her faith.
Looking back, she said she fell in with the wrong crowd. Christa dropped out of high school and landed in court after attacking a cop at age 15. She was addicted to Vicodin by her 20s and to alcohol by her 30s. In 2014, she was arrested for driving under the influence, and in 2016, she was using cocaine. The same year, she received jail time for hitting her oldest daughter, losing custody of her three kids. Then in 2018, she gave birth nine weeks early when her water broke at a crack house. Her baby was taken by Child Protective Services, and the next month, Christa was picked up on a probation violation and sentenced to three months in jail.
During her 90-day stay, she learned that her newborn had broken his arm in a foster home and that he was suffering as an after-effect of his mother’s addiction. For Christa, that moment was her wakeup call and the start of her turnaround.
Vowing to change for the sake of her children, she left jail in March 2019 with a new attitude. She found herself back on the streets, but after one month of living homeless, she arrived at the place that would help her grow strong: Grace Centers of Hope, in Pontiac.
It wasn’t long before her family took note of her renewed efforts to get clean. Her mother brought three of her children to visit her at the Grace Centers Women’s Center on Mother’s Day 2019. That was the first time she had seen her kids in a year — and it was the first time in a long time that she had seen her mother without confrontation.
By August 2020, she was sober and was awarded custody of all four children. Together, they moved into one of Grace Centers’ homes. She remains in aftercare today and is now engaged to a man she met while going through the program at Grace Centers. She currently works two jobs, and she hopes to pursue education to become a faith-based substance abuse counselor, passing along some of the wisdom that helped change her own life.
“I couldn’t believe where I was and what I was doing,” Christa said in an email, reflecting on her addiction. “I missed my children desperately. I told everyone around me I would get better, but I didn’t know how that was going to happen. My priorities were staying with safe people and not doing anything with anybody. I didn’t want to just get high. I would go without getting high often, but if it was readily available, I was smoking crack and getting drunk. I’d say I was pretty aware of where I was and how much I hated it.”
She recalled a night she was alone in a safe house, a place she could go to be away from other addicts. She had recently given birth to her baby and had been contacted by her sister.
“I was getting high,” Christa said. “I was severely depressed because I knew I couldn’t get my baby. I felt hopeless and didn’t think I could do anything to fix my life. I just remember falling to my knees while crying hysterically and begging God to take me. I begged him to do something with me.”
Mere days later, the police found her and took her in on warrants. She said she felt a sense of relief that first night in jail. She saw it as a form of divine intervention. And for her, Grace Centers ofHope was part of that process.
“Grace Centers, for me, is the ultimate safe house,” Christa said. “They have given me a place to live and not only get clean, but figure out how to cope with life in healthy ways. Building a relationship with God is key. The people here at Grace treat you with love and priority, which is something I think most addicts don’t see much. Their ultimate goal here is to help people like me remember how to live in society and lean on God for all our strength.”
Christa’s mom, Candace Mitchell, a Sterling Heights resident, recalled how rough it used to be.
“At one point, Christa had her own trailer, and I would have to go over all the time to take care of the kids. She was having fights with neighbors and her boyfriend. I then moved her in with me, but she would just take off, and the kids were here with me,” Candace said in an email. “She would go out and come home late, sleep all day. She was volatile, would yell and scream and fight with me. I finally got a restraining order to keep her away from the house and kids, and away from me.”
Candace said that her daughter would resist her when she tried to offer spiritual guidance, but that all changed when the fourth child was born.
“It was the baby that God used to save her,” Candace said. “I said no, I can’t take the baby — I’m a grandma, I work full-time. I already had two of her kids. This baby had to go into a foster home, and that’s what saved Christa: she realized no one was going to take care of her baby. That’s what turned her around. That’s what God used to save her.”
The relationship between her and Christa today is night and day from how it was, she said.
“Finally, in the last few months, we’ve been able to communicate openly. When it’s volatile, you hold your tongue. I used to be very careful about what I told her and what advice I gave her. I am finally getting to the point where I can say almost anything in a loving way,” Candace said. “She is willing to take my advice. There is a lot less anger between us. It’s so pleasant to be on the same page with the kids. She apologized to me about all the things she has done, how she has behaved in the past. I could tell she turned her heart around. She is so kind now, so bubbly and happy. It’s like she’s a little girl again.”
Kent Clark, the chief executive officer at Grace Centers of Hope, said in an email that it’s encouraging to see people like Christa rebuild their lives through the one-year life skills program.
“It is both through the grace and miracles of Jesus Christ and the staff here at Grace Centers of Hope that a new, structured path is paved for them to follow,” Clark said. “To see a mother reunited with her children is one of life’s most incredible miracles. Here at Grace Centers of Hope, we take great pride in playing a key role in that.”
For more information on Grace Centers of Hope, call (248) 334-2187.