“I felt the Spirit of God in the prayer chapel at the Ranch. It was so heavy on me that I couldn’t even stand up.”
Cristal knew about sobriety. She has been through treatment and AA so often it had even prompted her to become a drug and alcohol counselor. But despite her head knowledge, her life was still out of control. And every bout of sobriety had been followed by relapse. “Here I was telling other people how to live life free from drugs and alcohol, how to get their children back, and I couldn’t even stay sober.” In fact, Cristal was devastated over losing custody of her 10-year old daughter, Jazzy because she was drinking and using again.
Nine months prior Cristal began attending New Life Presbyterian Church in Escondido. She had a desire to grow spiritually but because of her recurring drinking Cristal was unstable. “I had been asked to leave a Bible Study because I was being so abusive,” she said. And yet, it was her church that surrounded her with support when she made the decision to enter the recovery program at Green Oak Ranch.
“I heard about Green Oak from my AA sponsor. I had a friend who was in the program there and when I called him he happened to be standing in the Ranch office,” she said. “I went to visit him and when I saw the Ranch I was blown away. While I was there I went into the chapel to prayer. “I felt the Spirit of God there. It was so heavy on me that I couldn’t even stand up.”
“Even though I had only been attending for nine months, my church paid for my treatment,” said Cristal. “They gave me everything I needed while I was in the program.”
Cristal knew this time was different, but she faced many of the challenges that residents go through, especially early on. “On my daughter’s birthday in 2012 I remember wanting to walk away,” she said. “I think everyone goes through that. I almost left and hitchhiked to San Diego.”
In that moment I challenged God. I said, “You’re going to have to open the flood gates.” He did.
Just before Cristal came to the ranch she had signed up for a class on the Doctrines of Grace at her church on Mondays at 6:30 pm. It was disappointing to her that she would miss it, but she knew the Ranch was where she belonged.
However, the week she arrived it was announced that a new Bible Study was starting. Subject: The Doctrines of Grace. The time? Monday night at 6:30. It was a confirmation that Cristal was right where God wanted her. “The series of things that happened could not be coincidence,” Cristal said. “It was God showing me that he was real.”
During her time at the Ranch, Cristal began to recapture a vision for the life she wanted. She had always thought about being in broadcasting. She had a dream of reuniting with her daughter. She dreamed of breaking the cycle of recovery and relapse and having a healthy relationship.
“I didn’t grow up in a loving family,” said Cristal. “I had a lot of questions about God. ‘Do you exist?’ ‘Do you love me? ‘Am I really your daughter?’ God showed me that he was real. It wasn’t a fairy tale.”
After her time at the Ranch Cristal began studying radio. She became active at her church and regained custody of her daughter. Recently Cristal also got married and has a baby boy named Augustine. Life hasn’t been without it’s continued challenges, but by relying on God, she is moving forward.
On her 14th birthday I asked my daughter Jazzy what she wanted to do. She said, “Let’s go to Green Oak Ranch to see the animals.” When I asked her why, she said, “When I visited you at Green Oak it’s the first time I remember you being well.”
“It was then that I realized that not only had God restored me as a person during my time at Green Oak Ranch, but he had restored my relationship with my daughter. It means a lot to me that she has witnessed the work of God in my life, so now she knows that he’s real too.”
“I never would have imagined that I could go from being this person who had a total breakdown at the Ranch, to the person I am today,” said Cristal. “People ask me, ‘why are you so happy? Why do you treat everyone so well?’ Then I get the opportunities to share my experience, my strength and my hope.”
“Three weeks ago, I was hired by iHeart Radio to work at KOGO news. Now I’m working on stories that matter to our community,” she shared. “I’ve been sober for three years. That’s the longest I’ve ever been sober. And while I know it’s still a day at a time, I’ve learned about the power of God and that’s what has made the difference. I’m honest today with him, myself and my community.”
“I’m very lucky and blessed to have the people who are in my life. Many are sober, and they all love the Lord. It’s all about staying connected to the community. I’ve learned to have relationships with a community of women. I discovered that at Green Oak, and when I left I created that for myself again, said Cristal. “It was a new awakening and new birth. It’s about the freedom that you can only find in Christ. It didn’t happen all at once, but it happened there.”