Charlene is beating the odds

My name is Charlene. I was born in Muskegon, Michigan and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. My mom left my dad and moved to Grand Rapids when I was 6 months old. She had 10 kids, I am number 5. They said I was born drunk, they had to pump the alcohol out of my system when I was born. I was about 3 pounds, I was so small I fit in a shoebox. They had to keep me in the hospital, they didn’t think I was going to make it. But God knew there was more to my story. I am 55 years old.


I had a pretty good childhood. I was raised by my godmother and my mom. They made sure I went to church and bible study. I grew up in Baxter neighborhood and my mom worked at Baxter Community Center. The Baxter neighborhood community was a big part of our family’s lives. People were always helping us and we grew up helping others in the community. I remember Christmas shopping in downtown Grand Rapids and meeting Bozo the Clown. I remember going to Camp Tall Turf in the summer. I have many happy childhood memories.

Then I was molested when I was about 12 years old. I never told anybody. I believe that is when my life changed. I lost my faith because of what had happened to me. I had my first child at the age of 15. I thought I was grown. I did a lot of babysitting for my sister’s kids. Because I was the oldest girl, they counted on me to babysit. I was alone at home all the time with little kids. I was very isolated and I got very depressed. I dropped out of school and I started drinking and smoking weed.

I had another baby when I was 17. I became so depressed that I gave them to their father and grandmother. Then I started using IV drugs (powder cocaine etc). I moved to Mississippi and continued living like that for 10 years. Then I got pregnant with my 3rd child and went to my first treatment center. I got cleaned up and had one more child and got married. Soon I relapsed, switched to crack cocaine, and spent the next 20 years in and out of treatment centers. I have been in 8 different treatment centers in all. Each one of them helped me and each time in recovery I learned something. Looking back now I see that each time in treatment was a building block in my recovery. However I continued to relapse until last year.

By the grace of God, he put Erika (The Mel Trotter Ministries Program Director) in my life. I would go to my daughter’s church and I would see Ms. Erika. I told her that when I was ready to stop using drugs I would come and see her. It took a whole year, but one day, God spoke to me and told me to get it all out of my system because “This is It!” For thirty days and thirty nights I smoked and drank. Every day. And when I made it to Mel Trotter, I was broken, tired, and lost. All I wanted was to see Ms. Erika.

She told me they had a bed for me right then, but I said all I want to do is get on the waiting list! Then I told her I would be back tomorrow… but I didn’t come back. I stayed gone one more day, and came back that Wednesday begging for that bed!
I entered into the Step Up 90 day recovery Program. Best Program Ever! I’ve been to a lot of treatment centers and this is the best one! Through all the classes (Relationships, Boundaries, Relapse Prevention, IOP which is Intensive Outpatient therapy) I learned how to live sober. We go to the YMCA, Yoga, we’ve gone to the ballet and dinner theatre, ice skating – many activities that teach us about sober living.

I graduated from Step-Up and entered the Restoration Program. Now I am working with a Recovery Coach and therapist through Arbor Circle. I have been able to start taking GED classes to improve my education. Throughout my stay at Mel Trotter chapel services have been a big part of my recovery and spiritual growth.

I hope to get my GED one day, and eventually my own apartment. I'm working at Applebee's as a hostess right now to help build my skills. I would really like to get a job where I can help others. I strongly feel God’s calling on my life now to help others the way that others have helped me. Now I am focused on giving back.

I thank God that y’all opened up y’all hearts and y’all doors and took me in. I thank God that he used all of y’all to save my life. Y’all taught me how to love my Father and my brother and myself and everybody again. I didn’t have a life, but today I have a new family that loves me. And I love all y’all so much. It takes team work to make the dream work! And if I can do it, you can do it with God’s help. 

My favorite Bible verse is John 3:18: “Let us not love with words or speech, but with action, and in truth.” We show God’s love when we are willing to help others.

My story isn't over yet! #MTMstory

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