Ali would have fit in perfectly with the image you’d expect a young woman in Orange County to portray: happy, hard working, devoted and determined. What you wouldn’t have seen looming beneath the surface, is the drug addiction that held her hostage for 16 years.
Though Ali attended private Christian school from preschool to 8th grade, her home life was one of brokenness that lead her to begin using in 7th and 8th grade. When in 2014 she was sexually assaulted, the drug use spiraled out of control leading her right into an abusive relationship and ultimately Juvenile Hall.
Drugs were a part of the majority of her life, yes, but she was a high functioning addict; one that completed her bachelor’s degree and started a small business. However, in the last two years of her addiction as she was striving to stay away from her abusive boyfriend, Ali had what you may call a spiritual awakening. On May 10th of 2016, weighing 83 pounds with a black eye and busted lip, she knew she needed to return to her faith and made the decision to get clean.
She went back to her childhood church Eastside to find it had grown exponentially. Daunted by the size, Ali was sure this was no longer a fit for her; but to her surprise the more she listened to Pastor Gene Appel, the more she knew she was in the right place.
In July, Ali listened to a service that used an old chair as an analogy; she felt directly spoken to as the piece of furniture reminded her of the business she had started, and the old behavior she needed to rid herself of. That day at Eastside, Ali spontaneously was baptized, showing the world of her devotion to Christ and desire to change.
Ali began to see God’s redemption and provision in the strangest of ways. When a legal issue arose, requiring her to spend 90 days in an in-patient recovery program; what seemed to be an interruption in her “new” life living clean, turned out to be a blessing as the separation from her abusive boyfriend ended their relationship once and for all!
The one free day Ali had from the program she went to serve at Eastside, where she felt led to join the team in the upcoming Global Compassion trip to Kenya. The trip enhanced her life greatly, as she returned back to the States and chose to sell her business that had been wearing on her for some time. She then spoke to Erica Flora, Director of Local Compassion at Eastside about working at a non-profit organization, to which Erica knew of the perfect opportunity.
A few days later, Ali had a new job at an organization called CityNet that helps connect people in transition with stable housing and resources. She shared that on her first day in her new position, her team went to the Anaheim Riverbed where she ran into her past drug dealer and was able to speak with him candidly about the power of God in her life!
Ali said that desperation was what lead her to go back to her roots, to give up her way of living and begin listening to God. “All I had to do was go home”, she said as she added, “I feel more at home at Eastside at 31 than I did at 8 years old!”
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28. Sometimes our own decisions lead us down paths of destruction where we become unrecognizable to ourselves; but like in Ali’s testimony, it only takes one right decision to start us back on the path God has destined for us.