Sonja’s Story: No Longer Alone
– December 12, 2018 –
Sometimes you meet someone who has such a depth of resilience that it’s astounding. You wonder where they get the heart to keep going after all they have experienced. Sonja* is like that. She is 16 and was willing to share a bit of her story with you. It starts in California, where she grew up with her mom, brother, sister, and her mom’s boyfriend.
“My real dad I’ve only met once. The guy I called ‘dad’ when I was growing up was my mom’s boyfriend. He was an alcoholic and would beat all of us. One time he was beating my mom and I stepped in between them to try and stop him. So he smashed a beer bottle over my back.”
While this boyfriend was in the picture, Sonja’s family lost their housing. She was unable to say how many places they lived during her childhood; it was so many she lost track.
“I’ve stayed at 3 shelters in Washington. I don’t even know how many shelters I’ve stayed in there (in California).”
“My mom has been a meth addict for as long as I remember. When she was using she would stop cooking because she wasn’t hungry. So we (Sonja and her siblings) would have to cook our own food. And often there was no food in the house.”
When she was 7, Sonja’s family moved to Washington to escape her mom’s abusive boyfriend. “I’ve pretty much raised myself since I was 12,” Sonja shared. Her mother’s meth addiction and their chronic homelessness meant Sonja fended for herself. Sometimes it felt like it was too much to bear.
“I tried overdosing in the 6th grade. Kids at school made fun of me because of my old clothes and I had holes in my shoes. Everyone knew my mom used meth so they called me a tweaker. So I went home and took all of my brother’s pills. When I woke up I had fallen down the stairs and my mom called 911.”
Sonja recovered. She is courageous and resilient, but had no one to turn to if something went wrong or if she needed money for food. Then she came to The Coffee Oasis.
At her high school, Sonja connected with a Coffee Oasis outreach worker named Hannah. Hannah brought her to the Coffee Oasis and Sonja enrolled in job training classes. She also began case management with Shonda and meeting with Dave for therapy sessions. Over the period of a few weeks, Sonja went from having no adult support to having a community.
Life has been stressful for Sonja. Her mother’s current boyfriend is antagonistic towards Sonja, so she moved in with her best friend. The two girls share a bedroom in a drug house. They keep a mini fridge in their room so their food doesn’t get stolen by the people who come in and out to use drugs. Despite the chaos, Sonja continues to do well in school and stay on track. Even though she’s surrounded by users, she refuses to use drugs. “I just can’t do that. I can’t be like my mom. My motivation to not do drugs is my life. If I do drugs I won’t have my life.”
Sonja plans on completing a job internship through The Coffee Oasis and then enrolling in the Washington Youth Academy when she graduates high school. She will be the first of her siblings to finish high school. We believe she can do it.
For the first time in her life, Sonja has a team of adults – Shonda, Dave, Hannah, other staff – who are there for her. She is surrounded by adults who aren’t using her, but instead are caring for and supporting her.
“Before Coffee Oasis, if I needed something and my mom or sister didn’t have it, then that was it. But now I can call them [Coffee Oasis staff] and they’ll be there for me. I’ve never had that before.”
We are so privileged to be there for Sonja. You can join her team! Consider giving a gift this month that will provide a team of support for a youth who feels like they are doing life on their own.
*name changed to respect youth’s identity