Breaking Cycles: Angela's Story

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“My addiction started since I was 17. I had my first son, Greg, when I was 20. I did remain clean while I was pregnant, but as soon as I got out of the hospital, I was already using. I continued using until I got pregnant with my daughter, Erica, two years later. 

After she was born, their father and I broke up, which sent me into a whirlwind because I couldn’t tell them where their daddy was. I couldn’t face it. So I went further out into my addiction. 

Jimmy and Sammy are my next two; their dad is another guy I met. I was with him for eight years and we were in our addiction together. He was very abusive, physically and mentally. 

Our house was raided when I was him. As I watched Child Welfare Services (CWS) take my kids, my kids were screaming and screaming for me but I had no emotions –none whatsoever. I couldn’t cry, knew I was supposed to cry, but couldn’t cry because I was so high. They took my kids a week before Christmas. But I wasn’t the right mom.

After that, I got into the program at the Mission. I had never realized how bad of a mom I was until I began to get clean from my addiction. The kids wanted to go outside and play, but I was too tweaked out to take them. I remember their little hand prints on the windows. It’s sad thinking back, but I was blessed to have CWS come into my life. I needed that because nothing else would have changed my life, if it didn’t happen.

I used to do drugs in the bathroom, that’s where I would go in my addiction. After I finally left Jimmy and Sammy’s dad, I put family portraits of me and my kids in the bathroom, to remind me not to do what I used to do. I had them up there for about a year and a half.

When I was in the program, my oldest were ten and eight. They knew what was going on. My daughter would throw it in my face all the time, saying stuff like “Don’t try to be mom”.

I can’t blame her, because I would be clean when I was pregnant, get closer with them, and then I’d leave. She was angry and didn’t trust me because I was in and out of her life for those eight years.

I do a lot more listening to my kids. I didn’t get that. I acted out in a negative way, hoping that I would get attention, but that never worked. I try to go about raising my kids differently. If they’re seeking attention from me, then we need to sit down and talk. I am constantly praying over my kids.

Jimmy and Sammy see their dad once a year –he’s still in his addiction. I allow them to see him because my mom didn’t let me see my dad. If the boys see their dad, they can have their own opinion of him. That’s one of the ways I try to break the cycle of how I grew up. 

I couldn’t have done this without God, and I tell the kids that. They always see me talking to God; sometimes they look at me crazy when I’m pacing the hallway talking with God. But they know, I cry with God, I talk with God, everything throughout my day is with Him.

God is good, even though we do go through pain, addiction, trauma, hopelessness. Out of everything, I know that there’s blessings that follow: patience, love, understanding.

Now I have a two year old, Elena, and I’m almost 40. I’m so blessed to raise her with an amazing husband and father. He’s so good to the boys too. He's the man I needed. I was blessed to finally meet him because I’d never had a right, healthy relationship before him. God had to mold me, and him, to meet each other.

Angela Phillips • VRM Graduate


Ryan Stillwater

Ryan is a longtime Visalian — a graduate of Redwood High School and Fresno Pacific University with a bachelors degree in Christian Ministries. Intrigued by the partnership between the Visalia Rescue Mission and the City of Visalia, Ryan began putting his vision on paper as VRM's Oval Venue Coordinator in August 2013, and has sparked the interest of many throughout the community. Ryan and his wife Amy (a Mt. Whitney High School graduate) have been married for seven years and have three amazing kids — ages 6, 4, and 4.