My name is Cyndi DeAngelis, I entered Tabitha House in January of 2009. I’d like to share with you what led me there.
I grew up in a back woods area of central Ohio. Some would think “the country is a wonderful place to raise a child” but when that child’s memory banks are littered with visions of watering the marijuana plants that were strategically placed in the garden among the tomatoes, or stealing bottles of Uncle Porky’s homemade wine, or worse yet, the sexual molestations, well, that makes for a very rough start. Even though I was raised in a family of six kids, I still felt so alone and ashamed of the things that were happening to me. In 4th grade, I was told I was adopted, which only multiplied my feelings of displacement.
As a teenager, I began to seek acceptance through outside sources like smoking pot, drinking alcohol, and promiscuity. I had no idea that the hole I felt inside me was God shaped, and He was the only one who could fill it. My drug use progressed to popping pills like xanax and valium and then moved on to dropping acid and eating mushrooms. I had found an ultimate escape hatch from reality in the land of hallucinogenics.
At the age of 20, my family came out to Chicago for a funeral, and that is where I met my biological mom, and then later on, my two brothers. At first I was angry, wondering how she could abandon me and leave me out in the cold to be devoured by wolves, but we talked and she explained her situation at the time to me and I was able to gain understanding and forgiveness. She now plays a key part in my life as not only a support person for my recovery, but as a loving mother to me and grandmother to my children. A beautiful example of God restoring what the locust had eaten.
I had my first child, Aric, at 23 years old and was a single mom by the time I was 24.
We moved out to Illinois when I was 25 and haven’t been back to Ohio since. It was soon after that when I met my best friend for the next twelve years of my life…crack cocaine. I had four more children as my progressive downward spiral continued. When I gave birth to my youngest son, Raymond, it was discovered that he was born with cocaine in his system, the hospital called DCFS, thus opening the door to a new chapter in my life. The caseworkers didn’t want to separate our family and relentlessly tried to get me to complete an outpatient rehab. They gave me several chances, and I tried three different programs, but the addiction was too strong. By December of ’06 all of my children were removed from my home, that’s when life got really dark. Not being drunk or high was far too painful to bear, so I did everything I could to stay intoxicated, including lying, stealing, and prostituting. I hated myself and I hated my life and everything it stood for. I knew there was no hope for ever getting my children back and tried to commit suicide, believing that would set them free from the burden that was me.
In March of 2008 is when God stepped in and opened the doors for me to save my life…He sent me to prison. I had gotten a DUI in the spring of ‘06 and although the court system tried to simply give me probation and chance after chance to do things right, I couldn’t submit to doing what they asked. They kept giving me court dates and I kept missing them. I’d go to jail for days or weeks at a time because of the warrants, and the cycle would continue. They finally got tired of plating with me and sentenced me to a year in prison. They took all of my collective time on this case into consideration, and told me I would have to serve 61 days in a state correctional facility.
When being transferred from county jail to state prison the only thing you’re allowed to take with you is a bible, so I got one for the sole purpose of writing down addresses and phone numbers that I wanted to have.
You have a lot of time on your hands when you are sitting in a cell, so I opened that book and began to read it. There was hope in there! In Mark 2:17 Jesus says “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners.”
You have no idea how much that verse changed my life. That was me, the sick sinner, and someone has been out there searching for me to save me, not only my life, but my soul.
I began attending Bible studies because I was thirsting for more, more love, more light, more knowledge of this man who died for me.
I was released from prison in June and although I went back to that same crowd of people who were still drinking and drugging, something was different. It didn’t hold the same thrill and when I would use, the conviction were relentless.
I had made the decision during my incarceration that I wanted to pursue regaining custody of my children. I told my mom this and she began researching in-patient rehabs and found Brandon House, which is a 90 day treatment facility. I entered the program in September and began learning about addiction and how it works and what drives an individual to repeat destructive patterns.
While I was in Brandon House I attended Monday night Bible study which is led by Barb Sullivan and members of Harvey House and Tabitha House. Her teachings were amazingly understandable to me and I was hearing the Gospel as I never heard it before.
When I reflect on that time, I see Barb taking my hand and placing it into the hand of Jesus.
I knew that 90 days worth of treatment was not going to fix 26 years worth of sickness, so I began searching for an aftercare program. I knew enough to know that only God could save me and I needed something faith-based, the doors of Tabitha House were opened to me.
I entered this sanctuary in January of 2009 and discovered a love that I never knew existed. The peace in that house was overwhelming. The dedication of all the ladies that come daily to pour out their wisdom and compassion is plain to see. If you’re searching for mercy and grace you don’t have to look very far because it’s all around you.
Tabitha House is a place of God’s love and protection. It’s a safe place where you can feel comfortable in being vulnerable, a place where God Himself, by His own hand, massages into your heart the anointed oil of His healing power. We learn that we are daughters of the King and all of our sins are forgiven. We can shed the skin of shame we have been held captive by and instead, clothe ourselves with the robe of His righteousness.
For me it was an 18 month retreat. We are given job functions in the home and at Restoration Ministries Thrift Stores to help us build up confidence, to see firsthand that we can be productive. I kind of fell into being the cook at Tabitha House, which I ended up enjoying tremendously.
One day when a staff member was giving a tour she came in when I was preparing a meal and said “Cyndi you would be perfect to cook for our Kid’s Café Program!” When the new building was opened in June 09 I was asked to make not only the kids meals, but also dinner for the guys of Harvey House. I had never cooked for so many people before and was terrified. I obtained my food service and sanitation license and with lots of prayers from myself and others, dove right in and embraced the situation. During all this time Jeanette Goodman, the Tabitha House director, was working closely and patiently with me and the DCFS people.
I was having regular visits and phone calls with my children and one by one, knocking out all the objectives the caseworkers wanted me to complete in order to insure the return home of my children. When I entered phase three where we are able to join the work force, there was talk of me being hired on as the cook for Restoration Ministries. I remember Dr. Sullivan coming to me and asking me what the desires of my heart were concerning this and I expressed to him how much I wanted to be on staff. In March of 2010 I was hired.
I graduated in July and while in Tabitha House, had been able to save up to rent a small apartment. The next thing I needed was a vehicle not only to get to work, but to make the required number of visits to my children that were mandatory per DCFS. A ‘Mom Van” complete with a “I Love My Family Decal” on the back windshield was donated to Restoration Ministries – Thank you Kelly Cavarretta.
It was perfect, but I didn’t have my driver’s license and I hadn’t had a one in 18 years. Restoration Ministries kept the van for me while with Jeanette’s guidance, I was able to get a restricted driver’s license. I also was ordered to get a breathalyzer unit installed in my van and I thank God every time I breath into it for giving me a second chance.
I was now able to show the courts beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was ready to once again be a mother to my children.
Custody of my oldest son was awarded to me in October. What a glorious faith building day that was. Raven and David came home during winter break that December and finally, this past June, my youngest child, Raymond came home to stay!
But God’s blessings didn’t stop there. I am now married to an amazingly strong Christian man who loves me and my children like his own. We have recently moved into a beautiful home in Indiana in a fantastic school district. I now cook for Harvey House, Tabitha House and the kid’s program and so enjoy coming to work each day and continually being surrounded by God’s love that is so clearly projected at Restoration Ministries.
I have been called to train to be a facilitator for Hope and Healing, which is one of the many classes we are blessed to being involved in during our stay at Tabitha House. I am now able to give back to the girls as freely as it was given to me! I want to thank all of you donors for making this story of overcoming our circumstances possible. It is God’s love and your support that brought my family back together so from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.