Crystal can’t remember a day growing up in Johnson City that didn’t include drugs. Drug abuse, drug sales, drug crime…that was what her parents’ lives revolved around. Both her parents were addicts, so Crystal and her siblings followed suit. By the time she was 12, her parents had divorced. Crystal had wrecked a car while driving drunk, and was selling drugs herself, so she ended up in the custody of the juvenile justice system. At the age of 17, she was involved in a serious car accident and her mother told her to apply for disability. She’d never have to work, she said.

At the age of 20, she moved to North Carolina “for a new start,” but selling drugs just came so easy. Four years later, she was pregnant with twins who quickly wound up in her aunt’s custody. Eventually, Crystal moved to Knoxville because she was ordered by the court to do so. She lived in a halfway house. Then methamphetamine and heroin came calling, she caught new charges, and she lost her daughter and son again.

Crystal came to HUFW in January of 2019 with 5 months clean; the same amount of time since her mother had died from the ravages of addiction. She had a total of six felonies on her record, and the only legitimate job she had ever worked was six months at McDonald’s years before. The father of her 10-year-old twins was in prison, as was one of her brothers. She hadn’t seen her other brother for more than 20 years. She had her children living with her again but was struggling to figure out how to be a parent. Her goals were “to have a respectable job, happy kids, a relationship with God, and a house with a fence.”

One year later, Crystal has had that respectable job at Sonic for several months, and she is enjoying the integrity that comes with honest work. She and her children are in family therapy, as Crystal learns to set boundaries like a parent, not a friend. They have a rental home and a vehicle, and her daughter is on the honor roll. Most importantly, Crystal has 17 months clean, is passionate about a growing relationship with God, and is attending church. She credits Hand UP For Women with showing her that there is a different way to live, that family isn’t always about blood, that God loves her just because He made her, and that she can have deep friendships with healthy Christian women.

When asked how being in Hand UP For Women had changed her, Crystal said, “I have changed how I treat my life. I am responsible for what I do. I try my best to wake up everyday and make the decision to CHOOSE to be more Christ -like.”