For as far back as she can remember, Gabbi’s life revolved around abuse. “I just thought it was normal,” she says. The 36-year-old endured a traumatic childhood, and the violence only escalated as she grew older and had children of her own. When Gabbi’s son Carlos was just three years old, she was forced to surrender custody to her mother after yet another boyfriend became abusive.
By the time Carlos was returned to her care seven years later, she was in the midst of leaving an abusive marriage and was deep in the grip of drug addiction. When Carlos was forced to drop out of high school to care for his newborn sister Bella in 2004, a remorseful Gabbi resolved to make a life change.
“I’d been stuck in a cycle of abuse for so long, and I wanted something different for my family,” Gabbi explains. “I found out about Champa House in AA, and I made up my mind to go at it as hard as I could.”
"Once I started talking with Elaine, I could just see her heart and how much she loves the women here," Gabbi recalls. "If I have a problem, I know I can go to Elaine; she never hesitates to help."
Gabbi entered Champa in November of 2008, sober, but broken. Though she could immediately see positive changes in daughter Bella, 6, Gabbi struggled to break free from her painful past and was hesitant to accept the outreach’s Christian teachings. Slowly, however, Gabbi embraced Christianity and began to grow as a mother, thanks to compassionate Champa staff members like Chaplain and Treatment Coordinator Elaine Phillips.
“When Gabbi initially came into the program, she was reluctant to accept much guidance from the staff, but her perspective changed immediately when she gave her life to God,” Elaine says. “She’s become an excellent role model for other residents, and it’s been amazing watching her grow.”
In Champa’s life-changing relationship and parenting classes, Gabbi learned how to set appropriate boundaries for her children and herself, a task once gravely affected by her childhood abuse. She has made peace with past mistakes she made with Carlos, now 19 and living with a friend, and she and Bella have found great comfort in establishing a daily routine.
“Champa taught me that abuse isn’t love; love is joyful and understanding,” Gabbi says. “I know how to be there for my kids now, and I can tell how much happier Bella is now that we have structure in our lives.”
. . . wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Corinthians 3:17b (NLT)
Champa staff also helped Gabbi find spiritual and emotional freedom by doing the impossible—forgiving her many abusers. Gabbi says weekly counseling sessions helped her stop “living in victim mode,” and over time, she began to feel a surprising sense of compassion toward those who hurt her.
"I never thought I deserved happiness or loving relationships, but Champa changed all that," Gabbi says. "If you come here ready and willing to change your life, this place can do so much for you."
“I learned that other people’s pasts affect how they treat others later on, and withholding forgiveness only hurts me,” Gabbi explains. “I never thought I would be able to forgive, but that’s Champa.”
Gabbi is preparing to graduate from Champa’s New Life Program in October, and is using her skills acquired at Emily Griffith Opportunity School to land an administrative position. She and Bella are excited to move in with Carlos soon, and she says she sees a future full of love, stability and promise.
“Champa gave me everything I needed to move on from my past and be the mother God made me to be,” Gabbi says proudly. “I thank God for leading me here!”
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