Elexis was just beginning her teenage years when her father got out of prison. He had been a mere phantom in her growing up years, the occasional phone call reminding Elexis of his absence. It was her eighth grade promotion that set the stage for their introduction. The brief interaction reminded her of the chasm between them that had been growing wider all these years. “I wanted him to understand how I was doing and how I’ve grown. I wanted him to understand me and who I was becoming.”
With her early teenage years also came the birth of a half-brother. Within a short period of time, Elexis’ world had been knocked sideways and turned upside down. Elexis was barely hanging on. She yearned for her mother’s affections, but found herself reviling the woman whom she needed the most. “I didn’t like how I was treating my mom. I said she was controlling, but she was doing everything she could to help me succeed and have a good life...I blamed her for my dad not being there. I was hurt, so I took it out on her.”
Unwanted sexual contact as a child had left Elexis scared and confused, its effects now deeply internalized. “I felt hurt, used, and unwanted. I was depressed.” To fill the growing void, Elexis began to seek male attention online. She began divulging her life to a 16-year-old, whom after two weeks of virtual interplay, confessed to actually being 38. Though communications came to a rapid halt, Elexis’ indiscretion in male relationships continued. Elexis was 20 and working a minimum wage job when she befriended a homeless teenager and invited him home. Once her mother, who was in the hospital, caught wind of what was happening, Elexis was asked to pack her bags. After a week at a friend’s place, Elexis ended up at the park with only a backpack and her work clothes. “I told myself, I don’t want to be in this position. I don’t want to live this life anymore. I’m done being hurt. I’m done disrespecting my mom.”
The price of the return ticket home was a stint at CEM. Elexis had visited CEM two years prior, never imagining she would return at age 20. At CEM, Elexis started to gain spiritual sight and her reality began to change. Completing CEM’s 15-day backpacking trip just shortly after her arrival was an important lesson in perseverance that Elexis drew on in those early months. God reassured her of His presence through heartshaped rocks and ripples in the pond.
“Here you can’t have what you want and have it your way. It’s more God-centered and [about] what God wants for you...I remember getting in a fight with an intern - she reminded me of my mother; she was too controlling. I would always bicker and argue over nothing. It took a couple of months for me to realize that she’s only here because she cares and wants to help [me]...”
As her counselor pronounced God’s forgiveness over her past behavior and actions, Elexis took a big step toward freedom. “God wanted me to confess my past to someone I could trust. I talked to Salena (CEM intern) about my past. I felt like this baggage was taken off my chest. And then I told Elise (CEM staff). More weight was lifted off.”
“I needed the structure and discipline [of CEM] to change my life...The more I was receptive and accepted God in my life to guide me, the more I’ve seen His blessings poured out.” Elexis hopes to return to Tahoe National Forest once more (with CEM) later this month, allowing Him to continue the good work He has begun in her.
Written by: Zoya Lee