Story of Hope: Anna

I could hear loud hip-hop music when I knocked on Anna Working’s door. “Coming!” she called out, as she turned the music off, and then invited me inside her room.

“Here,” she said as she put up a pillow on her bed. “Have a seat here.”

I climbed onto her bed and made myself comfortable. Her bedroom was quaint and tidy. We began to chitchat. With Anna, I felt as if I were talking to a friend. Our conversations flowed quite effortlessly.

I was first surprised to learn that Anna was only 19-years-old, and was already a resident of the Women LifeChange Center, Union Gospel Mission’s addiction recovery program.

When I first asked her why she was at WLC, she smirked and listed off the reasons…

Pot, cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin, meth, prescription pills, booze, cutting, depression, suicidal attempts… the list went on.

And she is only 19-years-old.

“Well…” I said. “Why don’t we start from the beginning? Tell me about your childhood.”


Anna considers herself “happily unaware” during her early years.

She remembers a house with no rules, structure, or discipline. She remembers a mother who was more concerned about getting high than being a good parent. She remembers her siblings getting high with her mother, and telling Anna that was she was too young for such stuff. She remembers running off with her friends, avoiding her dysfunctional family.

“Child protective services often tried to call my mother,” Anna remembers. “But they didn’t do anything.”

Age 13:

Anna is admitted to the hospital for the first time.

“I was cutting,” she admitted. “I was very depressed. I was molested since I was 10-years-old, then had to go through the process of sending my molester to jail. From that to all my childhood trauma, seeing my mother for who she was, from moving in with my sister, and everything… I went off the edge. I didn’t want to live anymore.”

Anna was in and out of treatment till she was 16-years-old.

Age 16:

When Anna first moved in with her sister, she was pleasantly surprised by the change of lifestyle. Unlike her mother, her older sister wanted to raise Anna well. Anna found herself in a home with rules and regulations.

But it didn’t last very long.

At only 16-years-old, Anna was living in a house with 20 other people who were in their 20s. Her new home had turned into a party house with too many drugs and too much alcohol.

“It was a party 24/7”, she said. “When the party wore off, the fighting ensued.”

“Soon DHS got involved. Accidently told them I was hung-over, and I was busted.”

Age 18:

Anna was lucky to find a loving foster family who cared for Anna once DHS was involved. But her old lifestyle was too addictive and easy. The drinking, the drugs, the partying… it was engrained into her system. So was the depression and emptiness.

As soon as she turned 18-years-old, Anna moved into her own place. She was finally free to do whatever she wanted.

“The drinking was constant,” Anna said. “I was drinking 3 or more bottles of wine per night.”

Her depression worsened; she even tried to overdose on heroin a couple of times, in an attempt to end her life.

“I knew… I had known for couple of years… that if I kept this up, if I kept living this way, I would only have two options left for me…

“I would either end up in prison, or I would be dead.”

Age 19:

“Mom?” Anna said over the phone. She hadn’t talked to her mother for a while. The last time they spoke, they had a fight.

Her mother was a different person from what Anna had known as a kid. Her mom had entered LifeChange years ago and had successfully graduated. Ever since then, she has been trying to convince Anna to quit her substance abuse, which often ended up in a fight.

But Anna was at the end of her rope. Even though she was just newly 19-years-old, she knew she needed help, or else her life would be short.

“Mom, I need help,” pleaded Anna. “I can’t keep living this way. Please, I need help.”

Her mom quickly called her friends at UGM and got Anna connected with Johnni Olsen, co-director of WLC.

When Anna entered the program, she was quiet. She didn’t trust anyone, nor did she think it was a good idea for her to be around other addicts.

Two weeks into the program, she tried to kill herself.  She was immediately rushed to the hospital.

“This is it,” Anna thought to herself. “I have nothing left… I don’t have a reason to go on.”

Once she was stable, Johnni visited Anna, and pleaded, “I know this is hard, but please give the program one more shot. Just give it a shot before you decide you have had enough. We want you there.”

Anna agreed. “I have nothing to lose anyway,” she told herself.

“When I went back, there was an overwhelming amount of love,” she said. “The women and staff… they seemed to really care for me. It was so refreshing, to have people genuinely care about you.

“I can say now that they feel like family. Especially since I’m the youngest there, everyone else kind of treats me like the little sister. I was scared at first to be surrounded by addicts; I didn’t want to relapse. But surprisingly, it’s been really good so far. It’s safe here.”

Anna is currently in Basic Services, the first phase of the WLC program. She plans to apply to the second phase, the One Year program.

“It’s hard here, sometimes,” Anna admits. “I have thought about leaving. But I’m scared of relapsing if I leave.

“I know this is where God wants me to be. It’s a safe place, it’s really good for me. God’s been really good to me. If it wasn’t for him… I would probably be dead."

The Story of Hope series is authored by Leah Abraham, George Fox University student and Union Gospel Mission intern



CLICK HERE  to read the Story of Hope introduction

CLICK HERE to read Story of Hope: Johnni

CLICK HERE to read Story of Hope: Joy