Cocaine, Alcohol and Abortion

Posted on April 25, 2013

0


By David Ettinger

Caption: Christina with her son Hunter in 2002.

First Orlando’s Christina LeBarron is well suited to head up Lydia House, a home for women making the transition from jail to becoming productive members of society.  “I’m so passionate about this ministry because I know where these women are coming from,” Christina said. “I have used drugs and alcohol and have a little boy who was born four months early because I was using cocaine while I was pregnant.” She also spent a night in jail when she was 30. Christina and Lydia House are a perfect match.

Christina’s long journey to becoming a positive force in the lives of women began in 1990 when she was 20 years old. “I had had an abortion and came to the First Life Center for Pregnancy. [Director] Sandy Epperson led me to the Lord. That was only two weeks after my abortion.”

Despite proclaiming Christ, Christina’s troubles were only beginning. “Growing up in another denomination, I knew only the Old Testament and the Book of Revelation. I never heard the word ‘grace.’ I never understood that God loved me — even that night when I, got drunk and slept with a guy and got pregnant. Because I didn’t understand that, I ran from God. I ran for 12 years.”

During the next few years, Christina, a native Central Floridian, began working in a strip bar. At age 23, she moved to Fort Lauderdale, where she continued in the same line of work, but also began using drugs.

Caption: Christina with her mother, Juanita, brother Michael and father Fred.

Yet, she still felt God’s presence. “I remember one night driving down I-95 and saying to Him, ‘I don’t believe in You; You are a mythical being that weak people make up so they have something to cling to.’ But despite those moments, I can still remember times when I heard God say to me, ‘I’m here; what are you doing?’ ”

A year later, Christina’s troubles escalated when she was raped. She chose not to press charges; instead she moved back to Central Florida and got a job at Universal Studios. She also met her new next-door neighbor. “We dated for six days, then started living together. We lived together for a long time before getting married.”

That was in 1996 when Christina was 26. However, the marriage was short-lived, ending after just six months when Christina’s husband ran off with another woman. She then moved in with her parents and started going to community college with the intent of becoming a high school English teacher. However, she eventually fell back into drug use and her life deteriorated once again. “I met another guy and we immediately started dating,” Christina recalled. “The second time we dated, he said, ‘I should probably tell you that I was just released from Stark Penitentiary.’ He was dealing crack cocaine, but I figured I was past all that.”

She wasn’t. Worse, she suffered a serious case of low self-esteem. “I didn’t see myself as being valuable. I attached myself to any guy who gave me the time of day. It didn’t matter what he did or was, as long as he approved of me, I stayed with him. We both worked in a bar, and all the money we made we spent on alcohol.”

Caption: Christina in the early 1990s.

In 1999, Christina got pregnant. “ ‘Stark Guy’ asked me to get an abortion and I said, ‘I don’t want to, but I’ll do it because I love you — but you’re going to pay for it and take care of me after.’ I also told him that he had to show up or I wouldn’t go through with it.”

“Stark Guy” didn’t show up and Christina bypassed the abortion. “He wanted me to put the baby up for adoption, but I didn’t want to walk away from him.” Not knowing what to do, Christina sought counsel. “I went to the Pregnancy Center at First Baptist Leesburg and told them I wanted to put the baby up for adoption. I met with an attorney who gave me the profiles of seven families who wanted to adopt.”

Christina was feeling depressed, guilty and miserable. “My mom knew ‘Stark Guy’ was bad and said, ‘You have to get away from him.’ She didn’t even know that he was abusive in every sense of the word. He was a 230-pound [former] football player with a bad temper. For him, [abusing me] was like flicking a flea.”

Meanwhile, the adoption issue still loomed. “It was tearing me up,” Christina said. “I checked into Florida Hospital’s psychiatry ward for four days, but that did nothing for me. It was right after that that [‘Stark Guy’] and I began using cocaine.”

She knew she had crossed a line. “I could feel the baby inside me moving and said to myself, ‘Why am I doing this [using cocaine]? It’s wrong.’ I could hear God saying to me, ‘I love you. Stop what you’re doing.’ But I kept snorting cocaine and felt the baby stop moving. I was convinced that I killed another baby. I remember going into the bathroom and beating my stomach to try to make him move.”

It was an act of panic. “As soon as the high went away, I felt the baby move again and said, ‘Thank you, God, I won’t do that again.’ But by 11 o’clock that night, we were doing the same thing.”

Caption: Little Hunter was the size of a Beanie Baby at birth, as can be seen in this photo.

At 25 weeks, Christina went into preterm labor and, at the hospital, tested positive for cocaine. “I said [to the medical staff], ‘I’m sorry. Don’t let my baby die. Please help him.’ ”

They did. Hunter was born in September of 2000 weighing just 1 pound, 101/2 ounces, but eventually dropped another six ounces. “He was the size of a Beanie Baby. He’s what God used to finally get me to start examining my life,” Christina said.

Over the years, Hunter would suffer many ailments, including heart surgery (that resulted in a paralyzed vocal cord) at two weeks old, an intestinal infection, fetal alcohol effect and 28 blood transfusions. Also, because of Christina’s cocaine use, Hunter was put into a foster home for two years, but was returned to Christina’s permanent care in October 2002.

At the time of Hunter’s birth, Christina contacted a friend from her past. “I called Sandy Epperson and asked her if she remembered me, and she did. I told her how badly I messed up my life and asked if she would come pray for my baby. I was too afraid to pray for Hunter myself because I didn’t think God would hear my prayers.”

Sandy prayed for Hunter, and, a few days later, accompanied Christina to church. “I remember standing outside thinking that the walls would cave in if I stepped foot in there. In my head, I was the worst of all sinners.”

Of course, the building remained standing and slowly but surely Christina began growing in the Lord. “I started understanding what the Bible taught about forgiveness and grace.”

Caption: Christina and Hunter in 2004.

And yet, she clung to her party lifestyle. It finally came to a screeching halt in June 2001. “By now I was using crack cocaine. One afternoon, I was in my apartment and ‘Stark Guy’ showed up. He had run out of money, wanted more drugs and asked me for money. I said no, so he picked me up by the back of my shirt and the back of my pants and put my head through the door of the bedroom. And then he left.”

After that, Christina went to the bathroom, opened every bottle of medicine she had, poured the pills in her hand and prayed, “God, please let Hunter be adopted by a good Christian family and help my mom and dad be able to work through my death.”

That said, she swallowed the pills, about 30. “I laid on my bed expecting to die. I fell asleep, but then I woke up six hours later. I got up and called a friend named Ginger, who was in my Life Group.”

Christina confessed to Ginger that she had been living a double life. Ginger had Christina put some clothes in a suitcase and called David Becker, a facilitator of a First Orlando rehab ministry called Right Step Recovery. He told Christina that she needed to go through detoxification, which she did, followed by a three-month stay at the Lisa Merlin House, a rehab center in Casselberry.

The stay at Merlin proved a major turning point in Christina’s life as she was able to reevaluate her ways and finally start turning from her destructive lifestyle. Upon leaving the facility in October 2002, Christina got a job in sales at Nextel and was able to work her way up to a managerial position. It was also in October that she received custody of Hunter. From then on, Christina immersed herself in Right Step and faithfully attended church and Life Group. “I began letting more [Christians] into my life and started growing. I have made mistakes since, but I have not let Satan coerce me to go back to my old life. I had people in my life to strengthen me. I learned that, through God, it is possible to get up again when you fall. God has picked me up many times, and I know He will be there to keep picking me up.”

Posted in: Feature Stories