Rebekah Allred stands in front of her classroom teaching lessons she's learned the hard way.
“I was suicidal. I had attempted suicide,” she told the class of women at the Durham Rescue Mission on a recent Thursday morning.
Allred came to the mission in 2010 broken, hopeless and ashamed, just like the women she teaches now.
“I was dead, like on the inside I was just in so much pain and so weary and just exhausted from not having a safe place to stay,” she said.
Things had not always been so desperate. Before she came to the Durham Rescue Mission her husband, Mike, owned an electrical company. She helped with that in addition to nursing.
She said they had a nice house and plenty of money. They lived a good life with his sons and her daughter.
The life they knew was destroyed by bad drug habits that spiraled out of control.
“When it gets to the point you can't control it, that you've been up all night drinking with your friends and you don't go to work the next day and then the next day you're so hung over that you call in sick, to not showing up for business meetings, not doing what you're supposed to do. Telling lies. Making excuses,” Rebekah said.
The darkest time came after Mike's 16-year-old son, Taylor, died in a car crash in 2008.
“It proved to be more than we could bear. Fell deeper into addiction and depression. My painkiller addiction went to a heroin addiction,” Mike said.
They decided to sell their house and move to Myrtle Beach.
“Our house was not a home anymore. It was this depressing, dark place,” Rebekah said.
“We took a terrible drug addiction and two grief-stricken people with us,” Mike said.
They blew through the money they had.
“Our existence was just getting high and trying not to feel until we looked around and then all of a sudden, everything that was good in our lives was gone,” she said.
That eventually meant losing one another.
“Rebekah and I had both had enough of everything, including of each other,” Mike said.
“It wasn't pretty. It was ugly. I'm ashamed. I'm ashamed. I'm married to a beautiful, loving, caring woman and I didn't treat her very good,” he said.
That's when Rebekah moved into the Durham Rescue Mission.
On A Mission To Change
“I knew this was my last resort. This was truly the last chance I had of trying to get my life together,” she said.
Rebekah continued to speak with her estranged husband, though, and share her experiences from the Durham Rescue Mission. He said he noticed a change in her, so he decided to give it a try himself.
He first moved into the men's shelter and eventually was able to move into a room with Rebekah.
“Played a huge role in salvaging our marriage,” Mike said of the program they were in at the mission, called “Victory.”
The year-long program focused on Bible study and job training.
Their success in the program led Rebekah to her current role at the Durham Rescue Mission as an apprentice. She's working toward becoming a full-time staff member.
“It reminds me every day of where I've come from and how it felt to be that broken person who just came through the gate and felt so hopeless and alone,” she said.
“It has actually helped me heal. Being able to help other people and help them with their problems has helped me deal with my own,” Rebekah said.
Birth and Rebirth
While at the Durham Rescue Mission, she met a woman who would give birth to a little girl named Skyler.
Rebekah was even there when Skyler was born and cut her umbilical cord.
Then, life took another unexpected turn.
Skyler's mother went to prison, leaving Rebekah and Mike to feel they needed to take care of her.
They said Skyler had been neglected and did not want her to end up in the foster care system.
“I would say, ‘Do you really think we're the best people?,'” Mike admits.
Had she come into their lives a year earlier, they wouldn't have been in a position to take her.
“Our hearts would have been ready, but we just couldn't have done it. There's just no way. We couldn't take care of ourselves,” Mike said.
“Nobody's going to love her any more than we love her. Nobody's going to protect her any more than we're going to protect her,” he said.
They hope to get full custody in the coming months and to eventually adopt Skyler.
The three live in a house provided by the Durham Rescue Mission, which was spruced up by their church.
Eventually they want to be homeowners again. Mike has a job with a Durham electrical company.
Rebekah's daughter lives with Rebekah's mother. Mike's sons are growing up and one has a son of his own. Mike and Rebekah's grandson is the same age as Skyler.
“It's almost like the perfect ending to a very bad dream,” Rebekah said.
The dream ends as a new chapter in their lives begin.
“Everybody can change. Anybody can change. So, you should never give up on somebody,” Mike said.
That message even inspired Governor Pat McCrory and his wife Ann. They met the Allreds during visits to the Durham Rescue Mission. They even invited the couple to the governor's State of the State address.