From Addict to Advocate: Ardis Green
by Jess Luoma
Ardis Green is a walking, smiling testimony of the power of the simple act of love. One simple act can change the course of someone's life. In this case: a cup of coffee and a breakfast burrito.
The Ardis that was offered a breakfast burrito is not the same Ardis that you see above. Our team was told there was a woman we needed to meet living without a tent on a hillside on top of tree roots addicted to meth, extremely thin, and with matted dreads.
"I was an outcast in the camp, I was extremely bullied by the people. I wasn’t really liked. I felt really lonesome. I lived a very lonely life. I felt very unloved and unwanted. Very hopeless."
When Michael Williamson, Paul Abbott and friends showed up offering a burrito two years ago, Ardis said, "for the first time in my life, I felt like someone cared about me and that was the start of bringing hope back into my life."
Every person experiencing homelessness and addiction, like Ardis, has a story of how they found themselves living without a home and without hope. Every person also has a God that loves them and has a plan and purpose for their life.
Ardis experienced sexual abuse at a young age from a family member. She was unsafe in her own home and when a friend's family saw what was going on, they asked her mother if they could take her to move with them to Burney, CA. From there, she lived an idyllic childhood on a farm with her own horse. Her traumatic memories began to be replaced with good ones, including fond experiences at a Vacation Bible School where she first encountered God. The hand of God was always over her life to protect her from the abusive relationship that was stealing from her life and robbing her innocence.
Ardis got married and had two children at a young age and raised them on their very own farm. Her dream life came to an abrupt halt when she woke up one morning to a knock on her door and five minutes to leave her farm-- she was being evicted. Her husband was caught embezzling money from his family with another woman and her property was ceased as a result. Ardis was instantly homeless.
In her despair and betrayal, she turned to meth. She became a homeless drug addict for two years. Paul and the team would continue to build friendships with Ardis even in her addiction and without immediate results.
"Even when I was being bad-- when I was doing drugs hanging out with other homeless people that were doing drugs-- I always had God and I always knew that God was there even when I was not being a good Christian at all," Ardis remembered.
Then, one hot July day, everything changed. Ardis made her way to the truck stop off the I-5 with a plan to catch a ride out of town and while she waited she went to a pond to take off her boots and cool off her feet.
"All of a sudden, I see these bubbles and I thought they were little fish and I saw a shadow come over the pond and so I looked down into the pond and there was a little girl and she was sitting at the bottom of the pond and she looked up at me and said, 'hi do you know Jesus?' and I said, 'I know Jesus.' She said, 'Jesus sent me to talk to you today.' I was flabbergasted, I couldn't believe it. I said, 'ok what did he send you to talk to me about?'"
Ardis explained that the little girl was sent to tell her about what had happened to her. Then, she heard the voice of God and what He said would change everything:
"I’ve given you such gifts and you have done nothing but waste them on being a drug addict, hanging around really bad people, and not following Me."
All went quiet and the little girl at the bottom of the pond disappeared and one thing became clear to Ardis: it was time to change her life. She took her purse full of drugs, threw it in the trash can and began walking back to Redding.
"My mind was to just get back and get help. I started walking down the onramp of a freeway and I ran into a CHP officer. He pulled over and he said, 'what are you doing on the freeway, you’re not supposed to be on the freeway.' I was so overwhelmed by Jesus at the pond that I wasn’t really thinking. I told the officer 'I want you to know Jesus just came to me at the pond at the truck stop and I threw all my drugs away. I will never do drugs ever again in my life and I will never disappoint Jesus ever again.' He was just shocked and he said, 'what’s your name?' and I said 'my name is Ardis Green' and he goes, 'well Ardis Green, I’m very proud of you.'"
The seeds we plant and the words we speak have the power to propel a person forward towards hope and wholeness. They have the power to open a heart to finally hear the voice of their Creator calling them to come home.
Ardis made her way to Hill Country Care Center in downtown Redding and told them she was ready for rehab. They quickly found a rehab ready to take her in Humboldt, CA. The only stipulation: she needed to have seven days of sobriety. Refusing to go back to the encampment they agreed to let her camp in their parking lot until her drug test the following week. Her encounter with Jesus fueled her drive and ability to endure the excruciating detox process and temptations to use again offered by those still living in their addictions.
As Ardis went through her recovery in Humboldt, she discovered the effects of her meth use had a significant impact on her brain.
"The doctor said that my audio and visual hallucinations were all due to meth. So this is what meth will get ya. You don’t realize that one day you’re just a girl on a farm and then you start experimenting with drugs and it will mess you up for the rest of your life. I now have a mental health doctor that I see once a month that helps me deal with the long-term issues," she explained.
Through it all, Ardis has become a vital advocate in our community for those who need recovery and serves as an example and inspiration to so many.
When I asked her what she would say to those still living in their addiction to meth she said, "Follow Jesus. Go to rehab. Get the help you need. Meth is a horrible drug. If you want to ruin your life, it will take you straight down to Hell's gate."
She's now a part of The Vineyard Church and Hope Recovery where she is re-discovering her God-given gifts and experiencing the love and support of the community. Ardis now lives in the sober living housing at Visions of the Cross and is receiving support from our Shasta Thrive advocates with any paperwork or social services that she needs.
"Paul, Rodney, Cindy, Laura and others are in my life and they just help me with whatever I need. When I’m with them, we’re rolling with Jesus and they are just wonderful friendships."
The level of transformation our team of advocates has seen in Ardis is the reason we do this work. She is a living testament to what can happen when you simply set out to love.
"This poor man called out, and the LORD heard him; He saved him from all his troubles." Psalm 34:6