Charlie Van De Voorde had a tough childhood growing up — his father was an alcoholic and his mother was addicted to meth. He and his mother frequently moved from town to town living in motels; because of this and his many fights and suspensions at school, Van De Voorde did not have many friends.
Van De Voorde would plant pinto beans in a cup, and he would watch them grow as he moved from town to town. These pinto beans would be Van De Voorde’s friends, as he carried them with him from town to town.
“I had no friends, and I did not have any pets or anything like that, and I am an only child. I would grow some pinto beans, and I would just talk to them. It’s kind of emotional to think that that was my life for a little bit,” said Van De Voorde.
When he turned eight, he moved in with his grandparents, and he began to get better grades at school. He joined football and baseball and his grandparents would go to all his games.
His father would take him to motorcycle races and he would also go to his football games. Unfortunately, there were times when Van De Voorde would have to take care of his father because he was an alcoholic. Van De Voorde had to sit on his dad’s lap to stir the vehicle because his father would be too drunk to drive.
“At that time, I thought it was me learning how to drive, and you may think it is kind of fun to drive, but really it was me more of babysitting my dad just to get him home safely,” said Van De Voorde.
Van De Voorde’s mother eventually got sober and she got married. They moved to Tehachapi with his new father, and Van De Voorde continued to play sports. Unfortunately, Van De Voorde began to be outcasted by his new father and his mother. They would go eat dinner with his stepbrother and leave Van De Voorde to eat oranges or top Roman.
Van De Voorde began to develop childhood trauma. He became an introvert at school due to his depression and loneliness.
“I had no family support at home, and I had a little newborn baby brother, so I had nobody else to turn to. I did not know how to cope with depression, and I felt that emptiness inside. I would sit at my window in my room and I would cry, but I did not know why I was crying,” said Van De Voorde.
In Van De Voorde’s sophomore year of high school, he moved in with his father at Lancaster, but he was still an alcoholic and his girlfriend did not want him to live there.
At 16, Van De Voorde got a girl pregnant and he was married. He began to work two jobs while going to independent study. He moved with his wife and son from family member to family member trying to survive.
Unfortunately, Van De Voorde got in a motorcycle accident and he lost his two jobs due to a back injury.
Eventually, Van De Voorde got a job at Albertsons in Rosamond, CA and he graduated high school through independent study. He moved with his family to Mojave, CA and they rented an apartment there.
His son’s mom fell into her old acquaintance of using drugs, and she moved out. Van De Voorde transferred to Santa Clarita and became the store night manager at the age of 18 to support his son.
Van De Voorde met a girl, Melissa, and got full custody of his son, and he bought a home in Lancaster, CA. However, he fell into the alcoholic pathway and cheated on Melissa. He gave her the house and moved to Bakersfield, and he left his son in Tehachapi with his grandparents. He got two different jobs but lost them both due to alcohol and for getting a DUI.
Van De Voorde began to use meth and he went to prison for terrorist threats and going after somebody with an ax while being drunk and high.
“I started losing jobs because of alcohol. I took my son to a family house in Tehachapi and told him I would be back to pick him up, and I never came back to pick him up. I continued my cycle of drinking and that cycle ended up taking me to meth,” said Van De Voorde.
During these next 14 years, Van De Voorde was in and out of prison. He had periods of being homeless, and he became a thief.
He would have those moments of realizing that he had turned his back on his son and his grandparents. He would go to California City State Prison at least once a week and he would sit in front of the prison encouraging himself to change his ways of living.
He left the county, violated the law, and went to North Dakota on the train. He took nothing but clothes on his back. His purpose was to run away from his addiction. However, his mind started playing tricks on him and he did what he could to go back to California. He rented a car and damaged it along the way. Van De Voorde got arrested.
“A deputy said ‘you know what your problem is Charlie, your thoughts are not organized.’ I laughed at him, but I did not laugh directly at him. I just laughed because a light bulb went on in my head as I realized that my life is unorganized,” said Van De Voorde.
He served one year in the county and one year in a program, and that is when Van De Voorde changed his ways and began asking for help.
He enrolled at CSUB as a sociology major and went to extended studies for his CADC. He is now a Program Manager for the Arvin Navigation Center. Van De Voorde advises those who have experienced depression and trauma to not be afraid to reach out for help.
“If you feel something that you are not used to or if you are feeling something empty do not be afraid to reach out. At the time I did not know what [depression] was,” said Van De Voorde. “Do not be afraid to reach out. If you can reach out, then there is help for you.”