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A Letter from One Survivor to Another - From Abuse and Addiction to Recovery

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  • Steph O. Website Administration
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Dear friend, 

159 days. That’s how long it has been since I last touched drugs. 159 days since my entire life changed. 

I always said I had incredible self-control, ignoring the fact that addiction is hereditary. I believed myself to be stronger than my ancestors, but we both know from the opening of this post that I was wrong. 

I grew up in church, although my story is slightly different from most children who spent their lives there, my parents never made me go. In fact, my mom was only a major holiday type of churchgoer —it was me who decided that church is where I should be. I walked into a steepled building, not for the first time, but for the first time on my own accord when I was nine years old (the Sunday three days after I learned that my dad had passed away.)  As a child, losing a parent is incredibly confusing. I felt so much guilt, even at the age of nine, about how much time I had lost with my dad; I felt so much pain that I would never get the chance to tell him sorry for that. As I was struggling to come to terms with the knowledge that my father was gone forever and I never got to say goodbye, I remembered something from Sunday School I had heard years before. The teacher said that everyone feels bad sometimes and that everyone has pain but that Jesus could take all that pain away. I thought, ‘I have to give it a chance’ and thus began my emergence in the world as a devout follower, which had continued for many years. 

When I was seventeen, the church began to stop making sense to me. I struggled to understand how so many people of different religions could be so dismissive of people with opposing or varying beliefs. My pastor told me to not be friends with my best friends at the time because, in his words, they would “damage my faith.” These were the only people I had in the world and here I was being told to distance myself from them because they were of the Pentecostal denomination and not Baptist. This did not sit well with me and after that discussion with my preacher, I never stepped back into that building again, saying goodbye to an eight-year chapter of my life. 

Now that I wasn’t a churchgoer any more, my friends distanced themselves from me and I couldn’t blame them — I mean this is what we had always been taught, ‘not to fraternize with people who don’t share your values’ and I no longer valued church as they did. At seventeen years old, I felt like I had lost everything I had ever cherished. ‘Where do I go from here?’ I asked myself and I’m sure you can probably guess. 

Yeah, you got it…I went buck wild. I decided I was going to allow myself everything that I had denied for so long. I had my first taste of alcohol and did my first drug. I became promiscuous. I went to parties and clubs and got together with men to feel valued for just a little while. Surprisingly, at this point in my life, I felt great shame in the way I was living. I felt depressed that I was allowing myself to be used by people who would just throw me aside when they were done. I prayed and prayed that just one of them would stay and show me I was worth loving. After months of repeating this prayer, and hearing no answer, I thought I fully lost my trust in a higher power.

I was depressed for years. I was in and out of bad relationships with no real ambitions or purpose in my life until one day, while living with my boyfriend, I got a call and was offered an excellent, well-paying position— no experience or higher education required. I was so excited to have this opportunity. Soon after starting my new job, I became confident in myself and my skills. I broke up with my boyfriend at the time, who treated me basically like nothing more than a roommate. I started to realize my worth…. or so I thought. 

I was pretty happy at this point in my life, although my faith was still rocky. I was putting more effort into my work and my image rather than partying and drinking. Everything was going well…until I met him

He seemed perfect — handsome and charming. He would bring his baby to work and let me play with him. I fell in love with his baby’s little face and started to hang around his place more and more because it was close to my work. I didn’t even realize I was being manipulated when he told me I had to move in with him. He said he needed help with the children and it would be better for the both of us because I would be closer to work, too. Little did I know that he wouldn’t allow me to work anymore once I moved in so what did it matter? That is a far cry from completely taking on a motherhood role and caring for them alone…mind you I was only 20 years old. 

Maybe I should have realized what was happening when he would leave for days. Maybe I should have known from the way the children reacted to kind, gentle parenting. Maybe I should have known when I saw him run from one room to another, his pupils the size of marbles, sweat pouring down his face…but I didn’t know or maybe I did and I was too scared to say it.

Things became clearer as more time went on. His aggression, normally targeted at inanimate objects, quickly switched to me. He went a long time without hitting me (at first, it was just emotional torture). This started to become clear to me at the same time that I found out that I was pregnant with my son, very early into our relationship. I couldn’t leave now. He tracked my every move and even set up cameras all over the house to watch me. He didn’t have to see me do anything wrong because he had already convinced himself that is all I was ever capable of. He would tell me in detail the things he would do to me if he ever caught me cheating. He said the really bad things he’d do were only if he caught me in the act―but his suspicions were enough to justify all the other things he actually did to me. 

Months went by and I discovered I was pregnant again. Every penny we had gone to his addiction and I couldn’t understand why this was happening…how could we afford five children? I went without shampoo, soap, hygiene products, and diapers but I managed for my children’s sake. I did everything I could to make them feel normal like making up games and crafts with things in the house or taking them for walks, but eventually, that was taken from us as well. I couldn’t leave the house without being tracked and punished. Every morning I woke up in fear — I didn’t know which days would be spent hanging out and having fun and which ones would he wrap his hands around my throat. 

My depression grew rapidly. I was 22 and caring for five children with no money and no life outside of my home. He had torn me completely away from my family and I had nothing and no one. I knew the children needed me but my depression overpowered that feeling. I tried taking my life for the first time when my son was around six months old. Instead of helping me and caring for me, my boyfriend told me that if I did anything like that again he would have me committed and I would never see my children again (that’s what abusers do). Abusers torture you to the point of no return and make you feel crazy as if you are the one overreacting. (When I was 10 weeks pregnant, he kicked me out of his car and made me walk five miles home…that is overreacting! I was reacting). He did a good job, however, of convincing me that something was incredibly wrong with me. I knew I was faithful and a good mother but every day I was accused of cheating and always told that I wasn’t good enough. When days of emotional abuse rolled over, he reached the point where words weren’t enough and that is when he’d hit me. 

After more than three years of this, I became tired and had no desire to live anymore. I wanted to be loved by him so badly but I could never do enough to make him happy. When he finally handed me a pipe and told me to try it, I was so resigned but I took it because I thought I had the self-control it would take to not do it again. If that were true though, he would then feel inferior because he’s had this addiction since he was a teenager…no way would he allow me to beat it. So, nights would come and he would hand it to me again and even when I tried to, he just wouldn’t take no for an answer. This happened several times until he finally won because I didn’t have to be forced anymore and I wanted it. I still managed to take care of my children and I did it well, but when nighttime came, I would accept the only gift he would ever give me. I could beg for money or other things but he would never let me have it…but the drugs? The drugs I could have and so I took them. Coming down was terrible. I was staying up for days at a time. I knew I was failing my kids, my family, myself. 

I wanted so bad to stop and I knew I could if he would have, too. That would never happen and so I knew I had to get out. I started concocting plans and thinking of every possible scenario, but I was terrified. I felt like nothing would work and I would end up dead the minute I attempted to run. He made sure I knew that I would never be safe in or outside of that home. 

One night he told me I had to go out. I said I didn’t want to. I always said I didn’t want to but I never had a choice. On the way home, five minutes from the house, he called me. (He always did this.) He began to shout at me that I was taking too long and that I was doing something I shouldn’t…that I was lying. He told me that if I took any longer, I wasn’t allowed back in my house with my children. I couldn’t take it anymore and I hit the gas but before I could even register what was happening, my car was wrapped around a utility pole. For a split second, I thought I finally did it. This was it. As I struggled to free myself from the smokey interior, I then realized that I had failed. I was still alive and slowly aware that I was in excruciating pain, probably from a broken back, the doctor later confirmed this. My boyfriend told me I wasn’t allowed to tell my family anything that had happened because it would look bad on him and so I sat in the hospital alone for an entire night. When I was released I thought, ‘maybe I had finally proved to him I couldn’t take the pain anymore’… I thought, ‘maybe he might even feel a little bit of sympathy towards me’ as I was rendered almost completely immobile for a good while but not even close. He began to scream and shout at me as I lay helpless in the bed, throwing my prescriptions and other things in the trash. I made a quick call before he noticed…

Within minutes, the police were in my room and I told them everything he had done in the past year. I knew this was finally the end and it was. 

I left that place for the last time and never looked back. I never touched the drugs again and as I’m writing this; I am 160 days sober. I recently started a part-time job that is going amazingly well and today I am starting a second job which will triple my pay. I see my family every day – I study courses online in different subjects to advance in my career – I take my kids out to do things they’ve never been able to do before. Currently, I’m saving money for a new car and a better home for me and my children and it feels attainable at this point. 

I cannot say that even anonymously, I am not afraid to tell my story. I am ashamed, not just of the things that happened to me, but of the things that I did. However, if this can help or inspire a single person, I feel like I’ve done enough. I will never get back the time that I’ve lost but I have today to create new memories…I have tomorrow and every day after that, too, because now that I have seen all that life has to offer me, I have no desire to escape it anymore. I get excited for every day and the opportunities that await me there. 

Recovery isn’t simple and it isn’t all neatly tied with a bow. I still cry over the man who hurt me for years, still asking myself why he wouldn’t love me the way I wanted, but those questions belong to someone else – someone bigger than me and so I just let them be. I still have days that are so hard and so painful that I imagine the ease of escaping with substances. The problem is it is never easy. It is easy for a minute, maybe a few minutes, but no matter how much you try to leave it, the world will always be here when you come back down. I make a choice every day, especially on hard days, to pick myself first. To pick my kids first. To pick my family, my career, my education first because those are the things that matter to me now. 

If you are struggling with addiction or are in recovery, know that you are not alone. Life after addiction is possible. Life after abuse is possible. There is a whole world out there that you have never really seen clearly and believe me, it is amazing…I believe in you!

Sincerely, a friend. 

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Author: Steph O. Website Administration