Updated: Sep 2
I came from a large family; the third of ten. I also have two sons. Growing up was rough. I was a product of physical abuse, neglect, and molestation. My daddy left when I was two, and my mom tried to take care of eight kids by herself. I entered the foster care system in 1977 and I stayed there until 1982. After I came back home, my mom married my stepfather and had my two baby sisters. He was as crazy as they come, and they had big fights all the time. He would beat her; she would boil water and throw it on him. My aunt would come and take us to the park but when we would come home, the house was a disaster. Eventually they got a divorce, but he kept custody of the girls because my mom was on welfare. My mom broke down and stayed in bed for three years.
From then, it was clear that we were on our own. I was molested by a neighbor when I was nine. I would have told my mom, but I watched her beat my older sister for getting pregnant at thirteen. Mom was a religious fanatic. The only time she got out of bed was to go to church. Mom went to jail twice for the way she beat us. I didn’t feel sorry for her because I always had a feeling that she liked beating us.
I bounced around from foster home to foster home, and one group home to another. I was a habitual runaway at twelve. I thought I was so slick because I would stay on the run all summer and turn myself in so I could go to school. I met a man twenty years older than me and I got pregnant at fifteen and had my son at sixteen. The crazy thing is, I graduated early and became the first in my family to graduate at all, especially with a baby. I was emancipated when I became 18 and a year later, moved to Vincennes, Indiana where I studied social work.
I felt confused and angry about so many things, but I didn’t know how to use my voice to say what I needed to say. Drinking became the center of my universe when I found out that it gave me a voice. And that is how I functioned. Everyone knew I was an alcoholic in the making but I didn’t care. Nothing made sense without a drink. I started dating a wide range of men. I wanted to be loved so much that I would say yes when my boyfriend asked me to do things, I would be ashamed of doing. But it didn’t occur to me to say no because I loved him, he took very good care of me, and I didn’t want to be alone. Until one day, he became abusive after I told him I did not want to do something. After the first time he hit me, something changed; of course, I had to anyway.
I met my husband after he left, we have a son together, but my son has never met his dad. We broke up because we were too young to have gotten married. We struggled with our own demons. His family wanted to adopt my baby when he was born. They said if I let them have him, that he would be well taken care of and be a part of the will. But I would never be allowed to see him, and he would never know he came from a Black Woman. I declined.
I started nursing school when my baby was a year old. My son’s father’s family made me feel like trash, so I worked hard to get my license. I graduated in 2001. This was the first time I had gotten sober by sheer will, the first time I had gotten sober period. It changed my life. I was self-reliant and had accomplished everything by myself. But the problem with self-reliance is, who do you turn to when your bottom falls out from under you?
I became a workaholic and did not have the energy to be a mother to my boys. I became moody and restless. During this time, I started using cocaine. It was a nightmare. It seemed like every guy I dated was abusive and the fights started getting serious. No matter how much I gave or what I did to make it work, which was anything because I had no boundaries, didn't work. I knew that if I didn’t get away soon, I would be killed.
Someone called the police one day and my boys were taken because the house was filthy, and I was drunk. I was a wreck. My addiction spiraled out of control. I was getting fired from jobs for calling in all the time. I was evicted from my apartment and started staying in motels, but I was put out as well because I would pass out with drugs in the room. I was in ICU on my 30th birthday due to liver failure. I missed my boys, but I was knee deep in my addiction and I couldn’t get sober long enough to visit them or comply with CPS. I was so overwhelmed that I gave up my youngest son for adoption and sent the oldest to live with his father. I left Indiana and moved to Washington State. I got clean and sober for 18 months, until I relapsed. I lost control of who I would become when I drank. I hit rock bottom and I wanted to die. Drugs and alcohol were not working. I thought my life was over; but just because it feels over, it doesn’t mean it is.
After five years, I left Washington State and came back to Indiana. I stopped by Volunteers of America on my way to see someone. I discharged from there after completing a 30-day in-patient program, so they were familiar with me. They told me to come back in five days after they discharged current clients and admit new ones. I sat on my hands for five days; I was so excited. I had a flicker of hope. I was admitted into their program in September of last year and completed another 30-day in-patient program. This time, however, instead of sending me back to the streets, my case manager told me about Hope Center Indy. She didn’t know much about it because she had never sent someone there; I would be the first. A case manager from Hope Center Indy came to Volunteers of America and interviewed me. After the interview, she told me that I was accepted. She may have just said I just won a million dollars. I knew God was saying “I heard your cries for help. I have a place for you. They will help you, but you have to do the work. I will be with you but it’s up to you to succeed.”
Hope Center Indy is unlike any other place I’ve ever been, and I’ve been to a few places. The staff and volunteers are unlike any other people I have ever met, and I’ve met a few people. Hope Center Indy provided me with a clean, safe shelter, food, and nice clothing. I’m difficult and mistrusting, but that was okay. They showered me with grace. I found out that I had never met someone who shows you what a faithful Christian looks like without saying a word. I can’t express how much this place has changed me. I’m trusting people again. God is real and personal to me. When my father died, my heart was crushed but the staff and volunteers were there for me. I now have a relationship with my sons after not even talking to them for two years. On July 26th, I had a stroke on my cerebellum, which controls balance only. I have no cognitive or physical impairments at all! I am now in phase three and Hope Center Indy has provided me with gainful employment. As a result, I can pay to be enrolled in the Indiana Professionals Recovery Program. After six months of compliance, I will regain the opportunity to practice nursing again. My God loved me back from despair. I am now thriving and excited to share my testimony of victory with the world.
Thank you for reading my story.
A Sister of Survival