I grew up in a house with both parents and my older brother. Overall, I was a happy kid who liked school. But there was an undercurrent of pain, a secret I kept: I was abused as a young child. I never told anyone. I learned to hold onto that secret.
I was introduced to weed and alcohol when I was 15 years old but since I was the good girl no one suspected me. The secrets kept building. I blamed my parents, I wanted to be a rebel. I moved out at 18 and danced in bars and nightclubs for the next 10 years all the while hurt, angry, and lonely.
At 23 I took cocaine and I knew I was in trouble. I remember it instantly melted everything away. I didn’t think about the abuse, I had self-esteem and I felt good. I couldn’t stop. At 29, I got arrested, which was the first time my secrets got some light shed on them. I entered treatment and found out I was pregnant with my son. I got sober for two years, married, bought a house, had a good job, and completed my associate’s degree. When my son turned 8, a switch flipped inside me and I began to use again. I lost everything, even the custody of my son.
I entered Wayside Women’s Treatment totally broken. I had to start over, and this treatment experience needed to be different. I had never discussed my abuse, never had my mental health diagnosis woven into my care. It was at Wayside that I connected my son turning 8 with my own abuse at the same age resulting in my need to use again to forget. This was the first time I received the help I needed in all areas of my life ― therapy, parenting, employment counseling, spirituality, art, and housing. Addiction and the abuse had fractured and impacted everything in my life.
After treatment, I knew I had to get into “supportive housing” because it was the only way I was going to stay sober and be a part of my son’s life. I needed all of it, the stability, the community meetings, the coaching, the apartment inspections — even the random drug tests.
I have now been sober for three and a half years. In May, I graduated with the highest honors from St. Catherine’s with a Bachelor of Arts in social work. Now my job is to help other families experiencing homelessness secure housing and stabilize. Stability matters.
And now I’m a sober mom with a healthy, happy kid.