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Addiction Recovery Research Center

Fralin Biomedical Research Institute

2 Riverside Circle

Roanoke, VA  24016

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Phone: 540-315-0205

Email: iqrr@vtc.vt.edu

Media Inquiries:

John Pastor, FBRI Director of Communications

Phone: 540-526-2222

Email: jdpastor@vt.edu

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Elizabeth’s Story

“Growing up in a dysfunctional family has caused many issues in my life, starting at an early age and continuing into my adulthood. In my story, there are things that should be told that I have only told a few people. I am writing this in hopes it will help other women realize that they do not have to live in an abusive relationship and addiction anymore. There is a way out. For me it took many years of abuse before I got away. I am grateful I am alive and free from the hell I lived in. I got away before it was too late. For me I was too scared to leave I knew if I did, he would hunt me down and kill me. I started looking at my life and did not want to live in the darkness, shame, and loneliness anymore. Domestic violence and addiction has takes lives of many women today. They do not know how to get away. For me it took many years before I realized that nothing in my life was going right. Life should not be this way.

The law did not really take domestic violence very seriously at the time, but today this has changed. Today women have places to go that is safe. There are new laws out now that helps protects women from being abused. No women should have to go through what I had to go through. Living like this was a normal thing for me. I did not know how to live any other way. Abuse never stops and get worse. If you are in an abusive relationship, please get help and get away. It never gets better. No matter how many times they say, it will. I have heard so many times “I promise I will change” repeatedly. I truly believed my life was going to end soon if I did not do something about it. I would have either going to die from the abuse or the drugs.

My father was a very abusive man mentally, verbally, and, physically. I’m not blaming him for my addiction it was my choice to pick up my first drink and drug. He would beat on my mother and us kids. My mother always tried to stop him, but she would end up being hit also. There was always someone being hit in our household daily. I was scared to go home every day. When we came home from school, he would be behind the front door with a belt and the first one to enter would be the one that was hit. To my understanding, my father was an alcoholic. He never drank at home, but would always come home angry at life in general and take it out on us. At times, my father would leave for days. He would come back like nothing happen. The abuse kept getting worse and more often.

My mother was a very loving and caring person to everyone. It really hurt me to watch him treat her the way he did. She just took what ever came at her. I was the one that had to make sure everything was OK at home before my dad would come home drunk. I guess I became an enabler at an early age. I also became very co-dependent. My father needed me to take care of him and that was OK he loved me. Therefore, I thought he did.

We had rules that other families did not have. We were not allowed to show feeling or show love. If we cried when being hit he would hit us harder. I can remember going over other kid’s house and watched them hug each other and say I love you. I was so confused about this. Why is my family different? All I really heard from my father was “you won’t amount to shit”. That statement really stayed with me until I was at least 39 years old.

I cannot remember any good memories of my early childhood. We lived from place to place always moving and going to different schools. I never really had a chance to make many friends. If I did, it was not long before we had to pack up and move again. Feeling as if I was different. Not understanding why we kept on moving, and why my mother did not do anything about all the things that were going on. My mother worked very hard to support us. She worked a full time job, but that was not enough to pay all the bills.

Around the age of 8 years old I could remember going on a train with my siblings and mother to my grandmother’s house in Illinois. Not knowing why. We stayed for about 2 weeks. At this time my mother filed for a divorce in 1969 and on the divorce papers under legal grounds for degree (Gross neglect of duty & extreme cruelty). The divorce did not stop him for coming around when he wanted too. He still showed up at times and tried to take control. Two years after the divorce my sister was born. To my understanding, she does not remember anything. The abuse still went on until I was around 14 years old. Not understanding the whole divorce thing.  Believing that it was OK for a man to hit a woman. That was the way a man shows affection and love. By this time a was very confused, not knowing what was right or wrong. I really did not know what to think.

At the age of 14 not having, a father figure around me started hanging around the wrong crowd and started my self-destruction and my self-will. I started smoking pot, doing LSD and some drinking. I always hung around the older crowd because they had the good stuff and a place to party. I would skip school to party and stopped going to school all together. I would not go by the rules at home and was not going to school. I was taken to the youth center and was labeled a wayward child. The courts placed me in a group home. I did not like it there so I ran away. I was caught in California on a charge of prostitution, which was true. It was the only way I could get money to buy drugs. I was arrested and was put in the youth center there for about a week and got sent back to Topeka and was placed in a foster home. I did not like it there so I ran away again this time to Florida with older friends. I really cannot remember how the police picked me up. I ended up in the youth center in Florida for about 3 weeks until they could send me back home. This is the longest I have been clean and sober since I started drinking and using. I begged the court to let me go back home. Were caught a few times for shoplifting and both time ended up in the youth center. My mother always rescued me, but always ended up in trouble again. I put my mother through so much pain and worry. My family was tired of hearing me say I was sorry repeatedly. They really did not know about my drug use or drinking at this time. Nobody knew but my using friends and me.

I returned home at the age of 16. I started going to a school for troubled teenagers, still hanging with the wrong crowd still doing my will smoking pot, doing LSD and drinking. I was out of control. I met a young man I thought was the man of my dreams. He had a car, job and smoked dope. We started dating against my mother’s wishes and we moved in together. Our first apartment was a dump no heat, cracks in the floor and walls, but that was OK I was with the man of my dreams. A few weeks after we moved in together he became abusive, very controlling and needed to know where I was every minute so I was not allowed to have any friends, go anywhere, and see my family. I would end up with black eyes and bruises, broken ribs etc. All of this was fine with me because this man really loved me. I really did not want to be alone. I needed to be needed and he needed me.

I became pregnant and ended up back home with my mother because he left the state with another girl before my son was born. My first son was born July 10 1979. We got back together when my son was a year old. We moved in together again in another apartment that was also a dump, but it did not matter he loved me. He told me that he has changed and the abuse will stop. Well it did for 2 weeks and it begins again even worse and more often, but I was fine with that as long as he needed me.

He was working days and I was working evenings. One night I came home from work my son was gone. I asked him where he was. He said in the hospital he fell down the stairs. I ask him to take me to the hospital and he said no. Therefore, I took off walking. I got to the hospital and went up to the floor my son was on and there was a cop standing at his door and told me I could go in and say goodbye to me son. They were going to be taken my son away from me and put into a foster home. I was very angry and told them I was not at home when this happen. They took him away anyway because there were drugs found in the house. This is very hard for me to write about. I tried to explain to the courts and SRS that I was not home at the time and did not know what happen and that they were not my drugs. They still took him away and placed him in a foster home.

Around this time, I was pregnant again. We separated and I moved in with my mother and my other son was born on May 27 1981. I was working very hard to get my oldest son back. It took me two years of reporting to SRS my every move. At this time, I was working a normal job, but still using not as much. I did get him back, but he was not the same. He has a speech problem from the brain injury he had from the abuse. We are not very close. He resents me for what has happen to him. I really wish I could change what happen to him, but I cannot. All I can do is make a living amends to him. I can be here for him now if he needs me.

Being co-dependent and thinking that it was OK to be abused we got back together and moved into a nice apartment. I got pregnant again and he really did not want another child, so he made me miscarriage by jumping on me and sticking a cloths hanger up me. I started labor but he would not take me to the hospital and made me go upstairs and wait. I finally got to the phone, called my mother, and told her to send the police and an ambulance. I was taken to the hospital and gave birth to a stillborn baby boy. I was scared and did not know how I was going to prove to the police what happen. I did not try to explain. Still believing that he loved me and needed me. I stayed in this relationship. Sometimes he would hit me in front of my sons and they would start crying. I have lived with shame and guilt about this for many years.

This is when my drug addiction really took over. He would not work and I had to support my two boys and my addiction. Therefore, I started working in a massage parlor on the south side of town. This is when I got into the hard drugs. I really did not want to do what I was doing but I was an addict. I needed that next fix. I started putting money away for my drugs. This went on until they closed it down. I was addicted to making lots of money and doing many drugs, so I started working as a stripper and hiding more money for my drugs. At this time drinking wasn’t my drug for choice, meth was the drug that made me feel good and I felt like someone. I had many friends that hung around me and that is what I wanted when I was growing up. Others finally liked me.
 

I really do not know what woke me up, but one day when he was gone I called my brother and told him to come and get me and the boys, we wanted out of this hell. I moved in with my mother again for about a month, I was still working as a stripper and made enough money to get my own place. My brother had an apartment for rent next door from him so I moved in.

By this time, I was doing meth daily. My mother lived downstairs from me. She was taking care of my sons while I worked. At this time, they had no idea about my drug use. I do remember not looking my family in the eyes when I talked to them. I would work until 2 am and sometimes go to parties and not coming home until daylight. Get my sons ready for school take them and come back home. Call some friends over and get high before going back to work. Then do more drugs at work, and more after work. I really do not know why my family did not know what was going on. If they knew, they did not say anything to me. I had people coming in and out of my apartment at all hours. My apartment was in the back and my mother’s apartment was in the front.

In 1985, I finally filed for divorce because we have lived together for more than two years, had children and property together. During our divorce he kidnapped me twice, took me out of town, beating, and raping me for days. He said, “If I can’t have you no one else will”. I really thought he was going to kill me. I talked him into taking me back home and told him I would not press charges. I wanted him dead. I have had enough. I did end up pressing charges both times. The last time they took pictures of my injuries and he was arrested and eventually got out and put on 2 years probation. I had to file a restraining order against him. Of course, I was still stripping and was into drugs very bad. One night after work, my friend and I were headed home around the corner from my work and he was hiding in a ditch, started chasing the car, and tried to open my car door.  For some reason I lock it before leaving the parking lot. I know if he would have gotten me out of the car I would not be alive today. My mother had a dream one night that they found me dead on the side of the highway. This last incident happens right on I-70. That really hit home. There are some time gaps in my story due to the fact I cannot remember them or I chose not to.

I met this man in 1987 and married him after two months of dating. He was in recovery and I was still stripping and doing drugs. He asked me to marry him and if I did, he would take care of me. Therefore, I quit stripping and doing drugs for about a year. We both relapsed 1988 together and ended up committing some crimes. I can remember finally crashing after being awake for more than a week at a friend’s house and got woke up by the narcotics unit and had a gun in my head. They were demanding my gun. I did not have it. The dealer did. I ended up in jail for 6 months and was court ordered into treatment at Osawatomie then 3 more months in jail. This was my first time at trying recovery. I was placed on 2 years of ISP. My husband took all the charges and was sent to prison for two years. While my husband was in prison, the father of my two boys got off probation and kept calling me to meet with him. I was scared and filed a temporary order of protection. Stayed clean for two years, but did not really want to stop using. Just going to meetings to get my card signed. I was just being abstinence and my life was not changing.

When my husband got out in 1990, we started using again. It gotten so bad that I had to give the boys to their dad that was one of the hardest things I had to do. That caused more shame and guilt and gave me another excuse to keep using. We committed some more crimes and I was put on 2 years ISP and went to St Francis in 1998 for drug treatment. We stayed clean for 8 years. Had a beautiful daughter, worked a program, had a sponsor and worked the steps then life just got to busy after 4 years in recovery and we quit going to meetings and was in relapse mode for 4 years before I picked up again. It happen just like that not planned at all. Committing more crimes to get our drugs was placed on 2 years ISP again.

Around 1999 had a slip and told my ISP officer and she sent me to the Woman’s recovery center for treatment. Released from probation in 2000. This was my last time being in treatment and my bottom. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was tired of losing everything and running from everyone. I did not want to end up dead or in prison. I believed for many years that I did not deserve to live. I have done so many things and let so many things happen to the one’s I love that my addiction was going to kill me. Recovery was my last choice.

Recovery is great. I am so grateful I DO NOT HAVE TO USE TODAY NO MATTER WHAT. My mother passed away in 2006 and I am grateful that I got to make my amends to her before she died. I did not have to use over it. Spending time with her and making a living amends to her has really helped me deal with my grieving. Just saying I was sorry was not enough. I have said that to so many people repeatedly. My daughter knows about addiction and says she is proud of me. I have no more shame, guilt and I can trust people again. Most of all I can trust myself. I still have issues with my co-dependency, but at least I know it is there and try to stop it before it gets out of hand. I have feelings now and are not afraid of them. I can show love to someone and them show love back.

Today I am still married to the man of my dreams. When we meet, I really didn’t know what to expect. But I gave this relationship a chance, now we have become best friends we have been married for 24 years and I do not have to be scare to be me. My sons are grown and have children of their own. We have a 17-year-old daughter together. We have five wonderful grandchildren. Today I have no contact with my father or the father of my two sons. Have not seen my father in 20 years. He has not met my 17-year-old daughter or his great- grandchildren. I have gone through intensive therapy and counseling for years. I no longer live in fear for my life. I can walk out my front door and not be paranoid about being kidnapped or attacked.

As I write this story, I have been clean and sober for 12 years, gotten my high school diploma, and gone to college for 3 years to become a drug and alcohol counselor. I help take a N/A meeting to the woman’s prison every Sunday and I sponsor seven women. I am so grateful that I have my sponsee’s they remind me where I came from. I do not have to be a prisoner anymore. I AM SOMEBODY TODAY. I am a good wife, mother, daughter, grandmother, sister, aunt, great aunt, niece, cousin, and a good friend. I can be the person I was met to be. All do to the 12 steps and N/A .They loved me until I could love myself.  I STAY IN THE MIDDLE OF N/A SO I WILL NOT FALL OFF. I have choices today. Back then when I was being abused and using drugs, I did not have a choice. If I start forgetting where I came from I will lose my choices I have today.

Living a life of abuse and addiction is not what I want or deserve today. I really had to become honest with myself and look at my life and accept that I have issues with both and really work hard to get to where I am today. I had to change me. I am so grateful for all the people that stood by my side through everything and for still being in my life today. I am looking forward to helping other women that is going through the same thing. It has made me stronger women. I can say what is on my mind and be OK with that.

Recovery from abuse and addiction can be possible only if you really want it. I always thought there was not a way out either. Boy was I wrong. I truly believe I am still alive today because I was chosen to carry the message to other women that need help getting out of the darkness and into the light. For me my darkness was a place called hell, my light is a new beginning to a wonderful journey of freedom from abuse and addiction. I do not have to let other people hurt me and I do not have to hurt myself do to all the shame and guilt I carried around for so many years. I can say no and make healthy choices. I love whom I see in the mirror. Recovery is when we can live life on life’s terms. I can laugh, cry and get angry and still be OK with myself. Shame, guilt, secrets, and resentments will keep me sick and out there using. The 12 principles of recovery will help keep me on the right path of freedom from active addiction.

Recovery is a process and can be done. I am living proof. I had to get away from abuse and stay clean for myself. I am grateful that my HP does not give me more then I can handle in one day. What he does put in my path is lessons to be learned. I still make mistakes, but that is OK as long as I keep doing the right next thing. My HP’s will not mine. Just turning things over makes my life so much easier. Recovery has giving me so much and it is still getting better. Today I am the person I have always wanted to be ME.

I want to thank a very special woman my mother that was taken from my life to early, but I know she looks down on me with a big smile on her face. Love you, miss you every day, also I want to thank my wonderful husband for believing in me and never giving up on me, Love you honey, my HP, N/A, and all my love ones that stood by me through all the pain that I had to go through to get were I am today and for showing me the right path that I needed to take to be free and to be me again. Recovery Rocks.

I wrote a poem last year and this is how I felt for many years. I was all alone and did not know where I belonged. I was in total darkness. With no one to help me and understand me. Now I am not alone and I do not like in darkness anymore. I have a place to go and that place is here with my family that cares about me and loves me just the way I am.”