My story begins back in the fifties. My parents owned a bar and we lived above it. These were my biological aunt and uncle who adopted me at age 4. Both of my biological parents were alcoholics. Sometime when I was about 11, my dad began to touch me and beat me on a weekly basis. I complained to my mother, who said she could do nothing or she would get beat up. I did not tell her about the sexual abuse. I knew she would blame me or say it wasn’t true.
There were no 800 numbers to call for help. I talked to my minister about the abuse one time and he told me to go home and honor my father and my mother. My first coping skill was alcohol. I found that if I drank before I went to bed each night, I could sleep without watching the doorknob all night. I left this abusive home at age 15 and refused to go back. I was taken out of the home for physical abuse, not the sexual abuse. I lived in 3 different foster homes after leaving. Drinking was still my coping skill. That and anger kept me going. Years later, when my life was a mess, 3 marriages, and 2 children, I decided that drinking was no longer a coping skill, but was an enemy. I still did not know anything about mental illness and depression. I was accused of being hostile most of the time. I signed myself into out-patient treatment for alcoholism. I learned a lot about myself, but mostly it was a shaming experience because I believed I was the cause of all my problems. After being sober I returned to school.
First I earned a Chemical Dependency degree. I worked in treatment for a few years. I made another poor choice and left this profession for an alcoholic man. Marriage #4. Went back to school again for a social Work degree. I started working with people with disabilities. Here is where I learned about depression and mental illness. It was now the early 90s. Still using the coping skills and knowledge I could pick up anywhere. One year I attended a workshop where Mary Ellen Copeland talked. I learned that I was not a bad person. I had been using self destructive ways to survive, but I survived in spite of several suicide attempts, and a million poor choices. I now teach from the Wellness and Recovery Workbook. I treasure the knowledge. I believe it would have made my life better if I had this knowledge growing up. This is a brief synopsis of my life. It is hard to describe the pain I suffered as a child in so few words, but you get the gist of it. I am now 69 years old and this is the happiest time of my life.