"I was brought up in a religious cult from age 2 until we escaped at 9 years old. It is where I learned the art of silence and the feeling of shame. We were controlled by fear and psychological warfare."
My name is Jen. I am recovering from many things. Each one shadowing the other to create my once very dark world. However, each now play an irreplaceable part in my strength as a woman today.
I was brought up in a religious cult from age 2 until we escaped at 9 years old. It is where I learned the art of silence and the feeling of shame. We were controlled by fear and psychological warfare. Women were viewed as much less than equal and I watched as they shrunk themselves to please the heads of their households. It is almost shocking... the ability that children have, to pick up on and absorb the things that are not of their understanding. I was punished severely for even the most minor of a child’s curiosities. Warned of the path I was on to hell and my weakness for the devils temptations. It was there that I was also repeatedly molested by a man who represented himself as the closest person to God we would ever be honored to know. I never fought him off. I never stood my ground. I never said anything.
It’s important that I speak out about my childhood. Because although I am an adult and take full responsibility for the choices I made to avoid my memories, avoid my pain; it is my childhood that I was running from. It is where the theme of my hiding my feelings began. It’s not the secrets that we keep but it’s in the keeping of the secrets that kill us. The disowning of our truths that lead us to hate ourselves. Moving out of there and back to California returning to our family and friends was a relief to us all, except my mother. My mom suffers from severe mental illness that prevents her from navigating through life with any true sense of reality or love or loyalty. It is not her fault. But as I have healed from the madness I grew up in... I have finally come to accept that it is not my fault either. I begged for her love. I tried to be good enough, skinny enough, pretty and smart enough in hopes to gain her acceptance. But nothing worked. She craved a degree of attention that no one was truly capable of providing her. My mom attempted suicide many times. And it was me who had to be responsible for stopping her or finding her. I thought she hated me. But the truth is, she hated herself. Her behaviors unfortunately showed me how to hate myself as well.
When I was around 13 I was growing more and more tortured. I developed the same eating disorder I watched my mother struggle with. The shame of all the things I never spoke of, all the times I abandoned myself and felt so apologetic for the space I took up... began to overwhelm me. It is possible I may have decided to take my own life, just like I saw my mom attempt to do so many times before. But I found alcohol. It is strange to say, but I believe for a short time, alcohol and drugs may have saved my life. It gave me a peace I had never known. Suddenly the negative voices in my head were quiet. My body didn’t feel so bulky, I felt like I belonged wherever I went.
But just as we all come to know, it didn’t take long for the alcohol to grow into a problem I could not contain. I drank over everything. I drank over nothing. I drank and drank and drank until alcohol stopped working. If anyone would’ve told me I was going to become a heroin and meth junkie, in and out of jail... robbing anyone and anywhere I went... I’d have adamantly denied the possibility. However, that is exactly what happened to me.
I found myself on the streets. Living like a criminal. My existence related more to that of an animal than a human being. On May 1, 2011 in the middle of a 4 year prison sentence, I had a moment I will never forget. I call it a divine intervention. Sitting on my bunk surrounded by cement walls and the relentless chaos of loud tortured women all around me... suddenly every bit of sound left the room. I heard 4 words so clear i could almost feel them through my entire body.
“This is your life!”
I get chills when I think about it still. It hit me that this was going to be my life forever if I didn’t do something!!! And then I realized that this is my life! Not the man who molested me, not my moms, not the animal I was reduced to by my addiction; but mine! And I felt the first sense of power to take it all back that I had ever experienced before! It has not been easy. It has taken me a long time to travel back through my life and face everything. Face my pain, face my feelings, and find my voice. I have developed a huge respect for women that I never had before! I am honored to be a woman today. A woman in recovery. I am not anonymous. I am silent about nothing. I speak for myself. And I speak for anyone who may need a sign of hope. I have become a mother to 2 beautiful children. The cycle of dysfunction has been broken in my family. I have changed the future by healing my past.
And although my story may differ from some of you, in that I became a mother after I got sober... that means absolutely nothing! I have used and drank in the face of death and in the face of losing my freedoms. I used and drank away my friends and the future I may have had. So I do not have a single doubt in my heart, that if I chose to give up my recovery... I would use and drink away my children as well! Recovery is a gift. My life is a miracle. The people in this tribe will love you until you learn to love yourself. There is nothing that alcohol or drugs is capable of solving for us. Shame, silence and addictions thrive in isolation. Stay in the herd. Remain close to a pack. And everything substances ever falsely promised you... will come true!