This is a powerful story, a real story of an ACCESS client. These are completely her words, unedited. A powerful representation of the work our partners like ACCESS do for those in our community...
A journey can be tough because sometimes a journey can lead one through a raging storm, one you're not sure you even want to survive. It's our individual experiences, struggles, family issues, mistakes and sometimes outside forces and conditions that change our stories; For better or for worse, our story is an ever continuing and changing journey.
I remember so many great first, great memories, but what I don't remember is:
The first lie
The first time he threw me or shoved me.
The first noise complaint
The first time I became scared of him
The first time our boys were scared and hide
The first time our boys tried to help get dad off me
The first time I went around the family and lied about my bruises.
The first time I lied for him
The first person who asked if I was in an abusive relationship.
I was not always in an abusive relationship. In fact for 8 years of my marriage we flourished and grew into two very healthy individuals who thanked God for the changes we made to get to that point. We'd come through meeting in a world of addiction and found a way to the other side, together. Our families supported our efforts to change and to become better people and we learned to trust God in all our matters because we wanted those things. I came into the marriage with two kids as a single mom, he came into the marriage with three kids from 2 other marriages. We had two beautiful boys together making us a blended family of 9. When you marry, it's for better or worse; problems started as His, Mine and then became Ours, together to help one another. Sure there were always issues, and looking back there were definite red flags. I even told him the one thing that worried me about marrying him is that his anger sometimes scared me. He said he'd NEVER hurt me. I don't know when his demons got the better of him and took over but addiction by way of prescribed pain pills led us down a road that should have led him into a grave. I fought hard against it. I've held horrible memories of the fight against the demons of the pills and my husband, inside. The pills changed him. I maintained, I stuffed my feelings, to survive it all. I had held everything and everyone together while trying to raise the two young boys. I eventually lost my own way, and followed behind my husband back to addictions. I'd tried to save my marriage, tried to save my family, then had to walk away to save my own life.
On April 10, 2018 my husband strangled me and tried to kill me. I had fled to the back yard to a camper and locked myself in and called 911; 40 mins later police officers and DHS arrived, no emergency response team ever came because of an unrelated emergency; The DHS lady accessed my injuries and was the one to take pictures on her phone. I wish the police or someone had insisted I go to the emergency room, merely due to emotional trauma if nothing else. But instead, I was taken to ACCESS. In that moment, I had to walk away, with only the clothes on my body, leave a marriage and children behind and there was no one helping me navigate through any of it. The second I walked through the doors of the ACCESS house I was taken to, I finally felt safe. Safe enough to exhale and then cry. I knew everything would be different now, I didn't know what the next 5 minutes would hold but I was safe. He couldn't hurt me anymore.
I was at the ACCESS house where the Crisis Call Center was, so it was staffed every night. I was able to seek out staff if I needed it but they didn't make me feel like I had to talk. I didn't want to see anyone or talk at times, I wanted to be alone and try to make sense out of this mess that was my life. I got away from the abuse but that didn't mean the problems went away. It was as if I had survived a tornado, been found under rubbish, left for dead. I at times knew it would have been easier on "me" if I hadn't survived. It would be a fight to survive the aftermath and fight to keep living. I had to figure out life differently now. DHS had previously become involved, the ACCESS house met all requirements for me to see my boys at the house. I had a spaced I called our own. The house was amazing! Two separate rooms, bunk beds, living room where we played during visits, a yard and a kitchen with a table where I fixed meals and we ate as a family. I met with my advocate regularly, and she made you feel okay in the middle of what was going on in my head. She helped me with clothing and resources and as I prepared to testify against my husband in court, she sat with me and helped me write my impact statement for the courts. I eventually moved to my own place and ACCESS was able to pay my deposit. I was still a client of ACCESS, even after I'd moved out, and was still able to get help from them. I had been working with the district attorney and their domestic violence resources but was still petrified to go to court and be in the courtroom with my husband. My ACCESS advocate sat next to me in the courtroom; had she not gone with me, I may have not had the courage to go and testify. She was calm and assured me I would be protected. I was convinced, even though he was handcuffed, that I wasn't safe, even in the courtroom. She saw my anxiousness and gave me a hair tie to spin around my fingers. She could tell I was starting to go into a state of panic.
Through ACCESS I was able to get my housing figured out, found programs like the Safe At Home program that I'm still in and found resources like NAMI, and Celebrate Recovery and Counseling. NAMI- National Alliance for Mental Illness continues to be a platform where I can speak and share my story through some of their programs. God has put amazing people and resources in my path that support my recovery through my trauma and telling my journey has been my own puzzle piece to healing.
Addiction comes in many forms. Addiction to drugs, feeling, habits, people!
I spent the last few years of my married life only seeing what I wanted to see, despite living the abuse and living with addiction issues within our home. I painted a beautiful picture of our family while living a nightmare. Never once did I label myself in a domestic violence relationship. I didn’t see him as an abuser, I saw him as my partner, someone I needed and someone who needed me. I thought we could fix him, fix us, go back to everything before the drugs took hold. That he just needed someone there for him to truly care for him. He was my husband and wives don't leave their husbands, not for any reason. I believed I would love this man but hide his gun when there was an argument; I would love this man even after I was terrified of him. Every day, since I left my marriage that eventful day, I have recognized the reality that I spent years covering up. I wanted to skip that process, not acknowledge all that truly happened the past few years and only look at the good. But to not acknowledge the trauma would mean no true healing. I know I want different things in life and being healthy is important because I want to be me again; the me before the trauma. My trauma has shaped me and I realize I still have work to do. I realize that unhealthy situations led me back to drugs after years of sobriety. I learned that I need healthy boundaries and that I have to be healthy on my own.
Sometimes when we make it out of the storm and to the other side when we didn't expect to, we don't know what to do. We struggle, we hurt but sometimes we find a strength. It's in those hard days that our individual AMAZING strength catches the eye of someone or even ourselves and we see the beauty of a future. Thanks to ACCESS for helping me get up and brush myself off after I survived my storm.
Hope, strength, encouragement.... can be the Start of our journey to recovery.”