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This winter, UGM resident Alethea shared her testimony at a staff meeting. With tremendous vulnerability and newfound confidence, she recounted how experiences in her early years led to her addiction. Ultimately, this journey brought her to UGM. Learn how the safe, healing community at UGM is empowering her to rewrite her story and embrace a life of freedom.


 

I was born in Biloxi, Mississippi on August 27, 1983. My dad was a chaplain in the military and my sister and I were raised in a Christian home. My mother worked as a secretary for my father after they were married, and we all moved as a family unit with the military.

As I grew older, my sister and I began to grow apart as we began at a new middle school with new friends besides each other. We had been very close before that. We had depended a lot on each other and were unaware of the struggles that were happening between our parents.

Trauma

I went from being a child to growing up alone very quickly. I underwent many traumas in a short period of time around the ages 14 to 16. I was raped when I was 14, had my son who was adopted out at the hospital at 15, and separated from my family of origin, my friends, and boyfriend at the age of 16.

I was moved from Charleston, South Carolina across the country to Roseville, California to live with my aunt. Upon arriving and staying briefly with my aunt, I was moved again to my grandmother’s where I finished high school. I would later understand how much of this played into choices and decisions in my life that would lead me to the end of myself and towards the path God intended for me.

 

 

“I felt abandonment and rejection, reaching for love and acceptance in bad relationships.”

 

 

I felt abandonment and rejection, reaching for love and acceptance in bad relationships. I became even more broken and felt so alone when leaving my husband and daughter. I felt like I had no choice but to leave her due to physical abuse, threats, and manipulation in the relationship. I felt an unfathomable emptiness from the combined losses of both my children at this point, and ashamed for being a bad mother. 

Alethea1

I sank more and more into alcohol to comfort me. I felt alone through everything and let down by everyone. Yet I felt a presence holding me through the parts where I felt like falling completely apart. Between alcohol and a higher power, I was at least held together in this world despite myself.

 

 

“Between alcohol and a higher power, I was at least held together in this world despite myself.”

 

 

I had no identity. I wasn’t really a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother. I had been so isolated that I didn't know how to be a friend or how to get the right kind of friends. I began to use people to survive. So, I continued to do the only thing I seemed to be good at. I worked and I drank. I had meaningless relationships with no moral compass. I moved around and began rehabs in between relationships, states, and jobs.

I think the biggest blow, or the final straw in my sanity and efforts to get my life together on my own, was after my third DUI. At this time, I had recently given birth to my youngest daughter who was not even a year old. She had been in the car while I was passed out behind the wheel in a ditch with a BAC of over 0.4. I lost her too. Everything was a blur after that and my actions and relationships from that point seemed to be a way for me to punish myself.

I had lost my family, my children, my jobs, my car. My living situation had been reduced to a tent in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. I was not welcome anywhere and had nowhere to go. I had come to the end of me.

Homeless-1

But that’s the best part. I gave up! I could finally let go and be free. I remember waking up August 16, 2022, sober-ish for the first time that I could coherently remember. I was laying down in my one-person tent under a tree, behind a woman’s trailer that I had met when we both stayed at St. Vincent de Paul’s [Women’s Shelter] when we were both homeless.

I hadn’t bothered to set up the tent. I had just zipped it up to keep the bugs out. I sat there with the meshed screen of the tent on my face while I wept next to an empty bottle of vodka. From there, I just remember walking away from that tent, that life, to exactly where I needed to go next. I passed the liquor store and the gas stations stocked with beer and wine without even realizing it.

I remember texting my mom and asking to come over. I wasn’t currently allowed there under the influence of any amount of alcohol. I had to be sober if I ever wanted visit, and I rarely was, but that day I was. I knew I was being carried at this point because I had no clue what would happen, or the events that would follow, once I stopped trying to control my life.

I was scared, weak, and beginning to feel the effects of withdrawal that I knew all too well. But there was something else. Something different. There was a hope, a peace in surrender, an overwhelming relief I had never experienced before. I felt the presence of God and a strength to continue throughout that day.

I felt it as we called UGM and were told that they would hold my bed, and to be there [at the Spokane Women and Children’s Shelter] by 8 p.m. It continued as my mom drove my stepdad’s truck to help me get both my tents, pack up all my things, and even get them into storage that same day. I remember feeling a quickening in my heart as I packed what I could and we set off to Spokane. I remember saying goodbye to my mom and my stepdad as I walked through the doors of the shelter, and although beaten down, I felt overwhelmed with gratitude and love.

Alethea-AOH

I had always felt alone, even when I knew I wasn’t, but now I knew and felt it in my heart that I would never be alone again. Pieces have fallen into place ever since, and even when I’m afraid that this is all a dream and I will wake up, or the shoe will drop somewhere, I am not afraid and I’m not alone. God was leading me then, and he is leading me now.

My journey has led me to this passage of scripture in the Bible: “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.” (Psalm 40:1-3)

I began the Life Recovery program at Union Gospel Mission on September 1, 2022 (Happy birthday mom! I love you!). I am currently in Phase Three and going into Phase Four. During this time, I have had miracles, promises, and a life begin and come alive. Opportunities and doors continue to open up through this commitment between God, UGM, and myself.

I now have an AA family, work at the UGM Thrift Stores, have a church, and a sober community with sober friends. I have amazing staff and volunteers that are willing to grow with me and give me grace through my growing pains and encourage me even when I struggle. I still fall short every day, but with God’s help, I can’t wait to see what is in store.

 

 

“The best part about sobriety, the most exciting thing I can think of, is being able to be a part of my children’s lives when that day comes.”

 

 

I started school on January 3, 2024, working towards a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and I am looking forward to helping others. I just became state certified in Washington as a Certified Pharmacy Technician! But the best part about sobriety, the most exciting thing I can think of, is being able to be a part of my children’s lives when that day comes.

Thank you, Mom, Brien, and Robin, for loving me like God loves me and never giving up on me.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” (Jeremiah 29:11-14)

 


Thank you for sharing your story of redemption, Alethea. May you continue to be blessed as you trust in God’s plans for your life!

 

 

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