I didn’t exactly have the perfect marriage and family. In fact, our lives were a hopeless mess dominated by alcohol. Let me tell you about our long journey toward peace and hope.
I grew up in Rockford, in a middle-class home. My mom was a Christian and my dad was an agnostic. So in our family, it was “whatever you decide.” As a teen, I took my dad’s attitude.
I had experimented with drinking when I was in high school and college, but by my mid-20s I started to have a problem. I was drinking more often, and I also could drink a lot more than everyone around me. My friends started to notice that, too, and encouraged me to get help. When I was 26, I entered a 30-day treatment program. Within a month after getting out, though, the same problem was back.
In my late 20s I went through treatment again at the same place. That was where I met my first husband. We had my oldest daughter, Hannah , who’s now 11, but the marriage was over fast. He left and we haven’t seen him in years.
During those next few years, I worked as a CNA (certified nursing assistant). But at age 35, I realized my life was empty. My days consisted of going to work, and then coming home and drinking. My parents were trying to help financially, but they didn’t know what to do. My daughter was staying with them out of their concern for her well-being.
In 2003 I lost my job, and decided to go back into the treatment program – 90 days this time. That’s where I met my second husband, Ron, who also was an alcoholic and in for treatment. It was a glimmer of hope. But once we were out and working again, we slowly slipped back into that destructive life, even though we had a daughter, Breanna, together.
Within a space of two months, we lost our jobs, then our apartment. We had nowhere to go. Both of our families were exhausted from trying to help us. They had given up. My parents put us up in a hotel short-term, but the two of us had a fight and Ron ended up in jail.
Someone from the jail suggested Rockford Rescue Mission. Ron is from the South and has always been religious, so this was a more natural fit for him. I was still a skeptic, but I also was out of options. Ron talked to the Mission and we both did the interview in October 2006 and were accepted into the program. We stayed until the end of January 2007. Married couples are allowed overnight passes to spend with our families and I got pregnant again. We decided to find jobs – Ron painting cars and me as a CNA – and not to return to the Mission. I ended up having a miscarriage.
I soon got pregnant again, and our son, Brezlen, was born in January 2008. Ron and I both kept working and we both stayed sober … until that next summer, when we both started drinking again and we cut off our contacts with the Mission.
The awful cycle was continuing; everything was hanging by a thread. For two weeks, we lived in our car in a Walmart parking lot while the kids stayed with my mother-in-law. I was still working, so we were able to get a small apartment.
Then my husband went to jail again. And I just gave up. Nothing was ever going to change. Something kept tugging at me inside, and finally I called the Women’s Life Recovery Program. I had no idea what I was going to do. They suggested I come back. I said, “I guess. I have nothing else.”
So on Jan. 26, 2009, I went in and finally surrendered myself, both to God and to the Mission’s program. My first time, there was still reservation. My thought had been, “How fast can I get this done?” I didn’t put my all into it. The second time, I let myself be open.
I’m the type of person who’s got to study something carefully before I buy into it. My first time at the Mission, I had some belief, but not faith that things could change. Now I had time to carefully build my faith on something I finally knew was real.
Meanwhile, Ron went to the Salvation Army’s program. A Mission staff person had told us, “It didn’t work for you both the last time you were here. Maybe it’s time to try something different.” We had both decided this was it. We had to make a change, or destroy ourselves. Our kids were suffering.
We stuck by it and things started coming together. Ron finished in July 2009. I graduated Sept. 18, and then stayed another month and a half. During those months, I built my faith and found a peace that finally ended the emptiness. Ron had found the same peace at the Salvation Army.
Today we’re members of the Salvation Army Temple Corps church in Rockford. We’re living with my mother-in-law for now, and looking for jobs in a tough economy. But things are so different. There’s less desperation and more contentment. It’s hard to explain, apart from finally having the peace of Christ in our lives and in our marriage.
I have hope now. We’re back together. We’ve both reached a year sober. And our focus has changed. We have no desire to go back to that self-destructive life we had. I don’t think people realize how powerful addiction is. I mean, who chooses to abandon their kids, to lose everything and end up with nothing, all because they want to keep drinking? But that’s exactly what we did.
It’s so great to be back to being a family, having our kids with us every single night. And seeing the kids happy again, having Mommy and Daddy back. That’s the stuff we cherish, because we know how easily it fell apart before.
-- as told to Jim Killam