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My story isn’t unique. It’s the reason that everyone in the world finds themselves addicted to something. The cause of my self-harming or addictive behavior, whichever you prefer, was my inability to cope with neglect, abuse and trauma. It’s been a tough road. I’m the proverbial black sheep, scapegoat, cycle breaker. All those terms apply to me, thankfully. Recovery from alcohol abuse and my abusive religious past would help me understand so much I didn’t understand. Drug and alcohol addiction treatment helped me a lot on my journey. 

Where life could have taken me

I grew up in a deeply religious community with the usual patriarchal, fear-based rhetoric to keep all the women in line. As a female child, my only value was to be submissive and learn my place, until I was old enough to be married off to a guy decades older than me and become a sister wife. The fear that instilled in me was beyond words. I saw daily the verbal abuse and the beatings. It was a rarity to find a child in our community who hadn’t been molested by an older male relative who claimed to be a man of god. There was no peace, no freedom from the ravages of religion for females. A lot of the time the women and children were hungry. Our mothers would steal from the local stores to feed us.

I know how crazy it all sounds, but people know. Everyone knows, but in the United States, above all else, the “freedom” to practice your religious beliefs is paramount. It’s more important than basic human rights. I’ve studied a lot regarding religion around the world and it seems that all religion infringes on human rights since the dawn of time. The difference is, while the rest of the world is breaking free from religious tyranny, we here in America are being smothered by it still.

The beginning of freedom

I did manage to break free though. For many years I dreamed of freedom. After I was married at sixteen years old to a man of forty-five with six other wives I knew I needed to escape. My biggest fear was becoming pregnant and the same things happening to my son or daughter. I knew young men inside our community who were becoming distraught by our culture and ran away. Some girls who were my friends also did, and I would be the next. I’d managed to stay in touch with friends who escaped and one night I snuck away. I ran until my lungs burned and met one of my friends who drove me to a safe house.

It seems like I had done nothing else weeks but cry , and then I discovered the comfort of alcohol. When you’re on the outside, the reality of your life seems to hit you like a tonne of bricks. I was completely distraught and years of suppressed emotion flowed out of me like a tidal wave. I drank every day for a year to cope with the outside world. All these choices to be made for myself and I didn’t know which way to turn. I was so lucky to have my friends and the support provided for women and girls like me. For a whole year it seemed, I cried and drank to soothe my brokenness. There were times when I wondered if it would be easier to go back but through intensive drug and alcohol addiction treatment and loving help, I learned that none of that life was in any way normal or humane.

My road to recovery

I had long since turned my back on any notion of there being a real god. Any words that even connected to that notion would send me into an angry outburst. I have come to understand the loving nature of people, flawed, unholy people to be the savior of mankind. Even the men in my life who upheld and enforced this way of life were being abused by being raised thinking this was right.  It has taken me sixteen years to get where I am now, and I have a long road ahead. It took me many years to find my feet and understand that to heal I had to deal with my past and prepare for my future. I wanted a future now. Many nights of my childhood and adolescence were spent dreaming of death. I didn’t even know there was another way of life.

I don’t drink anymore and haven’t done for about ten years. I’m fully aware of why people do though. There are so many out there with a lack of understanding and buried trauma that will not allow their healing. The loneliness and shame of past trauma will keep you isolated if at all possible, especially if your belief is that you are an evil person. That’s what religion does to so many.

What I have written today in this part of my story is vague and lacks detail, I know, but it’s a start. It’s difficult for me to share any of it but sharing is the next part of my personal healing journey of recovering from addiction.




  1. Jose Maldonado Reply

    Sad such a person probably doesn’t read nor apply Big Book objective to establish a relationship with God. Will pray they find their way.

    • Nicola O'Hanlon Reply

      Sad that since you’re a Big Book enthusiast you can’t drop your judgement and find some understanding and compassion.

    • “There was no peace, no freedom from the ravages of religion for females.”

      Thanks for your contribution, Jose, way to make the point for her.

  2. Thank you for your story! You do. It need to add more detail! That is for your sponsor and you know! I also can identify with the antipathy caused by the word God. But the good news is that in our world we get to choose a god of our understanding. I love how you talk about those who abused you as being themselves abused as well! Forgiving is huge in order for us to get better!
    I don’t know if you are a big book enthusiast or not, but I would recommend you read it with some one who knows the book well and who takes people through the book. I promise you will find peace.
    I will pray for you.

  3. Ruth Edwards Reply

    I applaud her getting it out… even if it’s in a general way. We don’t recover the same. But we do recover. Some of us have forgotten what it was like to not have a God of our (own) understanding. Please allow the miracle to work..don’t cut it short, or damage it by placing expectations upon it. Let her be where she’s at…and thrive in fact she made it!

    • Absolutely amazing testimony. It is so difficult to break free especially after being brainwashed that questioning aka blaspheming can send you to “hell.” In my experience religious beliefs are all rooted in fear and nothing good comes from living a life based on fear.

  4. I knew a paragraph in that we are similar. I wasn’t FLDS, but LDS. They say in AA that running into someone in the program is not unlike running into someone you’ve been through war with or shipwrecked with, add this religion and you have a whole world that most people don’t quite understand. It’s an absolute miracle when someone is in recovery and it’s beyond earthly understanding how I made it out of such intense brainwashing. I absolutely bond with your trauma sister, thank you God for the ability to think for myself and you too!

  5. Donna Rae Pecore Reply

    Wow, what a powerful story and great share. i too, cringe at the G word-more comfortable using Higher power but even more comfortable just acknowledging the power of group sharing and caring. 16 years of growth I have been sober and straight since2003 but still struggle and then I remember to use what works for me. they do say to take what you want. and leave the rest then I use acceptance and the weight is gone, and I get unstuck. Thank you so much for sharing

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