“When the whole world’s falling apart, what do you do?” – Renee’s Story

Listen as Renee shares her story of healing and recovery from childhood abuse, codependency, and recovery from addiction to alcohol.

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Produced by Vic King. Music by Blue Dot Sessions.


Vic: From Helping Up Mission, this is A Shot of Hope. I’m Vic King, chaplain at Helping Up and your host on this podcast.

As children, many of us were great observers, but terrible interpreters. We picked up on a lot, maybe more than our parents thought, but we didn’t know what to make of it. And often we concluded that trauma like divorce or abuse or neglect or death was our fault. For some of us like Renee, those false verdicts then trapped us in tunnels of shame and fear. Drugs and alcohol seem to offer a way out, but only ensnare us further. Today though, Renee knows the way out.

I asked her what she would say to her childhood self, to the little Renee who was growing up amid so much evil and abuse. And she told me, I would say, everything in life that happens to you is not your fault. You are beautiful, and God does love you.

For Renee, God’s love became a solid foundation from which she could be boldly honest about her past trauma and present struggles, while still honoring the good that was there as well. It’s what enables her to look at her life and see every single thing as a lesson or a blessing. 📍 Those are her words; you’ll hear them later in this podcast. For someone who’s been through what Renee’s been through, that’s no trite cliche, that’s hard won wisdom.

Renee: Okay. My name is Renee Martin. I am 42 years old. I have three biological children and two bonus children. And our age ranges are 26 to seven. So it’s wonderful.

I grew up in Baltimore city. My father was an addict who passed when I was about eight years old. So my mom was a single mother who was very depressed. That was her 14 year old boyfriend who she happened to marry by home and who passed. So a lot of her depression was in my story because she wasn’t available spiritually, mentally, emotionally. She was gone, which gave me one, freedom to do things I shouldn’t be doing and two, expose me to things that probably shouldn’t have been exposed to at 3, 4, 5, 6.

I was in a daycare that they now named the hell house and it was horrific. And I was there from the time I was six weeks until seven years old. I was the longest running child in that place. And a lot of molestation, a lot of verbal abuse, burning with cigarettes. Child labor, like picking greens, cleaning floors, rubbing feet, mopping walls. Conversations about people being murdered by adults around you. Just things that no child should ever hear.

So from there, it put in me a feeling of what happens here, stays here, there. And then when I go home, the same thing, what happened here, stays there. So I was taught to keep secrets early. I was taught to bottle early, up whatever you feel. My mother was a heavy drinker and I became her bartender. I was her codependent enabler. I wanted to keep everyone around me happy because I was in so much chaos as a child.

I think I was probably 11. My mother was to pick me up from somewhere. I don’t know what happened, but she never showed up. I decided to walk and then I was raped. So I just went into full blown pre-teen rebellion, running away, being with boys who were drug dealers, getting in stolen cars, doing everything that you should not do and still never using, because I knew my father used and watching him nod out and all that. I thought he was sleepy, but found out later it was heroin. So I just decided that I would never use, and I would never drink. That was just not going to happen because I watched my mother drink.

But I definitely turned to men and trying to get relationships. And first it started because I was athletic. I played basketball. So I thought as a way to get attention and it was never sexual in the beginning, it was more just for attention. I just wanted someone to be nice to me. I just wanted somebody to do something for me and boys buy me things and I’d be like, oh, thank you. Not realizing at some point they might want something back for that.

I was overly developed because I was so mature and all my experiences, I knew way too much. I would be involved in fights consistently at school, but had perfect grades. So it was like, people would always say, you’re so smart. What’s wrong with you. But I had to keep the secret. So I didn’t know how to navigate, like what I was feeling, because I was never allowed to say how I felt.

Being a runaway a lot, I saw people get shot in front of me multiple times, running from shootings, and it’s in the nineties. Murder was like a common thing. And one of my best friends from childhood was murdered and it kinda changed me. And then at 15 I got pregnant.

God saved me because not only was I pregnant, but my child was sickly. And by her being sickly, I had no choice, but to stay home. Up until she was like five she spent 90% of her days in the hospital. So she had six surgeries. She died twice.

So what I had to do was stay at the hospital with her. They had the parents shower, with a parent bed. And that’s what I did. I went to school from the hospital, left the school, I would do hair on the side for extra money.

I was in band marching band. I did that. I did cheerleading. I did whatever. And then I would go do hair, leave there, go back to the hospital, do homework till the middle of the night, wake up in the morning, take a shower, go back to school. And that was my routine most of my 10th and 11th grade. But that’s how I functioned.

We lived at the hospital and when she came out, she had a colostomy bag, so that had to be cared for a certain way. They care wasn’t covered. So I had to come up with what I was going to do. So what did I do? I hustled. I knew ways to get money from things I shouldn’t do. And I had friends. And one of my friends in particular made sure I was always okay with my daughter.

He, oh my God. He just was like a phenomenal friend. And I did hair. I sold candy at school. I would clean people houses and not only did I do hair, but I would catch the bus to your house and do your hair because I didn’t have anywhere to do it. So then I would charge you extra because I had to come to you. So I just learned that if I hustled, I can get it done.

My daughter’s father, we were in a relationship on and off. His family is phenomenal. His mom helped a lot with my daughter, his family babysat her a lot. My family babysat her a lot for me. Because of my issues, I didn’t trust her with anyone. I wouldn’t let anyone watch her. So as she got older, she was very verbal because I couldn’t hold her. So I talked to her constantly for two years. So she was two years old, letters, numbers, speaking in full sentences. And people laugh because she had her third birthday and they were like, are you sure. Because she would have a full conversation with you and you wouldn’t believe it. And I always say she was my miracle.

And then I got pregnant on my senior year with my son, my oldest son. And I was like, I failed. Because at the time I was working for the federal government on a student program, and it was for the summer and they asked me to stay. And the only thing I had to do was stay, and they would help me with school. I was enrolled in college. I was together, but then I got pregnant. So having my son, I would have had to take the leave to have the baby, which meant I couldn’t do the program. So instead of me saying, let me figure it out and communicate. I decided to just drop it. And I had my son and I ended up eventually getting married to their dad, and it didn’t work out well, but in the meantime, I ended up getting a good federal government job back the same place and I was doing well. But the pressure of my position I was in was so great. I never still learned how to be a human and communicate feelings.

And going through my separation, leading to a divorce, I was extremely overweight. I was 350, 60 pounds at one point. I was eating my feelings and decided it would be a great idea to have a weight loss surgery- not get therapy, but to have weight loss surgery. So in having weight loss surgery, I stopped eating and had a glass of wine. And the glass of wine felt like a bottle of alcohol, but now I was back attractive. I was back single. So I felt oh, this is how I’ll make money. I was actually doing security for a nightclub. I was a bartender. I was working at night and then my government job during the day. And at one point during my separation, I was living in my car because I was so frustrated with my situation, I just moved in my car.

And I lived that fast paced every day, working literally three jobs for three years. And when I blinked and my relationship was done. And I was doing these inappropriate parties participating in cooking for, I had a catering business and my job was if you had a party that was very adult-ish, Sodom and Gomorrah -ish, I would be your caterer because I didn’t tell. And I kept the secret because I was good at it. It was famous people, politicians, all that there. And I catered and I just kept my eyes and my head down, but I was paid well to serve people alcohol, and to keep secrets and find girls to help go to the parties, to work the parties with me, to make money.

And then I realized I had a gift for all these girls need babysitters. All of us can pool our money together and we can come up with a way. Okay, so if you need money and you could be the babysitter this week, and then you can be the babysitter that week, but whatever we make, we’ll all share it. So in my mind, I’m thinking I’m helping them, but then I’m looking back thinking that wasn’t helping them.

Some of the things they had to endure and go through was not helpful. I felt like I was making it safe for their kids because all of our kids were together. And for me being my situation it was a trusted person with all of our kids. We didn’t leave our kids with… this person had an aunt that was on drugs, so she didn’t want to leave him with her. And this person had a husband who was doing wrong… but at least they’re all together at my house and they’re all cared for or at someone else’s house.

And then I realized my drinking became more important than anything because as I started feeling, I was so numb. And as people around me started passing away, I never dealt and I just kept, I was like 30 something and I just was like drinking and partying and drinking and partying to the point I barely remember my thirties. Cause I never got to do it at 15. I never got to be a child. I never got to go to college and party. I never did that.

So 30 hit and I got cute and skinny and it was like free. I wasn’t in a relationship for the first time since 14. So I felt this is when you party. And then someone said, there’s something called happy hour and you get all you can drink for $20. What a concept. And I woke up in the most strange places, like my car, the bathroom of the bar, all kinds of stuff, but ultimately that’s how my alcoholism took off.

I lost my job, my great government job with benefits, making lots of money. I lost it. And when I was there, I was pregnant by then, I had met my son’s father now, and I was pregnant with my son. And part of that, once again, God slowed me down because up until then I was drinking and I still didn’t acknowledge that I was an alcoholic to me. I was like, I’m living my life. I’m partying. This is what I have to do. I would go to work, come home, have a drink till the next day, because I hated going to work good money, but I hated it. I loved my friends there, but I hated it.

So once I met my son’s father and at that point, they told me I could never get pregnant. I couldn’t have children, my 2% chance of getting pregnant. I got pregnant and I was like, dang, oh man, what am I doing? So in that I had to stop drinking. I knew I could not drink and be pregnant. So when I stopped, I started having like issues and dreams and feelings and things start happening in my mind.

And I start realizing, oh my God, you are an alcoholic. It wasn’t until I had got pregnant and had to stop that I realized how much I was using it and needing it. And I think I was like five months pregnant and I was like, I’m gonna have a drink. I was so sick, mentally, physically with myself.

I don’t think I got out of bed for two weeks because I said, how could I do that to my baby? And then the thing that I was mad at my parents for being, an alcoholic and the addict, I became. And it hit me. And I just went into a depression during my pregnancy and it lasted up until I got here. Part of it was, after I had my son, I was breastfeeding because I said, if I breastfeed, I still can’t drink. So I kept trying to think of things to do so I wouldn’t drink. So I wasn’t able to breastfeed anymore. So I started back drinking. So I started being late. I started not being accountable. I stopped showing up. I had new management who happened to look at my file and say, oh my God, no wonder.

Okay, so what’s the plan? So my answer was what Renee always does. I resigned. Like y’all ain’t gonna fire me, I’m going to resign. I have 15 years. I get a pension in retirement. I’m invested. It’s okay. I’ll figure it out.

Not realizing, you never went to college. So the amount of money that these people were paying you, it’s very hard to come by. And it was a slap in the face and it was for me, I was like I did this and I did this and I was at the white house and I did. And then I got more depressed, and I drank more, because then I started feeling the weight of what I did, wow.

And I drank and drank more. And got more depressed. Then my car got repossessed. My son’s father is phenomenal because I don’t know how he tolerated me. I started becoming an angry drinker, which I never used to be. Before, I was a numbing drinker. So I would drink and black out. But then I became the angry drinker. I would get drunk and say things and do things, leaving in the middle of the night, sneak alcohol. And then I realized that I was making him my codependent. Covering for me. What’s wrong with her? She’s sick. Oh, she don’t feel good. Or him basically taking care of our son by himself.

My oldest two children were so frustrated, they literally moved to Vegas. My oldest son, he has ADHD. He has issues with depression. And one day he said at the top of the stairs and said, mommy, I can’t watch you like this. He got on a plane to go visit his father in Vegas and never came back. Because I wasn’t that person when I raised him. So for him, he was like, I don’t know who you are. I’m not feeling it.

My daughter got so angry. She was living with us. She punched holes in walls and left. And next thing, she moved to Vegas. It was hard and I more guilt and I kept drinking more and it was like, I would stop and I would join the church.

And the thought was when I joined the church, I’m going to work for the church because that will make me stop. And I did, but I realized I wasn’t drinking, but I wasn’t fixing anything. I wasn’t going to therapy. I wasn’t going to meetings, I was doing nothing but working for the church. And then as soon as things got hard at the church, what do I do? Run and drink.

And they were dependent on me for so much. I was the head of Christian education. I was the right hand to the pastor. I was responsible for finances and I just turned over my bank card. I was like, I can’t do this. And I’m done. And I felt horrible. So I drank more.

I had another good paying job and the same. It’s the same process. Me drinking me, not doing what I’m supposed to do. And they found out I was drinking. They smelled it on me one day. They let me go. And then told me that I had to get help and I went, I got help. And then I came back and I was good for awhile. I did outpatient, but once work got hard, I got a promotion and everything, and then work got hard and then I drank again, and then they let me go.

And oddly enough, the day they let me go, they said that I smelled like alcohol and I was drinking. And that day I wasn’t. So I was angry. I was like, no, not this time, because this time I’m actually not drinking, but I had put this cream on my body. And I was because I was stopping drinking, like my skin was peeling and I was having, because I didn’t detox.

I’m trying to do all this holistic stuff. I didn’t realize these creams and stuff. Pour out your insides out your skin. So even though I wasn’t drinking, the smell was horrific, and I’m sitting at my desk and people are walking past and I was exhausted, feeling icky. So they assumed that I was drunk and I wasn’t.

And then they went and made me go take a test. I took the test, passed, and never went back. Why? It was good money, good jobs still once again, I don’t know how to confine my feelings. I didn’t want to go back and be embarrassed. So then I drank. What was the point? I stopped drinking and they accused me of drinking anyway. So I might as well drink.

Bad answer, but that’s how I felt. And I drank more. And I think it just got to a point where my volume of alcohol was so high that I would go on job interviews, and I would leave the job interview, did a great job, get the job, but be so drunk. Cause I would leave there and get a drink and be driving drunk to the point I got to my house and I passed out in the street and my family had to carry me in the house.

I didn’t call for the follow-up, so I didn’t get the job anyway. So I just started realizing a pattern of every celebration and every sadness was a drink. And at that point, my body was so stuck and I was so depressed. I stayed in my room completely and I wouldn’t come out, and I would stop drinking because I ran out of money and I would detox myself. But then after two weeks of being sick, I would just go drink. Cause I couldn’t do it. And then I would do that repeatedly for six months. But I was, in my mind, in a better position. And I was doing well.

And then COVID hit.

And I started in February, March came, they shut the building down. My job was to train people in person. My thought was, if I take this job, I’ll be sober because I would not drink and stand in front of people and then have to speak because then they’ll smell it. COVID hit. They shut the building down.

I had to go home. I had to work from home. I was the last one hired. So they said because of COVID, you spent so much time home. We haven’t really got a chance to evaluate you. We’re going to extend your probation another three months. What, how hard it was for me to get through the six months people, without drinking?

So they extended my probation another three months. And during that time I was still not drinking. I was still going to work every day. Then they said we’re going to split you 20 hours with this department, 20 hours with us. And that way we can keep you. Okay. So then the building opened back up, people around us were getting COVID, they shut it back down. They sent me back home and I was like, I cannot work from home. I’m isolated. And I’m a drinker.

Lunchtime would come, I would run and go get a drink. So I can not do this. Eventually they said, you’ll be off your probation tomorrow. So we’re just going to let you go. And I was like, what? So I didn’t drink. I crashed. I was like, I’m done. And it was COVID and I was home and I was homeschooling and I never realized my son’s teachers were awesome because he now he’s six, and I didn’t realize the amount of stress it is to teach a child. Oh my God.

So then I started drinking again, and I was frustrated because I said, every time I think I’m doing the right thing, which is not drinking, I end up losing anyway. So I might as well drink and not remember it or be blacked out. And then I started back drinking again. I drank heavily, it was like October of 2020 through about January. And I slowed down a bit, but I’m still doing this on and off in house detox that does not work. First my brother, he showed up at my door. And when he saw me, he said, you need to check yourself into a hospital, thinking it was my mental illness.

And I said, no, I’m okay. And he was like, do you have, COVID what’s wrong? You just look sick. And then my pastor showed up to my house. What is going on? You’re drinking. You need to get help. My sister showed up to my house. You’re drinking. You need to get it together. One of my church members and her husband showed up to my house and he’s in recovery. And he said, you need to get help. We here. Go get help. My son’s father consistently said it everyday, at least 50 times a day. And they start looking for places for me to go. I said, I’ll go wherever. I’m just done. I just quit in my mind. Like I will just lay here and die because it’s so exhausting to have to drink. So let me go get my last drink.

And I had bottles hidden so much all over the house at any given moment. And I drank and drank so much that my son, I’m supposed to be homeschooling him and he’s home. And I blacked out. I don’t remember what happened, but next thing I know, I was in the ambulance and that’s where I woke up. And I remember hearing a paramedic say, your son saved your life. And I was like, my six year old, apparently called 9 1 1 and had the ambulance come get me from one phone. And the other phone, he was calling his father and saying, something’s not right with mommy. This is not normal.

So that’s scary for him to recognize that I normally drink and pass out, but this pass out is worse than the normal pass out. So when I got back to the house, my sister, my pastor were on the phone with my fiance and they were talking. And my sister said, I found a place it’s called Helping Up Mission. And this girl said it’s a good place.

And she said, they have a spiritual program and you love the Lord a lot. So this is a good place. So I think you’re really get help. But we called and they said, you have to go to Bayview. And I went upstairs in my room and I looked at it and I was so disgusted at the smell, and the thought that I had laid in the same spot in that bed for so many months that I saw the dip of my body print.

And I just got on my knees in that spot and I prayed to God. I was like, please let this help me. I’m done. And when I went to Bayview and when they came back, I was fully dressed and ready to go. I looked crazy, nothing matched insane, but they were like, oh, she’s ready to go. So I’m like, oh my gosh, she really got ready.

And when I got to Bayview and I thought I was waiting all that time I went outside. I was on my cell phone because it was so many people, I didn’t feel comfortable taking my mask off. So I went outside to use the cell phone.

Next thing you know, I woke up, I was on the ground. I said, did I black out? Did I have a drink? What happened?  I look up, the side of my face is bloody, my hair stuck to my face. I have scars along with my face. I was like, where’s my phone? My phone’s gone. And I was like, dang, my cash is gone. Come and find out, I was attacked, assaulted and robbed and did not even know it. So then I was in a moment and I just prayed to God. I was like, okay, for normal me, this is the moment where I would leave and go have a drink. This is the moment where I would turn and run.

I’m going to go in here and I’m going to sit down and I sat there another two or three hours, bloody head and all, praying and praying. And then when the lady called me, she saw my face and she said, what happened? I said, I’m here to detox.

It was like in that moment, I really. God needed that to happen, because it’s been thousands of times that I snuck out my house at literally 1:30 in the morning to make it to the bar before they close at two to sneak in the dark in the most horrible neighborhood of Baltimore city, walking past some bad things in alleys, because I didn’t want anyone to see me, to go grab a drink.

And this time I was getting sober, where I was supposed to be, and assaulted. So I was like, okay, you have to persevere. You can’t keep running from this. And as I was there at Bayview, one of the men at Baview said, when you get to Helping Up Mission, see Ms. Nicki, she goes to my church. She can help you.

And he prayed with me and he said, do you need a chaplain? I said yes. And the chaplain came with me every day and prayed with me. And that same guy came every day and he prayed with me. He gave me a bunch of pamphlets about relapse, because I kept saying, my story is I keep relapsing. And every time something gets hard, I just relapse. I can stop, but I don’t stay stopped.

And I remember coming through the door and I was like, this is where I’m supposed to be. And I sat and I cried and I stayed.

And then I found out it was six months. I was like, oh no, I’m not doing six. That’s, I don’t need six months worth of help. And I was like, all right, I’m going to do 30 days. And my pastor said I’m gonna call you every day and I’m gonna pray for you. And she created a prayer circle of women for me. And every day they prayed for me during my blackout. So by the time I got my phone back, I had 30 days worth of prayers that I was able to read for the next 30 days. So I said I’m going to stay for 30 more days because I got 30 days of prayers.

And then eventually I was like, why am I even saying I’m leaving? I’m really not leaving. I was scared to tell them that I was going to stay the six months, because I’m so used to everyone depending on me, and me being the backbone. Like, well, how’s this going to happen without me? How is this? And what’s this?

And I realized, you weren’t doing anything anyway, but being drunk and in your room. They really don’t care. They really want you to just sit down. And my mother was very disappointed and upset. She was like, I see so much potential in you. And you just seem like you’re throwing your life away. Get it together.

Because for her drinking was, one day she just stopped. So she couldn’t understand why is this my fourth relapse? Why am I recovery? What is it that you’re not getting? You’re you talk to God hard enough because I just stopped. I talked to him one time and I stopped. So you should have just stopped. And I had to go through, after being here a while, explaining to her, I gotta deal with all this stuff from three, cause that’s my first memory of it. But it was before then.

And normally, if I would get a flash of what happened to me, I would go drink to go to sleep. And I had to get on medication and I had to start dealing with all that stuff. And then going to spiritual life was helpful, because it was teaching me how to live a God filled life. And then substance abuse disorder class we had with Ms. Vicky was teaching me that I was a codependent from birth, like you have no choice but to be that, when you have two parents that are addicts. And then I married someone who was addicted to marijuana, not realizing I was a codependent in that relationship. And I always took care of everyone else. And I never really analyzed myself, what was going on with me, how I felt. I never set boundaries. I had no self-esteem. I, I would say I feel pretty, but I didn’t mean it. I would say I was okay, because I became the perfect liar of how are you? Great! And could do it with a smile.

And I had to really get inside myself on some things, and figure out what I wanted to do with my life, because I really had no clue, until I came here, of who I was. I had pretended so long to be someone else because I had to be…

I had to be perfect. I had to pretend not to hurt. I had to pretend to be happy, I had to pretend that everything was okay. I had to pretend that I could do it by myself and I really… and the women here was so nice, and they would talk to me about what they were going through. And I was like, oh my God, I’m not by myself. And it was genuine godly love, with no expectation. With no ” I’m going to be nice to you today, but tomorrow you better…” It was everything that I ever experienced about friendship and love was a lie till like 8.

I felt at home. And it was crazy because I never felt so comfortable. And people would think sharing a room with 12, with sharing of space with strangers, a bathroom with 12 women, you would feel like, uncomfortable, but I felt most comfortable. I felt like this is my healing. Like I never was a morning person, because I hated to wake up, because every day I wished that I was dead.

So I’m waking up. Good morning. Good morning. I’m singing. I’m happy. I had a reason to get up. My work therapy with Ms. Nicki was helping me because not only was I doing work therapy, but she would be praying with us. She would be talking to us. And she would say, come on, let’s talk. Let’s pray. What’s going on? We got to come on and work through it, talk to me. And it just changed my entire perspective. And the more I see new women come in and I would watch ’em go. “I ain’t staying…” The HUM has magic in it. I’m sorry, you going to stay. “I’m only here for two weeks and then I’m leaving.” Okay.

And I enjoy working in the kitchen because it gave me an opportunity as new people came in to greet them and it’s something and it took me back to what I love to do. I love to cook. I love to make people feel good when they eat. So I just really enjoyed it. And being around everybody every day and talking to them, and then having a personal relationship and it got to the point where people start coming to me for prayer, every.

And I was like, what is happening? My pastor became my prayer partner, and we would pray in the morning, and then I would pray with the ladies. And then I started doing devotion. They were like, what? That was good. And I was like, you know what? This is what I do. I’m a teacher of the word of God. That’s what I do.

When I was drinking, I was so dark. And then it was like, I think it was the first outing with Joanna. She had us go off alone for forest therapy and I was by myself and a red sparrow came and I started singing “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” and God gave me my voice back. And I was like oh, it was like a weight lifted. And I have never felt like that. And it was really the feeling of the Holy Spirit like I never felt it. And every day it just got better. And it just completely changed. And I’ve watched the miracle of us doing something in spiritual life on a Monday, and then go to a meeting on Tuesday. Here someone would come in, and someone would share something from a different from the 911 program who couldn’t have, they didn’t know what happened in spiritual life, but it all would mesh and matter. And then go to Bible study with my church and the same scripture from spiritual life would be what’s happening. And I start realizing that God ordained it and he was just lining me up to get through it.

And then I start looking back at my life and just analyzing where I was turning back. And I dissected my relapses while I was here. I literally took my relapses apart and said, every time you relapse, these are the things that happened. And I wrote them down and I put them on my wall by my bed and I read them every day.

Because if you feel this, you need to go talk to Donna. If you feel that, you need to talk to Ms. Nikki, if you feel this, you need to see Joanna. If you feel this, or this isn’t working, your sleep isn’t right, this is when you need to up your meds… and I just followed that for myself.

And that’s how I ended up getting out of it, because otherwise I would have been stuck trying to do the same thing, which is be dry and not work in any program. And then suddenly someone talks about Celebrate Recovery and I was like, I never heard of it. And they start coming in on Saturdays and I was like, this is great. It’s a spiritual 12 step program. I’m like, what? Awesome. So two weeks ago I think I went, and it was great because I couldn’t believe it’s actually a recovery place where I can go for me, my fiance can go for his codependency, and my son can go and be with other children who is now a COVID kid. Like he has poor social skills because he wants to be everyone’s friend, because he didn’t have friends, because he’s been isolated for two years.

So he’s excited to go and be around other children. So it’s been a blessing for my entire family. My children do Alanon meetings online. I didn’t know Alanon existed. And I said to myself, if I would have had an Alanon at seven, where would I be? So I made that a priority for my son. I made therapy a priority for my youngest.

My oldest son is moving back to Baltimore tomorrow. He said, I see the change in you. I think you ready for me to come home? And I was like, what? He was like, I was waiting for you to get it together. Cause I wasn’t coming back till you got yourself together. And I don’t like it here. I miss you. I miss being around you. And he’s coming home. So I was like, oh, this is awesome. So it just had a whole ripple effect on my entire family. And now me and my sister’s relationship is like, whoa, because now me being in an actual 12 step program of recovery, I’m being open and honest about everything.

And I no longer lie about anything. If this is how I feel, this is how I feel. I’m sorry if people don’t like it, but this is how I feel. If I can do something I can, if I can’t do it, I can ‘t. If someone asks me to show up, I do my best. Look, I’m a late person. I’m working on it, doing my best. Before, it’d be just I’m late, I’m just not going to go. Now I understand people relying on you. Your word is your word. Words matter, Donna says all the time. So now I choose my words carefully. I think about what I’m doing, the people around me.

And now my new thing is, I graduated and I was like, I’m leaving. And I was like, no, I delayed it, knowing it’s what I need to do, because I still have the support of the HUM. And the process they had for me was great because for the first four months I wasn’t allowed to work, the last two I was. So once I started working, I still could go to work and come back here. And if I had a bad day at work, they were there. I could still go to therapy. I could still talk to Donna. I could still go to spiritual life. I could still be in-between interact with the women. So for those two months, I focused on getting ready to leave, instead of just… most programs you just leave. And I know work is a trigger for me. So if I’m working and something happens, I know I can depend on this place. I know the HUM is there, no matter what.

And then to graduate in here, we got to figure out a way to keep you connected. We got to figure out what we’re going to do. What can you do? And I’m like, I’ll do anything.

Like right now, the job that I have is for a, a retirement plan. And it can be stressful because people are calling about their money. And it’s by phone. And a lot of it is, I’ve realized that before, I didn’t have a understanding of peace. So when somebody would call me or something would happen at work and I would be attacked, I would think, oh, I’m gonna just get a drink. I don’t know what to do. Now, I think yesterday I got cussed out four times in less than like an hour. And I smiled, like it didn’t even hit me, because now every attack isn’t personal. My inner peace is so much different. Nothing about other people’s problems, I don’t own them as my problem. Where I didn’t understand that before. I really felt like if someone else felt bad, I had to feel bad. If someone cursed me out, which, because somebody else processed their check wrong, I just happened to answer the call and get the cuss words and the slander and all that about the company and you people as a whole. They’re not mad at me. It’s the situation. And I’ve learned how to differentiate between a situation and then personal attack. And I don’t take everything personal.

And things go wrong. Like I was in a horrific car accident while I was here. I got hit by a drunk driver, hilarious, in front of my bar that I used to sneak to in the middle of the night. And my car was totaled. I think that is God’s way of… see what happened? This could have been you.

I never had a DUI. And he threatened to kill me. But my only thought was, I’m not mad at him. Look, this was me, raging, upset, confused, lost, and all I could do to stand there and pray for him. Wow. My guys in front of my bar damn, baby girl, they hit your car. They tore your car up, you alright? I’m okay. You want me to do something? No, it’s okay.

In the midst of it, I just, I laughed because I said, God has a sense of humor. Sometimes in that moment, I was terrified. But honestly, when I look back at it, it had to happen that way, because it was another miracle of him showing me that this stuff’s not about you.

So the same way my parents were addicts and my life was just a side piece of their addiction. They didn’t intentionally pick up and think, I’m ruining Renee. The same way, that alcoholic that hit me didn’t intend to say I’ma total her car and permanently damage her back. So I’m not like walking around oh my God, my back is damaged, and now I’m not drinking, and I can’t even take the meds for my back. I was like, oh I guess I’ll just buy one of those nice massage chairs that you sit in and it just massage your back when my money come. And then I got a better car. And this car is bigger. So when it’s time to go to meetings, me and the ladies can fit in the car and we take them to meetings.

So it was a win-win for me. So I really did not lose in that situation. So I start looking at, let me see myself, let me see the world different. Let me see other people different. What is my compassion for, what am I trying to change? Where does my peace lie? But this is what I had to do to get through my path and sobriety, because I need to learn to deal with the outside world. I need to have stress and then figure out how to navigate it.

When the whole world’s falling apart, what do you do? Now I have therapy. I’m on my medication. I go to meetings, I have a sponsor. I have a home group. None of which I never did before.

So I’ve really just learned that it really is nothing negative under the sun. I really believe that. There’s no thing in this world that is meant to do permanent harm forever. And I never felt that way until I got here. Everything is either a lesson or a blessing. Period.

And if you look at life that way you can’t be moved by bad things. There’s nothing that will take you from God when you look at life that way.

If I could talk to myself when I was a younger child, I would definitely say, it’s not your fault. Everything in life that happens to you is not your fault.

You are beautiful, and God does love you.

I think it’s so difficult as a child to see adults do wrong, who are supposed to lead you. And to feel like that’s something you would want to be when you grow up.

I think it would just be grow up and be yourself, just be genuinely you and feel whatever you want to feel and tell people how you feel, no matter what. No matter what, be honest, period.

So the ladies that would come to this program behind me, I would say, stay. Every moment will not be perfect, but there is a miracle here, and you have to stay to see it. It’s no way you can leave before your miracle.

And everyone is worthy of an opportunity to change. Being asked to do things that are outside of your normal is when you grow. So just stick and stay. And I’ve never seen someone stay and do what they were told and fail. Never. The failure comes when you don’t follow good orderly direction. And everyone here loves you enough to give you good orderly direction from God. And nothing is done out of spite, vindictiveness, hurt, or from a place of pain. It’s all genuine love. So follow what you’re asked to do.

A lot of times people don’t realize when they give, where it goes. A lot of times as a giver, you do because you feel like you’re supposed to do. So if anyone has ever given anything to Helping Up Mission in this program, I swear it’s helping people. There are so many miracles. For me, it was coming in not having anything, and getting a Bible and a toothbrush and underwear.

Like just having the opportunity to spend time with the Redeemer ladies and they did like a painting for us, letting us do paint and Rita’s ice and donating things so we can have outings and it’s just been absolutely amazing.

I think ultimately everything that I’ve been given while I was here has been, again, it was like aligned with my life. I got a birthday gift and a card with a handwritten note from one of the donors, with a prayer that was the same prayer, similar to the prayer I said the day when I was in my room, on my bed before I got here.

It’s more than needed to get through this process because those small miracles make all the difference when you are in a position we’re in, and you feel like we feel. Because sometimes it’s that shot of light in darkness that you just don’t get, unless you get something from a stranger, because that’s how you know it’s God.

Vic: Just a reminder to take our listener survey if you haven’t yet. I want to make one of your favorite shows and only way for me to do that is to know what you think. So please follow the link in the show notes. It’s hum.page.link/survey.

This podcast was produced by me, Vic King, with music by Blue Dot Sessions.

So grateful to Renee and the many others who have shared their stories on this podcast and in our monthly newsletter over the years.

Last week we had our ribbon cutting for the new women’s and children’s center, where our pilot women’s program is going to be moving next month. So excited to see all the hope, healing, and life transformation that’s going to happen there.

Thank you for listening… Until next time.