Click For Hope

Abuse

I WAS HELD CAPTIVE

Abuse, Breaking the Silence, Sexual Abuse, RapeJasmine LopezComment
 Stock photo by:  Jazi Photo

Stock photo by: Jazi Photo

Please share your story.: When I was 16 years old, I was held captive by someone I thought of as an uncle. He repeatedly sexually assaulted me and hit me. He tied me up so I had no chance of escaping. I was there for 4 days and no one looked for me. To this day, it is still a struggle to sleep. But I've overcome so much since then. I'm now 19, almost 20, and things are still hard due to it. But I've been helped by so many.

How has your story shaped who you are today?:

I'm a much stronger person. I'm going to school to be a therapist to help other traumatized teens get through their issues.

What compelled you to want to share your story with us?:

Nobody should blame themselves.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?:

It's never going to be perfect, but it'll be better. So many people can help. And with your story you can help others.

AND STARTED BY UNBUTTONING MY PANTS...

Abuse, Rape, Sexual Abuse, Breaking the SilenceJasmine Lopez1 Comment
 Photos by: Heather Manwaring

Photos by: Heather Manwaring

Please share your story:

The first time my innocence was taken from me was when I was six years old. My parents had divorced two years prior, so my sisters and I split our time between two households: one with our mother and her partner, and one with our father. At one point, my mother had family in town visiting, and along with them came a friend. Both parents had a funny feeling about Steve--something was not quite right, but in order to keep the peace and evade awkward confrontation, he was allowed to stay in the house with us. He was weird, and quite mean. He would do things like pee on the living room floor, enter the bathroom while we were showering, and kick my sister's butts all in the name of "fun". Of course, none of this behavior was displayed in front of my mother. 
I shared a room with my sister, Kristi, at the time, and it was located in the very back of the house. One day, he somehow got me alone in that room with him. He locked the door behind him, and firmly pushed me up against the dresser. He knelt down before me and started by unbuttoning my pants and pulling down the zipper. By this point I started to make noise and attempted to scream, but he covered my mouth and told me to stay quiet. His finger found its way through my panties and into the folds of the most private part of my body. His finger felt hard and cold on my very sensitive skin as he probed me to his satisfaction. 
I have no idea how she knew, but it was my sister who came and knocked on the bedroom door. Steve mumbled a response, and smart little Kristi ran to get Mom. Seconds later, she was banging on the door to demand he unlocked it. Right before he did so, his hand still suctioned uncomfortably over my mouth, he whispered into my ear, "if you tell anyone about this, I will come back to kill you and your whole family."
My mother glared at him as he opened and exited what was supposed to have been my sacred space. Nothing substantial ever happened after that in the sense of a direst repercussion for his actions. My mom never questioned him or checked in with me, even though she knew something weird had occurred during his stay. It wasn't until a few years later that I came out with a modified version of the story (partially because I had blocked out the most painful part of this memory), after learning that he had passed away from AIDS. There was no longer the fear of the possibility that he would come back to hurt my family, although he had already inflicted plenty of damage already. It wasn't until a couple years ago (I'm now 26) that the repressed memories of the abuse came to light.
Fast forward twelve years, and the second event of this nature made its way into my life. I had just turned eighteen and was playing water polo at the local community college. I was constantly around all of the male athletes: in the gym, in study hall, in physical therapy, at all the parties (not that I attended many of those). I received a lot of attention--more than I'd ever received in my entire life. It was a new experience and it was one of the first times in my life when I felt beautiful and desired by the opposite sex. This made me desperate and way too eager to connect, in a way that made me undiscerning of who was truly worthy of me, my body, and my time. Freddy was the first man to ask me out. He wanted me to come over to his place and watch a movie with him. Naive as I was to the whole dating scene, I believed him and happily agreed. We entered his room and put on a movie...one that we never ended up watching. He stole my virginity that night with a penis as large as an English cucumber, leaving my vagina ravaged and bloody, my senses completely numbed, and broken-hearted by the realization that my first sexual experience was with someone who didn't care about me. I could never get that back. I cried for days, and didn't look at any man in the eyes or find very many men sexually attractive after that night.

How has your story shaped who you are today?: 

It has shaped me in a multitude of ways. It has affected me negatively in the sense that I lost my sense of trust not only in men, but in the world. I shut down emotionally, became very withdrawn and kept everyone at an arm's distance. I was angry, bitter, and abrasive to myself and everyone around me. In order to hide my most broken and vulnerable parts of my psyche, I put on a happy face...a mask that I felt I could control. I couldn't control what had happened to me at six and at eighteen, so I thought that if I tried to control everyone and everything around me, I would never again be hurt like that. 

Now that I have gone through healing of many of these layers, these experiences have shaped me into a very passionate person. I am committed to bringing love to myself, others, and every situation to the best of my ability. It has helped me to develop compassion for others in similar situations, to bring multiple levels of understanding to pain and darkness, and to rediscover my sexuality in healthy, life-giving ways. It has also inspired the direction in which I want to take my career in photography. I want to bring awareness and healing to this issue, because so many women have gone through traumatic experiences like mine and so much worse. We would all be better off working through and letting go of the pain many of us hold onto. 
I envision a world where everyone has vibrant, healthy, loving, honest, authentic relationships!

What compelled you to share your story?:

My story is like countless others, and one that I am willing to share because I no longer want to stay in the dark. I want complete, radical honesty, because I feel like it is the only way we will ever heal as a collective. I want my story to bring light, love, and understanding to those willing and ready to make their way out of their own holes and breathe the fresh air of the light of day.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: 

That they are not alone. That even in a world where stories and emotions like these are swept under the rug, there are those out there who understand and will listen to you, and even more than that, will love you through it all. That you are still worthy of love and happiness, regardless of how broken you feel. And, I would highly recommend finding an outlet for the pain that works for you, whether that be going to see a therapist, painting, dancing, hanging out with supportive friends...whatever makes you happy. Go and do more of that. The world isn't as scary as you think it is. We're all hurting, and we're all doing the best we can.

I WAS BEATEN, WHIPPED, & THROWN ACROSS ROOMS

Abuse, Breaking the Silence, Sexual AbuseJasmine Lopez4 Comments

Please share your story: : When I was little, I lived with my mom, her boyfriend and my older sister. We lived in a trailer home in New Hampshire. The events of my abuse started when I was around the age of 3. I was always struggling to eat. I was always dirty. My older sister, who was also going through the same thing, was the one who took care of me. I was sexually assaulted by my mom's boyfriend. He played with me sexually and made me things that I didn't want to. He made have sex with my older sister. I was beaten, whipped, and thrown across rooms. I was raped by my mom and her boyfriend. I couldn't eat unless they felt like it. If I missed behaved, I had to drink hot sauce. Then at 6 I moved in with my dad.

How has your story shaped who you are today?: 

It changed the way I see people and how cruel that people can be. But it's also has given me passion for others, and it's given me the ability to listen to other's stories and give them advice based on what I went through.

What compelled you to share your story?

I want others to know they aren't alone, there are lot of people who have gone through similar things. I want to break the silence, especially since I'm a guy.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: Keep your head held up high, and move forward. The past is the past, but the future is not here yet.

I ENDED UP BROKEN AT A VERY YOUNG AGE

Abuse, Breaking the Silence, PTSD, Sexual Abuse, SuicideJasmine Lopez4 Comments
 Photos by: Vivian Sinya Productions

Photos by: Vivian Sinya Productions

Please share your story: : I was seven years old when I attempted to help my first wounded animal. Being the nature lover that I am, at six years old on a breezy spring day I discovered a robin with a broken leg, tangled in a pop divider. I urgently tried to help the helpless bird break free. I will never forget that moment when my father and I did just that, and will never forget the moment God helped me to do that very same thing on my own. We all end up broken at one time or another, and unfortunately I ended up broken at a very young age at the hands of my abuser. Growing up no one ever suspected a thing because I hid it so well, and covered it with an infectious smile, that my parents couldn't even tell the difference. It was a secret of indescribable pain that I was going to take to the grave with me, because I didn't want to admit that someone I knew, trusted, and loved had sexually tarnished me. It's not an easy thing to come to terms with on your own, and then you grow older and the wound grows bigger and bigger as you continue to cover it with the same bandage until one day, God steps in. 

That day was a Saturday in 2007, my senior year of high school, as I sat in my parents room getting my hair brushed by my mom. One situation led to God opening up the truth about the daughter my mom thought she knew, and all I can remember is going into complete shock as the words fell from my mouth. The world turned black and the tarnishing moments began to replay in my head so fiercely as if they'd happened that day. My body was a limp leaf that was uncontrollably shaking, my mother was yelling out for my father to come into the room, and for such a fast moment, it felt like a scene in slow motion.

Fast forward to 2014, after the interviews, medical checks, and the court dates I skipped out on because I couldn't face him... I was informed he'd be released soon. Talk about your world shaking again after years of trying to get past the crap you buried for so long. The year of 2014 was my hell. I drank all of the time, was diagnosed with PTSD, stopped my career, cut out my family and friends, made decisions that could have caused a lot of trouble in my life...I hit rock bottom. Every single day I slept, I wept, and when I did make it out I wanted to jump in front of a bus. My mind, and spirit had been completely broken and one night I decided that it was the night I was going to die. I wrote my suicide note. I remember crying to God, yelling at Him, so angry that it had to come to that point. Then my phone rang. I will never forget this moment as long as I live, it was my co-worker calling for the 100th time telling me I am loved and that everything was going to be okay. It was God's last attempt to get through to me, and I answered. Out of all the texts and calls this girl bugged me with that I had ignored, I answered. She was at my apartment within minutes and that was the day, I for the first time, in my life, started to heal. 

Two years later, after counseling, facing my demons, getting back in church, and creating new music, I am SO THANKFUL to be living for the first time ever in my life. Though it took a lot of breakthrough, broken decisions, and much more to get here, I'm here and ready to help others live a life of abundance.

How has your story shaped who you are today?: It makes me everything that I am. The strong, resilient, gracious, and understanding woman has always been inside of me, but after everything I've seen, I can really say those qualities breathe truth throughout my life.

What compelled you to share your story with us?: 

I believe this story will speak to your viewers who may be feeling the need to hide their brokenness. I hold the banner for the broken, beautiful and want to see people set free from their bondage of anxiety, depression, addiction, and secrets. I truly know if this story is selected it will help in a way do just that.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: 

You were created to live a beautiful life beyond the pain. Pain is real and your feelings are valid but don't settle there and give up. FIGHT. Surround yourself with solid people that will love you through each and every crack, and allow yourself to heal in your valley. It's there you discover who you truly are. It's there you discover who God truly is. He does not sit by while you suffer, he is there in the depths of what seems like endless sorrow. Let him in, and I promise you healing will flood your soul. Lastly, know that you are SO LOVED and cherished on this earth, even by a stranger like me.

AWAKENED BY A MAN ON TOP OF ME

Abuse, Adoption, Breaking the Silence, Clickforhope, Depression, Forever Family, Foster Care, Rape, Sexual Abuse, Single MomJasmine Lopez13 Comments
 Photos by:  Jazi Photo  Makeup by: Ashley Vela

Photos by: Jazi Photo Makeup by: Ashley Vela

Please share your story:

It all started when I was 14. I lived in Gary on 21st Sve . I was going to school and just living a normal teen life, chilling with friends and having fun. It had its ups and downs but hey who's life doesn't right?!? So in March 2012, my dad takes a trip to Puerto Rico to visit his mom, leaving my brother, mom, and me alone at home. So one day, being the nosey child that I was, I went looking for my mom but couldn't find her. I went upstairs to check and nothing. Something said go look out the window. So I went and looked, and saw my mom talking to some guy. I didn't know who he was but they exchanged something, and my mom walked back into the house. I didn't think anything of it. I'm 14, why should I really care, right? My mom always told me to stay out of grown folks business, so that's all I knew.

So a couple days later my mom comes downstairs and says "We're having company for a while." I told her, "Ummm...okay?!?" To soon found out it was the guy who she was talking to outside. I told myself, "Something is wrong here. A man is staying in our house that isn't my dad. He shouldn't be here. But she said it's only for few days, and she gets paid for it?!?" Now money was tight since no one had a job at the time, so my brother and I had to panhandle a couple time for money just to get through one day at a time.

One night, I'm asleep and the night is still. Only to be awakened by a man on top of me, touching me, and taking my innocence. My brother was asleep in the bed beside me. The man whispers, "Shhh don't tell anyone, and your mom will be okay." I laid still thinking my life is over. I'm scared...Where's my mother to protect me? He left soon after. The next morning, I walked downstairs to see my mom scooping some type of substance on a plate... Is it flour? Sugar maybe? I walk into the kitchen and she hurried to cover the plate, and told me to get back upstairs. It's now April and the same thing happens again, while I'm asleep in my bed, in my house...while my mom is God knows where. My brother and I were barely surviving and it's up to me to stop this from continuing. May is here and I have no menstrual cycle. My mom is all of a sudden curious, and asks me. "Where's your cycle?" I replied, "I don't know, late probably?" I can't even look at her. I stopped going to school because I had no motivation and no drive to do anything but live in fear.

One day my mom sent me to my grandma's church to ask for some money, but something in me said enough is enough. I went to church and I told my aunt that I didn't want to live with my mom anymore. I was tired of everything going on and I was dying inside. My other aunts, who attended the church, came over too, to gather my things, along with my brothers. We left and stayed with them for a while. I told them what happened and everyone was disappointed in my mom, in how she let her guard down and let drugs break her wall of being a real parent.

The next day, I was in the hospital getting rape kits done, swabs, and shots, only to find out I'm one month pregnant. Yes, I was 14 years old, pregnant and felt like a piece of trash without anyone or anything. My aunts told me and everyone cried. Three months past by and I'm now four months pregnant. I'm tired, big and taking everything in, all at once. I have a journal to keep me sane and it wasn't working. My aunt found it and kicked me out because of something I wrote. I was then placed into foster care and I can honestly say it was the best thing that could have ever happen to me. I missed a lot of school, so I had to do 8th grade over again which was my choice. Even though everything was bad, I was blessed with a beautiful son on December 24th, 2012. Yes I can really say he was my gift from God. I named him Alejandro Nicholas Kirkland.

I moved again shortly after that to Whiting, Indiana and my son got a terrible fever of 104.3. My foster parent really didn't care and kept saying to give him water. God whispered to me and said be patient, just watch. A few hours later, my therapist came and saw Alejandro so hot and called the abuse hotline. We went to the hospital and stayed all night. Lets just say God has his ways and perfect timing. The doctors said if we had waited any longer, he wouldn't have made it. That made my life take a turn it really needed to. We were removed from her care and moved to East Chicago, and spent a summer there. We then were placed in a foster home in Gary once again. At this time, I just couldn't deal with my life and putting my son through that didn't feel like it was right. I couldn't do this to him. I was in school but I didn't have a job and I couldn't provide for him like I wanted to.

So winter of 2014, I got placed in Dyer at a mom's home for some help and to see if I still wanted to have the role as a mom. I found out that I didn't. I didn't have help andit was hard seeing my peers with their baby's father. I was alone and no one came to see me. I loved him with all my soul and being, but I wanted better for him. I want him to have the world and some. I wanted to give him everything I never had. Summer of 2015 I gave him up for adoption. It was the hardest decision I ever had to make. I signed the papers and he was officially adopted. He deserves better and that's what he's going to get. God has always watched over him and I trust Him.

So its been a little over a year now and his new family spoils him and some. He loves it. I'm also glad that I could be a blessing to someone who couldn't bare on their own child. But, overall God gave me an amazing person to help guide me and steer me in the direction I needed and her name is Kiessa Hamilton. I love her so much and shes my rock. I'm sure I wouldn't be here without her pushing me to keep going forward. I will be 19 on September 18th and its crazy to think about how I've been in 6 placements, 5 schools over 4 years. Where did the time go.?.

I can't end the story here. I always told myself good things come to those who wait. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for God. I wouldn't be telling my story without Him. And I'm a firm believer, because God's work is so pure and unbelievable. He's amazing! When you think it's over, God sneaks up and says "No you're just getting started."

How has your story shaped who you are today?:

It shaped me to know that life isn't over. Keep moving forward and know you have more to live for. Life is more valuable then you think. Keep pushing through the pain and you will find healing.

What compelled you to share your story with us:

Because I've been through a lot and I feel like I can help someone overcome their troubles. To let them know they can get through what they're going through. You are a strong independent person!

What encouraging words would you say to someone who shares a similar story?:

You're strong!

You got through it!

I'm proud of you.

Keep going.

I knew you had it in you.

Never give up on your dreams.

God has plans for you.

 

I KNEW HE WAS DANGEROUS...

Breaking the Silence, Suicide, Depression, Abuse, Sexual Abuse, RapeJasmine Lopez1 Comment
 Photos by:  Jazi Photo  Makeup by: Ashley Vela

Photos by: Jazi Photo Makeup by: Ashley Vela

Please share your story: :

 I do not remember how young I was when it first started, but I do know that I was quite young. I only have a few memories of actually being molested as a child, because I repressed the memories. I mainly remember the times I lied to get away because I knew he was dangerous, but I loved him because he was family. I was conflicted, but I knew he was not safe, and I would do anything to make sure we were not alone together in the same room. I remember when I was around 10, he grabbed me and I was finally strong enough to pull away and run away. I ran to another room, and closed the door crying and saying "I got away today", but at the same time not understanding why I did not want to be alone with him. It was so confusing to me. When I was fourteen and I was a freshman in high school, a group of senior guys were goofing off in the crowded hallways and they thought it would be funny to circle me. They had me trapped and reached out and started grabbing me and touching me and I freaked out. It was a few months later when I had nightmares about them and I acknowledged what they had done was wrong. As I was dealing with those emotions, the memories from my childhood came back full force. It became a burden as I kept the secret from my parents because I felt like I would not be believed because of who the person was in my family. I clung to the Lord during that time, but it was overwhelming for me and I did not have the best counseling at the time.

When I was sixteen, I started dating a guy, but it turned into a very controlling relationship. He had a bunch of crazy rules, and for some reason I kept going in the relationship despite these vivid warning signs. A few months into the relationship, he showed up at my job while I was working alone, and I was happy to see him, but he ended up raping me. It would have gotten even worse, but I believe the Lord allowed a customer to ring the front bell and stop him. I had frozen, I could not say no to him, because I reverted back to the little girl in my mind. I know that I was praying for it to be over and for me to get away. I also remember at one point seeing the back door and thinking "I need to go out that door...I need to leave and get away from him, but I can't...because this is my job...I can't leave...I'm stuck here...how do I get him to leave...Lord help me". This was a controlling relationship too, I was also scared to make him angry. I remember after I helped the customer, I went to the back room, and tried to put on a happy face, and he was so angry with me. He stomped out, and I kept smiling until he left then I fell to the floor crying. I was so scared because I thought I was the one who was wrong. I knew I could not let anyone know because I had just come back from a mission trip and they would think that I was bad. I locked up and went to my best friend's house and I never told her what happened. That night changed me. 

My relationship with God changed, how I viewed myself changed (which was already tenuous from severe bullying in junior high). I was still a Christian, but I was so angry with God. I felt like He left me that night. I still played the part, but inside I was so broken and did not know how to put it together again. I had an older friend who was such a blessing to my life. A few weeks after that night, she walked in while he was arguing with me and he had grabbed my wrist forcefully. As soon as she came in, he dropped my wrist and pretended everything was good and then left. She looked at me and took me to her car to talk privately. I confessed to her about the abuse, but I still never told her about that night. She handed me her cell phone and told me to call him and break up. I did, even though he started spreading rumors which attacked my reputation, and they were all lies. The more I tried to defend myself (as teens do), he would make up more and more lies until I stopped talking to my friends. One thing I understand now and I did not understand then, was that all of my childhood memories came back full force because I had to deal with the anger I had towards God. I had felt that my childhood molestation was now my fault too. 

This made me desire to leave the state for college. I needed to get away, and I needed a change of scenery and I thought going to an out of state college would give me that. This is when I started realizing that I was so afraid of being raped in college. I started having some fears come out, and I sank into deep depression and became suicidal. I even attempted one time, but the Lord graciously saved me. I was a mess and all over the place. I reached out for counseling, but without the repressed memories coming forth, they were not able to help me. They put me on anti-depressants and they did not work. In some ways I felt like they made me worse. The side effects were horrible and made me feel like I was going crazy. Even though I was in a Bible college, I felt so far away from God and I could not understand why. I would see others and feel like God was not happy with me and that I was not worthy of Him. I remember crying out to Him over and over yelling "Can you hear me??" Meanwhile I was teaching Sunday school and showing the world I was still the "good little Christian girl". The depression got worse and worse to the point I could not function and I was becoming suicidal again. I even began cutting, I literally felt like I was going crazy. I remember walking by the side of the highway in three feet of snow at 2 am and thinking I should just jump in front of the trucks because living life as a crazy person was not worth it. My world was so dark that light did not even seem like it was a possibility. Then I came back to Chicago to be admitted to a Mental Hospital. 

Once back in Chicago the hospital would not accept me because I did not have insurance at the time. I ended up staying with my friend and her husband, and this was the biggest blessing to me. I was able to just stop for a while. While I was there, my medication ran out and I did not have a doctor in Chicago to renew the prescriptions. I was nervous because of the dosages I was on made it dangerous for me to stop them cold-turkey but I had no other options. I had no side effects, and in fact, I started doing better and it became clear that my issues were not chemical imbalances. I slowly started coming out of my depressive fog and back to the Lord, and realizing that He had never left my side during the darkness. He was always there. I just took life one day at a time from there, but I would slip into depression periodically. I knew there were parts of my heart that I knew were there, but I did not know how to access them. While I was back with the Lord, my relationship was still different. I felt like I had to perform for Him, and and that I needed to do everything right. In my head, I knew that it was illogical, but I could not change my heart. I would talk to friends, and pastors about it because I was desperate for help to change it. I would tell them that the distance from my head to my heart was a very long way. I still dealt with horrible anxiety and fear of being raped. I was afraid to live alone because I felt that I would never be safe. I was even afraid to stay home alone when my parents were away. I went to counseling, but it was not helping either.

One day in November 2011 (about 2 years into the counseling), I went to church for early morning prayer. I told the Lord that I had enough of this and that I was ready for Him to deal with it because I did not know what else to do. I remember telling Him that He had permission to open the closed doors of my heart and to deal with stuff that I didn'teven know was there. The next night at my counseling session, my counselor asked me about my boyfriends. I counted off the relationships (which were few), and in my head I knew that there should be five but I could only remember four names, and two of those guys I dated for like one day and really did not count. We just started talking and offhandedly I said a name and she looked at me and said "who?" I looked at her and was like "I didn't tell you about ***?" She said "No". So I started telling her and all of the sudden I was telling her about that night at my job. As I told her I remember looking at her and saying "Oh my God, he raped me". With that it was like the floodgates opened and the memories came back in vivid color with emotions and feelings as if it had just happened the day before.

The following two years were some of the most difficult years as I dealt with, not only the rape but my childhood as well. I am so thankful for the friends and the support I had around me at the time, and of course for God's love. While the memories were so difficult to deal with, I cannot begin to tell you the freedom that came from allowing God to go to those dark places. My relationship with God is so beautiful now. I can finally see myself as He sees me, as His precious daughter whom He loves and cherishes. There is freedom in telling your story. It gives you back the power that was taken from you. I now control who I tell and when. This is my first time sharing the story publicly, but I knew that it was time. Those men no longer have anything to say over me. I remember telling people that there has to be a reason for me going through this, if I can someday help just one person, then all of this pain was worth it. If I can save one girl from being abused, then it is worth it. If I can help one woman heal, it was worth it.

I am telling you, that it was worth it to share my story!

I can't end it there though....I need to share that I have many reasons for my weight gain, for health conditions which contributed, emotional eating etc.It definitely became my comfort during the years of the pain I held deep inside. It is still a struggle that I have, and is very difficult for me. Because along with what I mentioned, it has become a shield to protect me from unwanted advances. As I have gone through times when I've lost a little weight, something will happen to make me want to have that shield back up. I believe that this will be the final step to my healing, to conquer this wall and break this shield, and I am nearly there. I needed to mention it in my story because it is something I rarely share. God will be with me along the way and I know this battle will eventually be won. God has more than restored the years that the locust have stolen, and I am blessed beyond comprehension. 

How has your story shaped who you are today?: 

I am who I am because of what happened to me, and what I went through. I am no longer fearful of my own shadow, but I am growing stronger each and every day. I am growing bolder, and standing up for others. I am compassionate because I know what it is like to be alone. I feel like I can help others because I understand the emotions and the feelings even if my story may be different than theirs. Jeremiah 29:11-13 says "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." This has been my story. I have been seeking Him, and I have been finding Him. I want to help others find Him and to find the freedom that I now have.

What compelled you to share your story with us?: 

I believe this opportunity is for the Lord to fulfill plans that he has for my life. To share my story to those who are going through their own pain, and hope they know that they are not alone. Also to share my story with those who knew me during those times but may not have understood what was happening at the time. And ultimately for God to get the glory for what He has done in my life.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?:

 I pray that you will continue to keep pushing through the darkness. You are NOT alone, despite how you feel. God has not left you, He is still by your side. Ask Him to reveal Himself and He will. There is light and there is joy on the other side of the tunnel. I promise it will end, and you will look back and realize just how strong you have become during the process.

A Story of Recovery & Redemption

Recovery, Abuse, Loss, ClickforhopeJasmine Lopez5 Comments
“God was healing SO much inside of me. Yet, at the end of the day, my gremlins came back. It got to the point where I felt like I was two different people. Erin, whose life had been turned upside down and completely wrecked by God’s love, and then the BAD Erin.”
— Erin

My story is one of recovery and redemption. As far back as I can remember, I always felt like I never fit. Never fit in with people. Never in control of my emotions. Something just wasn’t right. As a kid it was easy for me to “know” what was wrong. I grew up in a very abusive and alcoholic home. "Of course there is something wrong with me," I thought.  I was the weird kid with bruises that was always doing something bad.  I thought I was bad.

Everything came to a head when I was fourteen. I was a latchkey kid with way too much freedom so I found myself hanging with the wrong crowd and getting into trouble.  So much trouble that my mom sent me to Los Angeles for the summer to stay with my dad. A few weeks after that, she passed away. Her life was taken by another person. This SHATTERED my world. I was now living with a new family: my dad, step mom, older brother, half siblings, a four year old and a newborn. I had to start over with this huge gaping hole left inside of me.

From that moment until my late twenties, I spent my time running and changing. I called it being a “gypsy,” but now I see I was avoiding life. My gypsy ways eventually brought me to Chicago.  My life was spinning out of control as it had for years. I was a bartending party girl. I was out all night avoiding real life and slept all day until I had to work.  Then, a miracle happened: I met my husband.

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We met working together at a restaurant. Despite my obvious flaws, he saw something in me that I didn’t think existed. His family took me in open-armed. And, I found God. I kept up the partying ways in the relationship until after we were married when we found out that we were expecting. I thought, “This will fix me, slow me down.” And it did. For a little while. Then, life came flooding in.

There I was a wife! And a mom! Not only can I not control my life, but I have to raise another life? Keep her safe?  My daughter brought me so, so much joy. She taught me that I could love in a way I never knew existed. That was amazing, yes. But, this broken part of me still clung on.

We started going to church shortly after my daughter was born. My husband realized that I was suffering from postpartum depression and needed community. I absolutely loved it there! I found a small group of moms and we banded together. We did book studies and just lived life together. This is where my recovery started. Thinking things were on the mend, we had another little girl two years later. Deep down for me though, life was still teetering between “wonderful” and “terrifying.” I was really good at pretending it wasn’t until I couldn’t pretend anymore.

My depression eventually took over.  My husband worked really long hours so I was home alone quite often. I just couldn’t cope. So...I started relaxing again with wine after I put the kids to bed. It worked for a little while. I continued going to church and hanging out with my moms group. God was healing SO much inside of me. Yet, at the end of the day, my gremlins came back. It got to the point where I felt like I was two different people. Erin, whose life had been turned upside down and completely wrecked by God’s love, and then the BAD Erin. I didn’t let many people see the second one. No matter how hard I tried, the second Erin, the bad Erin, started getting stronger.

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I knew I was a good person, yet I couldn’t stop drinking. I started hiding how much I was drinking from my husband. My depression came back full force. I had to fight off the urge to hurt myself. I hated myself. I stopped showing up for life. There was a day where all I could do was sit on the couch with my hands in a fist so tight that the skin on my palms broke. I changed diapers and fed the kids but that was all I could do.

And so, I got to the point in February of last year that I started thinking my family would be better off without me. Those thoughts scared the living daylights out of me. I had to stop and close my eyes every few minutes to tell my brain to shut up. It got so loud in my head that on February 10th of last year, I started drinking in the morning. I was so sick from drinking the night before that I needed to level out. I could barely breathe. The thoughts of self harm were super powerful that day. It almost felt like a manic episode. I took one look at my kids and my husband and just knew.  It was time. I went to my husband and said that I needed to go to a twelve step meeting. This thought had been in the back of my head for years. I have many people in my family who are in recovery so I knew one day I would probably have to go too. So he threw me in a cold shower, looked up a local meeting and I took a cab.

Sounds pretty simple right? That night is when I finally surrendered to God. I just couldn’t go any further the way that I was going. That night saved my life. Through doing the work of my twelve step program, I have finally become the person God meant me to be. I wake up in the morning now with that sense of peace and God’s Grace that I never thought possible. I have mended relationships. I have become a better mom. I have found that I really do deserve to have a full and meaningful life. I have become wholehearted. I have met other moms who have struggled with the same things that I have in my program, and that made me realize alcoholism wasn’t the end of the world. It is a disease. I wasn’t BAD. I just suffered from an illness. What a relief that was!

I started shedding layers of pain and shame. I stand tall and get to show my daughters what it is like to be a woman of God and to live life with integrity. As I write this, my heart is so full it almost hurts. I am beyond grateful for my life. I am beyond grateful for the people who helped me get here. And if life is this amazing after only a year and five months, I can only imagine what it will be like for years to come.

Forte Wayne | Alexandria's Story

Clickforhope, Divorce, AbuseJasmine LopezComment

Please share your story: : I am a single mom of the most loving & free spirited (almost) 8 year old, Everest. When I discovered I was pregnant at 22 I was in shock and not ready. I chose to plan an adoption and his birth dad agreed, since we were young and unmarried. At 7 months pregnant I broke down... I couldn't possibly go through with this. I sought God and clearly heard him remind me He has never and will never leave me alone. He said I can and will do this. I chose to raise my son & his birth dad chose to walk away. 

Over the next year I met a man who would soon after become my husband and adopt Everest. I thought I finally had all I wanted. A family, stability, marriage. Soon after we were married I realized I didn't truly know the man I was married to & the relationship became abusive. After 4 years of abuse, 1 separation, many sleepless night crying out to God... he left with a text & filed for divorce that week.

It's been 3 years since then & I am thankful to God for keeping his promise of never leaving us and always giving me strength to get through the days. Some days I still worry I may have messed up the first years of my sons life but then remember God is not only writing my story but he is writing my sons as well. My son is just as much a child of God as I am & God is a faithful God who redeems.

Last year I started a company Foreveresta in dedication to my son & being a light in the world which can be so dark. It is a mobile retail boutique with a mission of educating guests through global artisans and brands, retail partnerships, and mission-driven organizations while supporting emerging entrepreneurs in the developing world through economic development of underserved communities. 
My hope is that everyone who has a chance to walk in our doors can experience a glimmer of hope and leave encouraged. I hope through this my son will grow to see he is valuable and can achieve anything he dreams with God on his side.

How has your story shaped who you are today?: Being a mother has taught me of God's deep unconditional always forgiving love for us. How at times we walk away, mess up, think we know better whats best for us yet he never once changes. He is always right there ready to redirect and help us back up. I have learned to be still with God & trust what HE says is good, right, and purposed for us... even when I can't understand it. Just because something seems to be everything you want and seems to be "good" doesn't mean its ultimately what IS good for you. God's ways are unlike ours but HE IS reliable & trustworthy. I have learned true joy, contentment, and peace come only from our heavenly Father. Nothing of this world will ultimately satisfy, so I continue learning to abide in Him first.

Why should your story be selected to be featured on our blog?: I have a passion for sharing honest stories from my life with others in hopes they can be encouraged and say "me too!" There is something comforting in those words. When we don't feel as alone in our circumstance and can stand along side one another in love. I know my "story" is still being written but God has given me a voice and these stories to share with other women who can relate.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: Lean not on your own understanding but TRUST GOD in ALL you do, he will surely direct your paths. 
Take one day at a time and don't be to hard on yourself. Give yourself and your kiddos lots of grace in love, stay humble, and laugh as much as you can. Laughter is good medicine for the soul :) You are always enough and you are never alone!