Roller Coaster to God’s plan
Portage Path client, Stephanie’s life has been a tumultuous roller coaster of abuse, alcoholism and suicide attempts, but she has found joy in her sons and her new found purpose as a mentor.
As a teen, Stephanie knew that something was wrong with her in the wake of her constant sadness. Stephanie and her mother never quite got along, so when she told her mother she wasn’t feeling right and wanted help, her mother said she was fine, and that response hit hard. This lead to Stephanie’s first suicide attempt at age 15.
Stephanie counted down the days to her 18th birthday, desperate to get away from her mother. Once she did, she got involved with the wrong people who drank and smoked pot. She then married her High School sweetheart, but it didn’t last a year.
“I wanted the white picket fence and he wanted to party. I think I married him more just to get away from my mother.”
Stephanie then experienced a miscarriage and was sent to live with her aunt and uncle in Columbus where she found a job and met a guy that she knew could be trouble, but he found a way to control her into staying with him through years of trauma.
“I knew he was controlling but didn’t know to what degree. He said if I lost weight, he would marry me. So I lost the weight. I was always aiming to please him just to get recognition.”
Stephanie and her new husband, Jay, moved to East Liverpool and Stephanie found out she was pregnant. This pregnancy was the start of seven years of physical, emotional and mental abuse. Her husband demanded she have an abortion, but she refused. He claimed she ruined his life and began to physically and verbally abuse her. The abuse continued when Stephanie was unable to deliver the baby naturally and required a C-Section.
“I would be in the hospital with broken bones and my teeth knocked out. He would beat me with my son in my arms while I sat on the floor trying to protect him while being kicked. He would also lock me in the basement with the lights out.”
The abuse escalated, and Stephanie knew she needed to find a way out, but then found out she was pregnant with her second. The abuse was traumatic, and served as the primary cause of the PTSD Stephanie still carries with her.
“He would hide behind a wall and then trip me. He didn’t want me smoking, so when he caught me sneak smoking, he dragged me out onto the concreate patio and locked me out of the house in the middle of winter. He would call me horrible, derogatory names in front of my boys.”
When Stephanie finally got up the courage to divorce him, he said “If I can’t have you, no one can” and beat her and raped her.
Stephanie and her boys moved out, but Jay still abused his oldest son, John. Stephanie then got a job with her own insurance, and that was one less thing she had to rely on Jay for.
After Stephanie’s boys left for Columbus, where John would attend OSU, Stephanie remarried. Her new husband was an alcoholic, and Stephanie fell right into the drinking herself.
In the years that followed, Stephanie would get sober, leave her husband, then fall back into drinking, only to get sober again. Stephanie got two DUI’s, and in multiple wrecks.
“I shunned my family. My boys wanted nothing to do with me. I was so ashamed – and the things Jay would say to me haunted me. I would start to believe all of the things he said to me again.
I had various suicide attempts throughout those years while my boys were gone. When my boys were with me – those were the best times of my life.”
Stephanie’s most recent attempt required life flight to take her to Akron Children’s hospital. When she woke and saw her sister sitting there, she promised she would never do that to her again.
The social workers at Akron Children’s recommended Portage Path Behavioral Health, so when Stephanie left the hospital with no place to live, she moved in with a friend she knew she would be safe with in Alliance and began treatment at Portage Path.
In 2012, Stephanie was evaluated and diagnosed with PTSD, Sever Depression and Bipolar Disorder. She was then placed with a team of counselors and doctors to help get her on the right track. After a few years of counseling, Stephanie also attended ITS – a partial hospitalization group that provides a safe, structured environment where individuals can build essential life and problem-solving skills, improve treatment readiness, and regain a sense of hopefulness about the future.
As Stephanie improved, she was sent to Community Support Services for help with her job search. Stephanie went through a few jobs, all resulting in her firing due to a 3 day incarceration on her record. The bumpy job search caused Stephanie to relapse multiple times into manic depression.
Stephanie was advised to try ITS again – now called Pathways, in 2016. A big tool used in the group now are the 5 core beliefs that clients are told to say to themselves: “I am good enough. I am worthy. I am loveable. I am capable. I am safe. “
“I had no core beliefs – Portage Path started putting me back together again piece by piece. You learn from other people. We’re all different colors with different stories, but we all share the same pain.”
After Pathways, Stephanie’s aunt came back into her life and mentored her toward the Christian faith.
“Between that and Portage Path, I got better. I go to a wonderful church now”
Stephanie then made her way back to CSS to find another job when they informed her of an opening at CSS itself. She interviewed and was told she got the job a week later. One requirement of the job was that the applicant be in recovery so that they can relate to clients and mentor them.
“I know now that that’s why I lived through the last suicide attempt. God was just waiting to put me where I needed to be.”
Just a few weeks after starting her new position at CSS, Stephanie earned the “Catch the Spirit Award”.
Stephanie was then able to go to court and get her jail time expunged.