Hiding no more (Alicia's Story)
I was born a Jehovah's Witness. We didn't celebrate any holidays, birthdays... Nothing. It was very cold. We went to Kingdom Hall three, four nights a week. I was little and don't remember very much. We were excommunicated when I was about seven years old. When that happens you're cut off from everybody you've known. They don't talk to you anymore. You don't have anymore friends.
When I was seven my parents got divorced. I remember living with mom and going to visit dad. There was a lot of abuse from my dad and one of my other family members. There was a lot of hiding, lying, covering up, and lots of darkness.
Most of my childhood was in Amery, Wisconsin. When I left home I went to college in River Falls for one year but I flunked out. I was mostly just partying, drinking, and smoking pot. I gained a lot of weight. I drank and drank and drank to overcome one bad relationship after another.
I got a job and lived between River Falls and Hudson. I worked at a factory, grocery stores, gas stations, and a nursing home for a while.
My Dad got sick and died of colon cancer when I was 20. I hadn't spoken to him in a few years. When I did see him about a month before he died he was so sick I didn't know what I was supposed to do. I just played the role of a daughter in mourning, which I wasn't. It was a very confusing time. It was hard and I had many conflicting emotions going on. I wanted him to love me but I never got that from him. I hated him but I loved him. I was glad that he was dead.
I'm 33 years old today.
I moved to Minneapolis five years ago. My last two jobs I made some poor choices which got me fired. I still have a hard time dealing with those decisions which still follow me today.
I had just lost my last job and I was living with my boyfriend. I was under a lot of stress so I was drinking and smoking a lot. I was lying, hiding, and running from my mistakes. I ended up being admitted to a hospital because I was suicidal. When I was in the hospital my boyfriend dumped me but took me back when I got out. A couple days later I turned myself in to Hennepin County jail because I had a warrant out for my arrest. I was there for 24 hours. When I got out my boyfriend had tossed all of my belongings in a dumpster and stopped speaking to me.
I didn't know where to go. My brother said, "Come to Eau Claire. Come to Hope." I had nowhere else to go. I didn't want to come here. But I did.
I wasn't a Christian and I knew it was a Christian organization. I was always taught to believe that Christians were morons and hypocrites. Anything having to do with religion was stupid and a waste of time. Anyone who bothered with it was also a stupid waste of time. That's how I was raised. But I had nowhere else to go. So I came.
Honestly, at first, I hated it here. I hated everybody. But they never gave up on me! My first few days here I was in a fog. It was so scary. I didn't talk to anybody. I didn't want to talk to anybody. I didn't want to get to know anybody. I didn't want anyone to know me. I wanted to run away and hide. I kept waiting for an opportunity to come for me to get out of here but no opportunity came.
A lot has happened since those days a few months ago. Chaplain Bill has been huge in my life. I've had a lot of conversations with him, but there's one conversation in particular that changed everything. In May of this year God led Chaplain Bill to share his testimony with me. That conversation was a shift for me. In my talk with Bill I begged God to take away my loneliness. And he did!
As I moved through the program, learning how to forgive was really hard. But I've been forgiven so I have forgiven. It's come back quite a few times where I've thought, "No, I don't actually forgive him." Just today we were talking about forgiveness in one of our classes with the Assistant Chaplain. It comes up a lot around this place! (laughs). But it's so important. I know there's a difference between forgiving and reconciling. I know who I should forgive and who I should reconcile with.
I've had supervised visits with my family (laughs). There are some things that I've had to tell my brother who's here in the program now. It was really hard because I've never had an honest conversation with anyone in my family before. But Bill and Mike (staff) were there with me. It opened the door for me to be able to communicate with other people in my family and for me to stand up for myself and say, "I'm not going to lie for you anymore." Some people have accepted it and some people haven't
There's been a lot that's happened since I came here last December.
The biggest thing I've been looking forward to was my baptism, which happened just a few days ago. It was the most amazing experience of my life so far. There were so many people who showed up at Eau Claire Wesleyan Church to support me. I can't even put to words the emotions I had that day. I had family come and they want to come back to church. I still don't really believe it! But it's pretty cool.
I'm going into Phase 3 of the Renewed Hope Program (the final phase before completion). I'm a little scared about job search because I have a criminal record that's going to be with me for a little bit. That could be a bit of a hindrance. That's OK. I'll get the job that God wants me to have. I'm staying for the Discipleship Transitions Program after I complete the Renewed Hope Program. For me, that means another year of support and the guidance I need. I know I'm not ready. I don't want to take the chance of going out there too soon and going back to my old ways with men that use me and where I end up hiding things about my life and start drinking... It's too soon.
Since January I've been volunteering at the Chippewa Valley Free Clinic as a pharmacy technician. I have worked as a pharmacy technician and had experience with that in my past. I'd like to work in a pharmacy again.
I struggled with the idea of making new friends because I couldn't trust anybody. DeAnn (staff) reached out to me when I was at my loneliest. We spent some time together, her, I and Danie (her dog at the time). Since then she has given that dog to Dory (another staff member) after Dory's dog passed away. What a thing to do! DeAnn and Danie have been a big part in me learning to let my guard down! DeAnn is really important to me and she's been a big support.
I like my church (Eau Claire Wesleyan). I still considered myself an atheist when I started going there – well, not an atheist – I just didn't know. They accepted me exactly where I was. Nobody tried to push me or prod me. If they had I would have said, "I'm leaving." But nobody did. Everybody's been really accepting.
I currently attend a "Connect Group" for ladies and feel God's hand in my life daily.
The passage that's been the most important to me is Romans 12:2 "... be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.". That's what happened to me.
To someone new coming into the program I'd say, "Don't rush it. This is the safest place to fall down flat and start all over again. There's no hurry."
Thank you for your gifts and prayers that make Hope Gospel Mission a safe and healing place! Your gifts are needed to help men and women like Alicia.