Abuse is a topic that is known to REAL LIFE, whether abuse from parents, spouses, caretakers, or teachers, our Lifers by and large have all experienced some kind of abuse. This is also a recurring theme in one of our Lifers, Julie. Julie’s abuse history and trauma she has endured has caused her to make decisions that have led to complete destruction. Yet, the constant abuse, and downward spiral with drug addiction is not holding her back anymore and she is working harder than ever to overcome and conquer!
Julie grew up with her mother and father in Williamsburg, Virginia. Julie’s family dynamic is one that has consistently caused destruction within her life. She was taken advantage of for many years, by a close family member, and her father’s dependency on drugs ultimately led to her downward spiral with drugs. Early on, Julie became a single parent after the father of her first child was abusive towards her. Ending that relationship, she met another man who struggled with alcoholism; they were together for a total of 26 years. Together, they had three children. During this relationship in particular, Julie struggled with drug abuse on and off. As mentioned, the man she was with struggled not only with alcoholism, but was both abusive and disrespectful towards her and this led to a rift in the relationship that couldn’t be fixed – and eventually she decided to end the relationship, fearing that her children would follow in his footsteps.
Her legal troubles began when she was caught driving without a license. She was unable to pay her court fines and still needed a way to work, thus becoming a pervasive cycle that led to her being pulled over 52 times for a suspended license. None of these charges were DUIs – at this point in her life she was sober. However, with these obstacles, she was unable to financially sustain. And due to the continuous charges, she was in and out of jail, and also began to experience a wide variety of health problems that she still sees the effects of today.
At this point, she began running out of options, or so she thought. She filed for disability and was denied after waiting a year to hear back. With her recurring health problems and lack of transportation, she and her children moved in with her parents. Julie began to use drugs again, and ended up losing everything, including her housing. Along with everything else, her two eldest sons began struggling with their own addictions at this time and Julie suffered a nervous breakdown when they were arrested. She had her two youngest sons stay with their father, because she no longer felt that she could handle what was going on and being a mother. Julie decided it was in her best interest to leave Virginia. After moving from Virginia for a short period of time, she decided it was time to come back, as she missed her children. However, having no home and no job resulted in her couch surfing and staying in hotels – which led to more drug use. Ultimately, she was arrested and housed at the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail (VPRJ), where she then applied for the WAITT program – their behavior modification and addiction program that REAL LIFE administers.
Julie was released to REAL LIFE at the end of March after years and years of struggling with her mental and physical health, as well as legal problems and trauma from her childhood. She did not realize how “messy” her life became until she entered the program and dug deep into the issues that she had been facing her entire life, especially the extensive trauma from her childhood. She is very thankful for Peggy Crawford, REAL LIFE graduate and staffer who facilitates the program at VPRJ, specifically for changing her life and telling her about the program. She feels blessed for the opportunities and knowledge she’s been given as a result of the program.
Since entering REAL Life, Julie has obtained full-time employment and is getting back on her feet. She loves her sons and is working hard to be the best mother that she can be for them. She hopes to continue providing a safe and healthy environment for them when she graduates and leaves the program. One of her eldest sons has struggled with alcoholism, but has now been sober for nine months. The other has been incarcerated for four years, but called during this interview to say they would see each other soon!
What Julie wants people who may be struggling to take from her story: “You need to stop and take a look at yourself and any situation you’re in, whether addiction or recovery. Decide what you want out of life. You can’t get that time back and will wonder where it went. It’s never too late to change. It’s a choice you make whether you’re in full addiction or recovery. You choose to live or die. Being in my addiction was not living. I never had a stable mind or a level head. Now that I’m sober I can plan for the future and see brighter days and positive things. Happiness and joy. People in the program make you feel good about yourself and push you to be better. Decide what you want out of life and grab on and go for it. Don’t let past trauma hold you down. You can overcome.”