A Real-Life Horror Story
There are horror stories. And then there are horror stories so terrible, they’re hard to believe. But that’s my life, and it’s a wonder I’m still alive.
The fact that I’m writing this story at all is because of David Lawrence Centers . Without them, I simply wouldn’t be here. Here’s my story:
I was the 11th of 11 children, five sisters and five brothers. My early childhood in Immokalee was great. Our parents worked hard, loved us, and provided well.
When I was 10, my father sent me to an all-boys Catholic school in Mexico. For two years, a priest sexually abused me every night. I prayed to God to make it stop, but it never did.
Shortly after I returned to the U.S., my grandfather died in Mexico. I didn’t want to go to the funeral, so I stayed home with my uncle. Then he got drunk, and sexually abused me. I was only 12, and right away, I started drinking to numb my pain. That’s when my addictions started.
I told my father about the priest’s abuse in Mexico, but he said I was lying, that a priest would never do such a thing. So I never brought it up again.
Over the next year or so, I was wrestling with my sexuality. I told my parents I thought I might be gay, and my dad responded by punching me in the face. The next day when I got home from school, there was a note on the front door that said, “The rent is paid through the end of the month. All your stuff is inside. Good luck with the rest of your life.”
My family had abandoned me. I was 13.
I lived on the streets for the next few years, and became a heroin addict . . . for most of the next 20 years. During my teens, men who would give me food, drugs, or a place to sleep in exchange for sexual favors. I learned how to shut myself off and not even think about it. I had no self-worth.
At 15, another uncle found me on the streets, and took me in. He was kind, but I was a mess. I tried to kill myself by slitting my wrists. When he died of cancer a few years later, I grieved deeply, and drowned my sorrows in drugs and alcohol. But this whole time, I stayed in school, and got my high school diploma.
I got my first boyfriend at 18. We were together six years, and everything was great . . . or so I thought. Then one day, right in front of me, he put a gun to his head and killed himself.
As if that weren’t horrible enough, several years later, another boyfriend killed himself with a gun. Then I wanted to die, and ended up overdosing four times, only to wake up in the hospital.
I know, it’s like a horror story, right? It gets worse.
I befriended another homeless man who ended up trying to kill me. He knocked me out, tied me up, and raped me while I was unconscious. Then he poured gasoline on me, intending to burn me alive. But I somehow managed to escape. I never reported it to the police, but I found out later he got arrested and went to jail.
I ended up living in a crack house, and tried to kill myself with an overdose. When I woke up, I found out that my boyfriend had tried the same thing . . . only he succeeded. So, now I had lost three boyfriends to suicide.
By then, I was so broken that I called David Lawrence Centers to get help. I had been through their Crossroads Detox and Residential program before, but relapsed. I needed something more intense, so they sent me to their TIR program — Trauma Incident Reduction.
Basically, the idea in TIR is that you tell your story over and over again, no matter how much it hurts, until you can reach a point where you can tell it calmly, objectively — as if it hadn’t happened to you, but to somebody else. I can’t explain how it works, but I know it does.
I would meet with a counselor, and I’d talk about one of my traumatic events again and again, no matter how long it took. I fought it at first, because it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done; I even had some choice words for my counselor! But she was patient and kind and kept walking me through it, knowing that it would help me in the end—and it did.
It’s an amazing treatment, and it works. Now I can look at these events in my past, and they don’t hold power over me any more. I hold power over them, and I’m forever grateful to David Lawrence Centers for that.
I’m also staying at the homeless shelter at St Matthew’s House, where they’ve helped me find my faith again. For a long time, I was angry at God, and didn’t even believe in him. But now, I’ve got a good relationship with God again, and I have even forgiven the people who hurt me all my life. And that includes my father, who abandoned me all those years ago.
On top of all that, I look like myself again. When I came to DLC in the throes of heroin addiction, I was down to less than 100 pounds, totally wasted, barely alive. Now that I’ve been sober for a year and regained my self-worth, I’ve gained about 30 pounds, look good, and feel great!
None of these things would have been possible without the help of the people at David Lawrence Centers . If it weren’t for them, I’d either still be dead in my addictions, or just dead, period. Today, I’m 33 years old, glad to be alive, and improving every day.
Supporters like you make amazing success stories like this possible. Manny is thankful for your compassion and your generosity!