“I had a really cool childhood. My mom was a teacher and my dad was a contractor. I never wanted for anything.”
Things changed for Jessica when she was in 6th grade. Her parents, who had divorced when she was four, both remarried to step parents she did not like. She lived with her dad and her step-mom, with whom she did not get along with at all. There was constant tension in the house, which brought out the worst in everyone.
“My dad was an alcoholic. There was neglect. They didn’t even notice my older brother had juvenile diabetes until he was very far in to his disease.”
In 8th grade, she started to drink and was taking alcohol from the house.
“No one seemed to notice.”
Freshman year she was introduced to meth. After a time of using, she was missing so much school that she was expelled. She got her diploma from a charter school at 16 years-old, even though she was still using.
The next year, she started at Phoenix College. She moved in with her abusive boyfriend. When she wanted to leave, her dad bought her a house and paid all the bills. This form of enabling gave her less responsibility and more time to drink and use.
“I would drink until I drank everything in the house and then I would go out and buy more.”
When she was 21 years-old, she got married. Her husband was her “knight in shining armor”. At least that’s how it started. He did not use, or so she thought, so she continued to use her meth in secret. They had three children together.
During her first pregnancy, her husband became abusive, both physically and mentally. When she was pregnant with her third child, things came to a breaking point. She left the house during one argument and went to her dad’s house. Her husband followed her there. He attacked her and was choking her when her dad arrived home. He shot her husband. Her husband shot back fatally wounding her father.
Child Protective Services placed her two children in foster care for reckless endangerment. She continued to use. Her daughter was born drug-exposed and was taken away and placed in foster care as well.
Jessica went to rehab and was sober for nine months. Her family thought her ordeal was done. Her uncle bought her a house and fixed it up. The estate left by her dad left her plenty of money to pay for anything she wanted, but it also left her feeling aimless. She had never had the counseling to deal with the traumatic history in her life.
“I had no purpose; no reason I had to stay sober.”
After her husband was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of her father, a trial for which she showed up every day in court, she started to drink and use again.
“I had relived the trauma of my dad’s death and the abuse by my husband every day of the trial. I had to numb the pain.”
It was her husband’s dad who noticed. Just after his son was sentenced to 46 years in prison with no parole, he noticed she was not coming around anymore. He noticed some familiar habits of avoidance and neglect. He called Child Protective Services and it was discovered she was using again. The kids were removed from Jessica’s home and placed with him.
She was pregnant again and using meth with her boyfriend, the baby’s dad. She tried to go to outpatient rehab, but it didn’t work. She checked into an inpatient program, but there was a chicken pox outbreak and they told her it was not safe for a pregnant woman. So, she left.
Then her family had had enough. They withdrew all support…financial, emotional, everything.
“That’s when I got scared. My family had always taken care of me. Who would now?”
She found Healthy Connections when she was 5 ½ months pregnant. She went through a three-month inpatient program and her daughter was born drug-free. Child Protective Services still removed her because of the open case with her other two children.
After the inpatient program, she moved to a half-way house where she was required to get a job and pay rent. She was happy to do so, landing a job at a pharmacy, but it wasn’t a long-term solution. That’s when she found Weldon House. She was placed on emergency shelter basis at Legacy House and then moved into Weldon House.
“I was so scared they weren’t going to give me my kids back and wondered if I could even do it (stay sober). If I had everything handed to me before and couldn’t do it, should I even try again?”
But at Weldon House, they treated the whole person. In addition to her group therapy and one-on-one counseling, she received Dialectical Behavior Therapy…
“which teaches mindfulness. It helps you combat negative thoughts and be able to communicate effectively.”
…and Trauma Therapy. They taught her life skills and supported her at medical appointments and legal appointments. In a short time, she was reunited with her children. Later, she got her Associates Degree in Paralegal Studies and her Peer Support Certification. She was accruing education and experience to support her in the long-term. The support of the community at Weldon House helped her through it all.
Jessica now works at NCADD as a Life Skills Coach helping others to navigate DES, child care, get their GED, and more.
“My favorite part is taking the women who are working on their recovery to serve food at a homeless shelter.” Giving back gives them a sense of purpose and community.
She plans on working towards her Bachelor’s degree soon, but right now wants to concentrate on parenting and working a full-time job. Eventually, Jessica says she wants to be a victim’s advocate.
“I know what it’s like to be stuck in a domestic violence relationship, how difficult it is to navigate the court system, the shame, and guilt that goes along with it.”
She feels gratitude for all she has in her life and realizes the work it took, and still takes, to get, and stay, where she is.
“I was able to do it because I had Weldon House to support me.”