Vanessa - One Tough Mother

Vanessa - One Tough Mother

Breaking Free from Childhood Trauma and Cycles of Addiction

How Vanessa Stopped Sacrificing Herself for Connection and Learned to Deeply Love Herself

In sixth grade, Vanessa Lane went to school drunk. Every day.

Now, at age 52, she wonders how no one ever noticed.

“It blows me away because I remember sitting in the classroom and just being wasted,” she said. But it was a different time. And while it was common, no one spoke about substance use. Or, about mental health.

Vanessa knows no one noticed because she was never a problem. She was loving. She was kind. But she struggled. All the time.

Even her mom, her “guiding light,” was unaware of how bad things had gotten.

“I had a lot of mental health issues but didn't understand it,” she said. “I didn't know what was going on.”

By the ninth grade, Vanessa was smoking weed. She was cutting. She hid it from her mom.

At age 17, she did cocaine for the first time, with her father. She watched him unleash violence, on herself and on others. He put a gun to her head.

Now Vanessa knows she was coping with her dad’s addiction and his abuse.

Vanessa kept quiet about her substance use. At 19, she married and became pregnant.

“I felt really happy, for once.”

Until her father died by suicide two days before her son was born.

“That’s where my journey took a terrible turn,” she said.

Vanessa fell apart.

Life amidst vicious cycles

Over the next 10 years, Vanessa attempted suicide a couple of times. She left her husband and son, but got involved with a new man. She became addicted to meth. She used and sold drugs and suffered daily physical, emotional and mental abuse.

Vanessa remembers staying at women’s shelters three different times. She gave a daughter up for adoption, believing it was the only way to “save her life” and spare her what her sons had suffered. She was in deep depression. And addicted to methamphetamines, cocaine, alcohol and marijuana.

“Not only was I a mother that was broken, I was a mother that was a drug dealer. I was a mother that had no self-worth,” she said. “I didn't even understand what love really was.”

She continued to push away the only person who had always loved her – her mother – her “beacon of light.”

“I was so ashamed and so full of guilt,” she said. “I had no self-esteem, no self-confidence. I had nothing.”

Vanessa tried to start over a few times. After being incarcerated for a felony, she moved to Colorado to be closer to her mom. But she went right back into addiction. The Department of Human Services (DHS) took her sons. They went to live with her mom and stepdad.

Vanessa again attempted suicide.

“I was fighting for my life. I still have the letter that I wrote to my mom. I had no hope. I was so broken and so lost."

After her suicide attempt, Vanessa entered a 21-day treatment facility.

“I had 21 days of sobriety, 21 days of fresh air right in my lungs,” she said. “And I went right back to using.”

She knew she had to do something different. She was accepted into a 97-day treatment program in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

“I decided I was going to give it a hell of a fight.”

For the first time, Vanessa was treated for the mental health issues that plagued her since childhood. She got healthy, graduated from the program and found a home. She regained custody of her three sons.

Vanessa got certified as an addiction counselor and worked as a therapist for 10 years. But she felt that something was still missing, so she paused her practice in an attempt to heal her heart.

She got into some relationships. After losing someone she’d been supporting to alcoholism, she had a recurrence with substance use.

“It was short, this relapse. It had fentanyl in it. I OD’ed.”

It was a turning point. Vanessa decided to do whatever it would take to heal from childhood trauma.

“I was three years old. The abuse I endured from my father, on every level, started at age three.”

She had the recovery resources and the basic life skills that allowed her to care for herself, but something was missing.

“I had to find out truly who I was created to be, in the very beginning. Before all the trauma, before all the abuse, before all the hate, before all the addictions. I wanted to learn how to love myself. That was the missing piece. The piece that was missing is the part of me that didn’t love myself.”

From that realization, she began to focus on how to overcome this and break the cycle, once and for all.

She began building a community. She strengthened her faith.

“I started digging in,” she said. “I mean deep.”

Awakening to a new life

It’s been five years since Vanessa experienced a depressive episode or suicidal ideation. She went from having 6-7 anxiety attacks per day to having zero, because of the work she’s done to learn to love herself.

She doubled down on her relationship with herself. She committed to not being in a romantic relationship for at least a year.

“This journey taught me how not to sacrifice one piece of myself, not one single piece for a connection with a human being. That's something we women do. We desperately want to be loved and want to be accepted and want to be desired and want to feel enough that we are willing to sacrifice pieces of ourselves to connect to some human being that does not deserve us.”

It’s now been three years without a relationship, and Vanessa has focused on raising herself up, healing herself and being of service to her community. She went back to work as a peer support specialist. She’s even started her nonprofit, Rise Up Recovery Colorado. There she serves men and women in incarceration.

Breaking the trauma cycle

Vanessa's guiding light throughout her life has been her mother's love.

"My mom did everything that she was supposed to do. And I tell her that every day. I've learned that through all of this, I'm not just a woman who struggled with substance use. I'm that mom who struggled with substance use and mental health and physical abuse and sexual abuse."

Vanessa is dedicated to helping others. Going back to the previous cycles she endured is no longer an option for her.

“I was that mom that lost my children to DHS because I couldn't find a way out and I didn't have any support and I didn't have any guidance."

She’s committed to walking alongside as many people as she can.

"I love the fact that I went through all this because there are so many women and men out there  that suffer in silence," she said. "If I wouldn't have walked through my healing and did it fully, then I wouldn't be able to help the individuals that I help on all of these levels.”

“Going back ... it's not an option anymore."

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