Renee is the energetic, determined and proud single mother of three blossoming children.
But it wasn’t always that way. Renee was born into an abusive and violent household soaked in alcohol. As she grew up, she found herself drawn to violent men and abusive domestic situations.
Her most recent partner put her in hospital more than 20 times, including surgery for facial reconstruction. She handed custody of her children to their father, for their own safety, and spent eight months trying desperately to extricate herself from the brutal relationship. Eventually, her evidence helped put her former partner in prison.
Suffering from physical pain and from what would later be diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as the grief from missing her children, Renee found herself living in a friend’s lounge, starting and ending the day with a bourbon RTD. Drugs and alcohol dulled the pain, soothed her anxiety and helped her sleep, but they rapidly took over her life.
‘I realised I had a choice of two roads to follow,’ she says. ‘One of them was going to put me in the ground and I wasn’t ready for that.’
After failing in her solitary struggle with alcoholism, Renee entered The Salvation Army’s Bridge Programme for addiction treatment, successfully completing the programme.
She began counselling for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and commenced a long relationship with her local Salvation Army Community Ministries. The Sallies have provided ongoing moral support and helped Renee with the long legal process of getting custody of her children. They encouraged her to establish a modest gardening business and provided tools to get her started.
The Salvation Army helped out with food parcels and, when Renee and her children were united, provided furniture, beds and bedding for their home.
Renee became more involved in the community, taking on cleaning work, volunteering at her local Women’s Centre and started a career as a support worker for physically and mentally disabled people.
Throughout her ordeal, Renee has been single-minded about what she wanted to achieve.
‘It’s taken three years to go from a really dark place where I thought that my only options would be ending up dead or in jail,’ she says.
‘I set myself goals to heal, to get my children back and to teach them to make far better choices than I had made – to give them more than what I’d had and I feel I’ve definitely started that and I intend to continue.’
By Renee (abridged from War Cry, 20 April 2013, p9)