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Creating a Healthy Lifestyle by Breaking the Cycle of Abuse

One person's story

When I think of how First Step has helped me, I think back to when I first heard about the agency. It was directly after a domestic incident in a previous marriage. I don’t remember the name of the nurse in the ER and I am not even sure I was looking at her because I had felt so ashamed as to why I was in there in the first place. I think at that time in my life, looking at the floor or the ground had become common practice for me because I felt I didn’t see anyone else and maybe they wouldn’t notice me either. I did not like to draw attention to myself anymore than I already had.

I do vividly remember a brochure being handed to me, almost as if it were in slow motion. Nothing too fancy about it, but the words First Step kind of caught my attention. I am sure that I was agreeing to everything that was being said to me by the nurses and doctors and nodding my head in agreement because I was in an extreme hurry to get out of there as quickly as I could. I made sure that I kept the brochure with me because if there was anything I needed at the time it was a first step away from the life I had lived for so many years. If someone would have told me then how my life would be now I think it would have been a blur like everything else that was being said to me that day. There is one thing for sure, that brochure saved my life.

The connection I made with First Step was the best thing that I could have done for myself in a long time. Though it was a process of steps, a process of decisions, and a process of relearning a healthy way of living and not continuing a cycle of abuse in which I had been raised with and also followed me into adulthood. First Step empowered me with the information I needed to make my life better.

I can remember being abused as far back as the age of three. Abuse is a learned behavior and for the first 28 years of my life that’s how I learned to be loved by people abusing me. When that is all you know it is a normal way to live, that is until you learn the healthy choices you can make and what seems so simple to me now was very foreign not so long ago.

I choose to be healthy, raise my children with the same healthy decisions; I choose to be proud, responsible, trustworthy, honest, dependable and considerate. I describe myself with these words because I believe them to be true and I choose not to let my abusive past define me and imprison me. There are some people in my abusive past that I have no choice but to come in contact with on occasion and there are always going to be people who do not have the same healthy way of living and will try to make things difficult for me and others.

First Step has given me the education and information I need to be able to handle myself in a safe and dignified manner when those situations occur. First Step not only helped me, but can help you to. By helping me, they have helped a lot of people I come in contact with, my children, because I am now a better parent, my employer, because I am now a better employee, and our community, because I have become a better citizen and in turn that helps you too.

I have had contact with First Step for 15 years, and though I’m not in “crisis” anymore, I don’t think I will ever stop learning from what First Step has to offer. Though I have come a long way in the right direction, knowing that First Step’s doors are always open should that road ever get bumpy again is a feeling of safety that words cannot describe.

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Click here for First Step Family Violence Intervention Services website.