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I, Amanda, was born on November 12th, 1988 to two loving and supportive parents. My parents, despite being young and marrying right out of high school, worked very hard to provide for my younger brother and I. We always had everything we needed and were always surrounded by a big loving family. My parents and family tried so hard to protect me from all the “bad” things. But when I got into high school, it was all the “bad” things that I was very curious about. I starting hanging around a different crowd and rebelling against everything my parents had taught me. I started lying and sneaking out of the house. Weekly arguments and sneaking around became a routine for me.

I had my first drink, started smoking cigarettes, ran away from home, had sex for the first time, and experimented with several drugs all before I was 17. I thought at the time that I was only doing what every other teenager in America was doing: having fun and rebelling against their parents. I was so angry at my parents for trying to keep me away from my friends and doing what I wanted. My life was so “unfair.” So when I graduated high school, I moved to Kennesaw State University. I realize now that I didn’t go to further my education. I know now that I was running away from responsibility and the “prison” I felt that I was in.

By my second month in college, I had made new friends that I drank heavily with. Drinking and partying were not just things people did to pass time; it was a way of life and I loved it. I loved the feeling I had when I drank. I didn’t have to care and didn’t have to think. I was someone people liked and wanted to be around. I was someone that mattered. But it wasn’t long before I started drinking for other reasons.

In November, one week before my nineteenth birthday, I went out for dinner and drinks with a friend. Three hours later, I was being brutally raped by three men in an old apartment building off campus. After that night, everything changed. I hated who I was and blamed myself for what happened. I spent the next two months drinking myself into a black out. I was so scared of the judgement and quilt and I had to pretend that everything was ok. So I never told anyone.

In January, I couldn’t stand to be there any longer so I moved back home with my mom. Things got better for a while. I got a job and started going back to school at a smaller, local college. But then, I started drinking heavily again. I hung out with people that went to bars on the weekends. I wasn’t drinking to have fun along with everyone else, I was drinking to numb pain.

By 2010, I was drinking four to six nights a week and by 2011, I had been arrested for public intoxication, charged with two DUIs, violated probation, had my car stolen, spent weekends in jail, and lost my apartment. I had stolen money from friends, had an abortion, lied to everyone I cared about, broken relationships with all of my family, and dropped out of college. My life was literally falling apart. I was at the end, well almost.

In May of 2012 I was arrested in my probation office for a 3rd DUI charge and violation of probation. I was sent to jail with no one and no way out. I was now facing a year prison sentence. My mom and dad came to visit me and I will never forget the look on their faces. Their precious little girl was cuffed, in a jump suit, behind glass. My mom said “Amanda, you need help. You have a problem, but you have to see it for yourself.” My dad said, “Everything, you have lost you can get back, but you have to start now. You are better than the life your living.” I knew they were right and I knew that I couldn’t do it on my own anymore. I knew I was an alcoholic. So in May of 2012, I was sent from jail to a twelve month treatment home for women called Shining Light Ministries. And to put it as simply as possible, the program saved my life. At first it was hard. I had nothing but constant reminders of the hurt I had brought myself and my family. But then, something happened. I surrendered. I surrendered to a life that had nothing left for me. I started letting people that I didn’t know and didn’t trust help me. I went to AA and NA meetings and had counseling every week. I went to church and bible study. I did volunteer work and fundraising. I did all of this and was living day by day with no alcohol! This place was healing me, and the crazy thing was, is all I had to do was let go of the control I thought I had on my life.

I graduated the program in May of 2013. Today, there really aren’t words to describe the changes that have taken place in my life. I have a job that I love and work hard at. I communicate with my sponsor and attend regular meetings. I have restored relationships with my family and continue with family counseling. And most importantly I surrender to my addiction everyday. I don’t want to ever forget the pain that I went through, but I don’t live by that pain either. I guess the biggest difference is that I have hope today…hope to have a future with the people I love; hope to do things differently and know that it’s ok to make mistakes and be myself; hope that God has more in store for me then I could have ever planned for myself!