This is a weekly staple affording our readers the opportunity to share their personal testimony regarding abuse, violence, disease, family, happiness, faith, jail time, obesity, and/or mistakes made in your youth, just to name a few. Let your testimony be a blessing to someone else attempting to overcome a particular avenue in life.
“I grew up in the projects in Brooklyn. I was an only child. My father worked and my mother, a homemaker. I had a great relationship with my father, but my mother was a whole different story. My father was a functional alcoholic. He would tell me he loved me all the time. He would always bring me goodies. I could not wait for him to get home from work, so I could see my daddy.
I grew up witnessing domestic violence between my parents. Between the ages of five and twelve, I too was being physically and emotionally abused. My mother use to beat on me with kitchen utensils, keys thrown at me, pulled my hair and once hit me with a pair of spiked heels right on top of my head. Till this day I have a bump where she hit me. My father use to beat me with the extension cord from the washing machine, and he had a special leather belt that was two inches wide. In some cases, he would use his fist. One time, I was beat so bad with the belt, I had welts all over my body. My mother did not send me to school for three days.
In 1970 my sister was born. My mother gave her all the loving in the world. She got all the love and affection I never got. I would witness my mother kiss my sister, hug her and tell her she loved her. I began to feel as though I was never wanted and my mother hated me for whatever reason. I just could not comprehend why? I was not a bad child, just looking for love and affection.
At the age of twelve I had a boyfriend. I thought I was in love but found myself getting beat up every day, and walking around with busted lips and black eyes. By the time I was fifteen, I became pregnant. At the age of eighteen, I could no longer take the abuse and one day my boyfriend hit me for the last time. My mind went blank and I snapped. I was out for the kill. I grabbed a bat and wanted to kill him. I swung and he ducked. He grabbed my son and ran to the bathroom and stayed there for three hours until I calmed down. That was the end of our relationship.
I had a job at the time and was working in the Manhattan corporate world. My mother became my babysitter. She offered to watch my son while I was away at work. She enrolled him in school without my permission. One day she asked me to give my son to her with papers and all. I had no respect from my mother. All I felt was this hatred towards me.
Finally, the abuse I had taken from my parents and my boyfriend was taking a toll on me. I began to feel worthless and nobody loved me or cared about me. I was all alone in this big world. I began to feel as though something was wrong with me that people felt the need to abuse me emotionally and physically. As a result, I got lost in the world. I would go out after work with my colleagues. I found myself going to clubs and began to drink alcohol. For once I felt free from all the abuse. It felt good. Eventually I graduated to doing speed, pills and cocaine. I was introduced to marijuana and eventually heroin.
By the age of twenty, I was in the streets selling drugs to support my drug habit. I was using heroin and crack. I was arrested three times. I was shot with a 35 magnum. Eventually, I wound up going to a state penitentiary for two years.
I was devastated and did not know how to handle this situation I got myself into. I had no choice but to sit with myself, by myself. I did not know who I was. I was completely lost. I had to learn and explore who I was. It was a weird feeling. I learned a lot about myself and what I liked and did not like. I learned what talents and gifts I had. This was a whole new world to me. One day I just got on my knees and prayed hard. I prayed from the bottom of my heart. I asked the universe to help me. I had surrendered. I prayed and stated what I wanted. I wanted to get married, have a good job and find a good man. While I was in prison I took advantage of all they had to offer. I obtained my GED, I learned how to work with computers and eventually I was teaching computer classes. I learned how to “jail” quick and never got in trouble.
In 1994 I was released from prison. I had nowhere to go. I went to my parent’s house. It was very difficult for me but I made the best out of it. My son was thirteen now. I worked hard to re-establish my ties and not be a mother but a friend. The abuse was never talked about. I did what I had to do because I did not want to stay at my parent’s house. My father was happy to have me home. He would always tell me he loved me. I had a hard time believing that because my mother played a big part in destroying the relationship between me and my father.
In December of 1994 I got married, had my own apartment. At the time, I was mandated to enter a drug program on an outpatient basis while I was on parole. During that process, the Director saw something in me. She offered me a job. I was almost in tears of happiness. All these good things were happening to me. All my prayers were being answered. I got a job working in a drug program. I worked primarily with the female population [with] women who had an extensive history of trauma and abuse. I learned so much and I found myself to be a big asset. I would talk with the ladies and would listen to their stories. I realized that I was blessed because I did not go through what half of those ladies went through.
After all that I went through, I was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was a long haul. I never gave up on having faith and believing in myself. I thank the universe for sending me to prison because it saved my life.
Today, I still work with young men and young ladies that have drug problems, and being abused in some form shape or fashion. Dealing with issues of self-esteem, self-confidence, self-respect and to love yourself, I am glad to be a part of their lives and helping them get on the right track. Eventually I returned back to school and earned a college degree in Criminal Justice. I obtained my credentials and became a credentialed counselor and a certified yoga instructor. I am currently working on my sports nutritionist certification and writing my first book.
I look back at my life and I have learned that even though I went through what I went through, it taught me who I did not want to become. It taught me that I am worthy of myself and the ability to help others and be a role model for others. It is a great feeling to be able to inspire, motivate, empower and uplift others. I share my story with others in order to provide hope, strength and wisdom to others. My life taught me to be a loving, kind and caring person. Each human being is a product of the universe and we are no different from each other. I have learned that you cannot give what you don’t have. Meaning, if you never received love and affection, how can you be loving and affectionate to someone else. I realized that parents have their own story to tell. Both my parents came from abusive homes. My father grew up in a domestic violence home and his father was an alcoholic and all his brothers were drug addicts. That is all they knew and it trickled down to their children.
I have learned that parents give their children what they have learned from their parents and that it is not their fault. It is time for healing and forgiveness. In 2008 my father passed away. I was blessed to have the opportunity to tell my father that I loved him and I knew he always loved me. I let him know that I knew he did the best he could with what he had.
No form of abuse is okay. Abuse is not love and no one has the right to tell you that you are not worth anything or treat you like the dirt on the bottom of someone’s shoes. It is a vicious cycle, but please know that you can have a better life and be anything you want to be if you just have faith and believe in yourself.
The biggest lesson I have learned, is that for every problem there is a message, there is a lesson to be learned. Things happen to us in order to help us become stronger and strengthen our weak areas. Learn to have faith and believe in a higher power that is greater than yourself.”
Written by Lourdes Cartagena