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Who Made You The Judge

All Theresa ever wanted was her father’s love. In return, he told her she was “f#@%ed up,” “disgusting,” and a “liar.”

Theresa’s parents divorced when she was three. Shared custody of her and her brother meant going back and forth between her parents. It also meant being separated from two half-sisters. Mom was a single mother of four who constantly worked, consumed with paying the bills. Dad was selfish and irresponsible, often leaving the children unsupervised. By age five, Theresa was doing her best to care for herself and her brother. A lot of the time, when her father was present, he was mean and manipulative. 

Theresa couldn’t make sense of or articulate her emotions surrounding abandonment. She shut down, leaving her feeling empty and angry. In grade school, Theresa expressed her anger by throwing tantrums, acting out, and being defiant. She was suspended and expelled for bad behavior and labeled a problem child. 

Theresa Lumley

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At fourteen, Theresa found alcohol. It was a tornado. She didn’t just get drunk; she binged until she blacked out every single time. Although able to contain drinking to weekends, she got belligerent every time she drank. At a party one weekend, age sixteen, Theresa absently staggered into a stranger’s house. She sobered up at the hospital, awaiting a rape test. Her pants were ripped, and there was massage lotion on her body, but she couldn’t remember what had happened. Traumatized, Theresa sought support from her father – who, instead, made her feel like a liar and a slut. 

 

As an adult, Theresa’s relationship with her father was complicated. In his way, her father tried but could not give her the unconditional love she needed. He used his diagnosis of Hepatitis C to manipulate, claiming he only had one year to live. He pressured her into spending more time with him and asked for money on more than one occasion. This betrayal compounded Theresa’s feelings of anger, confusion, and frustration. Her alcohol abuse continued, although now accompanied by cocaine to keep herself from blacking out. Whenever Theresa drank, it led to new chaotic situations, often involving the police, fighting with friends, or endangering herself. 

Theresa’s sobriety came with the birth of her first niece on January 22, 2013. She vowed to stop drinking so she could be a positive part of her niece’s life. She started attending Alcoholics Anonymous, found a sponsor, and did the twelve steps. The first year was grueling. For the first three months, Theresa kept to herself, not talking to family and friends or socializing outside of AA. After this, she started on the long road of making amends and repairing damaged relationships. Theresa moved in with her mom for eight months to give herself time to look inward and focus on figuring out who she was without alcohol. The emotions escaped by alcohol abuse were now at the surface. She had to learn to accept them and find new strategies to cope. Theresa engaged in extensive therapy, which started her on a path of continuous self-improvement.

Negative stereotypes and judgment plague recovering alcoholics, so Theresa was guarded about sharing her story during her first years of sobriety. After five years, confident with who she was, she decided that her story could give others hope. She shared it at schools with kids, Al-Anon, and AA meetings. 

Theresa’s journey, intuition, and empathy for children led her to a career in child and youth care, teaching children that require intensive behavioral support. In 2022 Theresa graduated with her Bachelor of Arts Degree on the Dean’s Honour Roll and is now working towards her Bachelor of Education. These degrees will allow her to become a Social Development Program Teacher leading the program where she works.

With her father’s passing in 2019, residual trauma surfaced for Theresa, leading her back through self-reflection. She attended an intense 13-week complex trauma healing program where she faced the darkest times of childhood, youth, and early adulthood. She no longer resents her father and has accepted that he did the best he could. She has forgiven him, leaving her with freedom, forgiveness, and compassion toward him.

Through all life’s challenges, Theresa has found the strength to remain sober and is celebrating ten years in 2023.

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