As a child, school served as my greatest escape from the abuse. In the classroom, I was a world apart from the girl I was at home—the child who was molested, the young girl who was forced to pay household bills and cook for a whole family—and the victim of beatings from a tyrannical and emotionally unavailable mother.
But when I found out that my mother was dealing drugs, I left for Chicago to live with my grandmother hoping to leave this all behind. Although school in Chicago presented me with a distraction from my family life, I could not escape the rage and loneliness that pervaded my existence. My new life in Chicago lacked structure, and I began to form attachments with a particularly rough crowd. All the anger I felt from the years of abuse and neglect was mistakenly channeled into the mistakes I made while a part of this group.
I eventually dropped out of high school and began to experiment with heroin. I abandoned myself, my children, and my husband. Certain family members introduced me to cocaine. I stopped using it after responding badly to its effects. But the cycle of misuse and abuse continued; I used heroin daily. I lacked all self-esteem and I felt so helpless that I wanted to pursue all possible means of escaping from myself. I had reached rock bottom and there was no question about it.
On July 3, 2006, I made the decision to get clean. During a meeting while in treatment, a woman approached me and told me about St. Martin de Porres House of Hope, a recovery home for homeless women recovering from substance abuse. I called Sister Therese, the woman who operated the shelter and decided to go although I was scared to death about the new lifestyle I would have to adopt. I cried every day during my first three months at the recovery home. I began participating in life changing programs offered through the shelter. I was so moved by the dedication and energy of the program that I walked two miles every day to attend the program meetings.
St. Martin de Porres House of Hope was my saving grace because it helped me realize the potential for what I could do for others. I recall vividly of the moment when Sister Therese called to ask if I would like to take on an active role in the shelter as the shelter’s preschool teacher. Like a breath of fresh air and an abundance of joy and honor, I realized that I had found a home in the shelter even though I started off in a home where nobody wanted me. I applied for a position with a spiritual music program and as a retreat leader for various spiritual retreats, and was hired by both organizations. I now travel around the United States and speak to women who are currently my past reflection to offer them counsel and most importantly, hope. Seeing the impact that I have on these women when sharing my experiences has filled me with an immense sense of pride in my work and my abilities. I want to be what Sister Therese and St. Martin de Porres was for me. The women that I work with have also taught me a valuable lesson. My struggles are not in vain; they are a means for me to connect with hundreds of other women to inspire them that life is beautiful. I have never been more proud of myself until I began inspiring women during retreats.
When I was young, I was afraid to dream since I feared that I would never attain such a goal. But now that I am living my dream, I have also rediscovered my former passions, especially education. I earned my GED while living in the shelter. I am currently a senior at DePaul University, working on my counseling degree while also working full time at St. Martin’s de Porres, part-time with Harmony Hope & Healing and Ignatian Spirituality Project, helping other women who are in the situation I was in more than 9 years ago. I am happily married and 8 of my children have returned. I have been living spiritually clean, free, and serene for over 9 years now, and act as a sponsor to 15 women. My name is Amanda Asque Alumni.
~Amanda's inspiring story will be featured in the form of a music and video piece at Edge of Shelter