“It became like a wildfire. I was constantly going out and getting wasted. I didn’t want to face the reality of my life at that time,” Addy M. shares, overlooking Shirley’s patio. This was not the life she had envisioned as a little girl from Kenya. Born there in 1987, Addy never knew her biological father. Her mother was a journalist and she met Addy’s stepfather, a photographer, before Addy turned one. Not long after, Addy’s mother gave birth to a half-sister. And while a beautiful blessing Addy also painfully recounts, “As I grew up I saw [my stepfather] favoring my sister more.”
Thus began a lifetime of low self-esteem and self-worth when it came to men and an overpowering need to be accepted and loved. In 1994, the family moved to Northridge, CA. There was also a lot of culture shock for her and her sister. “Americans were so much more laid back,” she shares. And that desire to assimilate was a powerful motivator. So much so that her father insisted she and her sister stop speaking Swahili. “It felt like he was trying to Americanize us. I always felt too black, too African,” she remembers. That strain, along with his abusive behavior towards her and her mother, prompted the couple to divorce.
In an attempt to put all of that hurt behind her, Addy moved on with her life, and, in 2005 she graduated from Granada Hills High School. Around that period she got drunk for the first time. “Some boys from school gave me like six double shots of liquor. I got so drunk I didn’t remember the next day,” Addy says. She was also introduced to weed around this time as well. However, she recalls not really liking it because as her friends put it, “I was a ‘one hit wonder.’ I’d take one hit and fall asleep.”
It was also around this time that Addy would meet a man that would forever alter and terrorize her life. On a road trip to San Francisco, a friend introduced her to the man who would become her husband. They instantly connected and for the next six months, they spent every weekend together. After that brief courtship period the two decided to move in together. It was then, Addy sorely recalls, that “the abuse almost started immediately.” It was equal parts verbal, mental, emotional and physical.
She knew she wanted out, but she didn’t possess the self-esteem to leave. Despite all this the couple had a dream wedding and went on a honeymoon to Puerto Rico. It was during their honeymoon that things really came to a head. His abuse and control went into overdrive. Everything she did was wrong. In an attempt to escape from the tortuous behavior she began drinking and ended up falling and cutting her foot.
She decided to leave to get away from him and heal from her injury. When she arrived back in the states she learned he had been arrested for bringing a handgun into the country. And as opposed to him taking responsibility for his reckless behavior, “I got blamed for not making sure he didn’t bring the gun,” she recounts. Upon his return he began beating and abusing her again. They tried couples therapy and despite several efforts to reconcile the two separated. But it wasn’t for long. Trying to make it work yet again the couple bought a house and started a legal firm together. However, the situation was hopeless. Her drinking progressively got worse.
In a last-ditch effort, the couple went on a trip to Kenya with Addy’s mom and sister. It was on this trip that Addy’s mother saw the abuse for herself. Distraught over seeing her daughter’s suffering, she pulled Addy aside and shared some knowledge: “This is the exact same reason I left your dad. I didn’t want him to have any lasting effect on the kind of men you would be drawn to,” she told her. “That was when I decided to leave,” Addy relates.
When they returned, Addy moved back to Los Angeles on Mother’s Day 2019 to live with her mother. Her mother told her to take as much time as she needed for self-care following the horrendous trauma she had suffered for so many years. But instead of heeding her mother’s words, Addy immersed herself once again into her alcohol addiction. “I stopped caring. Everything I had worked for was gone so who cares?” she recounts. Finally recognizing she had a severe problem Addy attempted to go cold turkey. Not surprisingly, she suffered a seizure. She then went to the hospital to detox. By the end of 2020 her drinking had tapered off, she had a new job and met a new guy in one of her C.A. meetings. Shortly after meeting, however, she relapsed.
But in a beautiful coincidence, he happened to have gone to Beit T’Shuvah for his own addiction. He called Rabbi Micha’el and Addy was able to get into Beit T’Shuvah. She immediately immersed herself in all things BTS. “When I heard Rabbi Micha’el curse in one of the Zoom meetings I knew I was in the right place,” Addy laughingly recalls. “I felt so welcomed here. Everyone was so nice,” she explains. An enthusiastic and grateful member of the community, Addy is part of the Gardening Group. She has also served, as a house monitor, stage manager for the BTS Talent Show, is a member of the “Freedom Song” ensemble and just recently began an internship in the Development Department.
“I’m finally understanding how important it is to have a community surrounding and supporting you in recovery,” she explains with a sparkling gleam in her eyes. Addy finally sees a future without abuse, suffering and the shackles of addiction. And her Beit T’Shuvah family is just as excited to see the next chapter in the “Book of Addy”.