Because I’m Free

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LorenaI was only 12 years old when I took my first shot of tequila. At 13, I took my first hit of weed — just 13 years old when my innocence left me, because I was introduced to many other things I wish I never experienced.

I had a so-called first love, only to have him try to use me. You see, at this time my mind was still innocent. One day he tried to pin me down and keep me in his house until he got what he wanted. My heart panicked, and my body felt nothing but fire. I was able to gather all my things and run out the door. I ran and ran and ran until my asthma kicked in and no longer let me run. I never looked back.

That same week, I also had these dreams that began to haunt and taunt me daily, and I wasn’t ever able to understand why or what was going on. It was then that I realized my dreams were true. I was sexually abused for years. When I realized that I cried. I contemplated suicide a couple of times. I was just 13.

I got into my first fight and realized how much fun it was. The relief after the fight was better, so the violence began. I used to go to my best friend’s house and sneak some of her stepdad’s whiskey into my drink. Getting drunk seemed to take the pain away so easily, and smoking weed seemed to help me calm my anger. Once exposed to these things, I never wanted to look back.

I began getting high on inhalants as well, and since it offered just a temporary feeling, I did it every day.  I lived in a single-parent household, so my mom was too busy working to notice. Even when she was home, she was too tired to notice.

When I was 15, I was in a relationship where we started using these cold and cough over-the-counter drugs. If you take enough, you’ll get high. That became an everyday habit, and I did everything I could to get it. I had already dropped out of school twice by this time. I eventually stopped when the person I did it with became heavily addicted. I realized it was time to calm down. The relationship consumed me and my time so much that I didn’t drink, smoke or use anything like how I used to — until the end of that relationship.

I ended up living with a friend because my mom couldn’t afford a place of our own anymore, and I ended up drinking again. I was also smoking weed and I was going out a lot. Getting f***** up became a habit.

I was going to two alternative schools so I could make it back to a regular high school, but I ended up dropping out again. I moved back in with my mom in 2012 around my 17th birthday and reconnected with an old friend. We started to go out a lot again, and I started using Ecstasy. I’d go out all night and come home late or I just wouldn’t come home at all.

I became somebody else. I began fighting with my mom and I told her she couldn’t tell me what to do anymore. Boy, did I think I was grown. As the streets consumed me and all my pain and allowed me not to feel, it became all I wanted — and I wasn’t ever home anymore. Inflicting pain on others seemed easier than dealing with the pain of myself.

Something bad happened one night that changed me and my drinking habits for a long time. The advice I was given was to pretend it never happened. While incarcerated, I realized that’s all I ever did: pretend things never happened. Pretending started it all, hiding all the pain that led me to do the things that I’ve done.

I was so angry that I didn’t even know where to begin. But day by day and moment by moment, I’ve coped. I’ve lived past it all, and I’m free today. I’m free from that pain, from that anger.

Although I have some days that are difficult, I know that in the end I will be OK, because nothing lasts forever. Now I try to be a positive influence to those around me and show them that you don’t have to lose yourself to alcohol or drugs to be happy or content. I’ve changed myself completely just to make my mom proud.

Lorena Villanueva, 20, is a student at Rio Hondo College majoring in computer science. She also works and is an active member of InsideOUT Writers.

  • Fran Holguin

    WOW. Thank you for sharing such intimate, personal and heartbreaking facts about your life. I didn’t realize how bad you had it growning up. It took a lot of courage to tell your story. You truly are an inspiration, Lorena.

    You are a very strong, intelligent, young woman. I know you will achieve whatever you put your mind to. Just keep your eyes on the big picture and there’s no stopping you, look what you have accomplished in just a year!!

    I’ve told you several times to keep your head up because NOBODY can make you feel inferior unless YOU let them. ALWAYS remember where you came from and where you’ve been but NEVER allow it to define who you are because there is so much more to you than the negativity that has touched your young life. NOTHING is worth your freedom so learn new things, meet new people, travel, love. Life is short and the world is yours.

    I am proud of you, lil girl. I love you but most of all I want you to know that I BELIEVE in you. ALWAYS.

    -Fran