“I wish I could run home to Mom and Dad,” I said. However, they’d been dead for many years. I’d been demeaned, betrayed, lied to and abused by the person I had shared with most intimately—my husband and companion. I had so completely given myself away to him that there was nothing left of me.

“You won’t find Mom and Dad here, but you might find sisters,” said the staff worker on the phone. And she was absolutely right. No one told me what to do here, but they shared their own experiences and helped me work through problems, discover options, and then applauded me for my progress, my decisions, and my accomplishments. And since the actions were mine, I began to get me back.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes living in a house this full of people can be hard. And it is hard for me to ask for what I need and what I want, after so many years of taking care of everyone else. I was punished for asking for things like courtesy and respect.

Tonight, as I look forward to the next chapter in my life, I am nervous, but I know I am not alone. In giving up my friends, my job, my values to my husband, I had become isolated. I discovered here that many others around me that have been through similar abusive, tough times. A hundred times this month I’ve heard, “He/she did/said that to me, too!”

People here understand me in a way that friends or family who’ve never been through the cycle of abuse ever could. They let me cry, they let me laugh, just because that is how I felt. They told me it was okay to feel. And I got back more of me—my feelings.

Four weeks here hasn’t solved my problems from the last two decades, but I have found the courage to keep working toward healthier times. The courage to ask for help. The courage to say no. The permission to pamper myself. I know I can do this.