Life really is what you make of it. I’ve know people who were dealt the best possible cards in life and still managed to screw it up. I’ve also met many that were dealt the worst possible cards, yet managed to pull themselves through to achieve great things. I fall into this second category.
My parents divorced around the time I was ten. Initially, my 2 younger sisters and I lived with our dad. During that time, I had to endure being molested by him. I honestly don’t know if my sisters also endured the same. Finally, by 8th grade, we got to go live with our mother. She did her best, always ensuring we had a roof over our heads and some food in the pantry.
She worked a lot. When she wasn’t working, she drank. She wasn’t a violent drunk or anything like that, but her drunkenness put a lot of responsibility on me at a very young age. I had to pretty much care for my younger siblings. I had been an honor student until 10th grade. Grades has always been easy for me.
Burning Desire for Something More
Around this time, I rebelled against the early responsibility my mother had put on me because of her illness. I found myself pregnant at the age of 17 and dropped out of school. I spent the next two years working 3 jobs to pay rent and provide for my son.
During this time, I also met and married a guy that ended up being heavily addicted to drugs and also a drug dealer! When my son was round the age of 2, I made the difficult decision to give him up for adoption to another family member. Now, I was able to party and make up for being tied down with a child for the last two years. I went down the road of drinking and drugs like many young adults who lack positive influence in their lives.
Even during all this bad decision-making time, I had this burning desire for something more. I just didn’t know how to get there. I had no positive role models in my family or life to mentor me or keep me grounded. I woke up one morning, half-dressed, on a friend’s couch, after a night of partying that I couldn’t remember. I decided I needed to find some direction because I couldn’t continue that path. I found an article in the newspaper – yes, back when young people actually read the newspaper – the article was for Job Corps.
Headed Off to Navy Boot Camp
It offered free training and free accommodations during your training. I spent about 6 months there and that is where I met the military recruiters. I scored quite high on my ASVAB test (this is the test you must take to get into the military and to see which job fields suit you.). So, at the age of 21, I headed off to Navy boot camp in Orlando, Florida. I left my family in hopes of finding some kind of future for myself. Oh, and I divorced the drug addict husband!
I joined the military at a time when they were just beginning to allow women to serve on ships. My first ship hadn’t had women before, so I was part of the first group of women to be assigned to it. It was rough. The men didn’t want us there. It was so hard because we just wanted to do our jobs and be accepted, but we had no senior female leadership to guide us or to look out for our interests.
Aside from trying to prove ourselves in the workspace, it was also like a “meat-market” as new women would arrive. In total, we had around 25 females out of a crew of 300. My ship was to be assigned permanently to Japan. Here I was, in a foreign country, away from family and friends, in a work space that didn’t want me there.
I, along with the few other women assigned, had to deal with constant sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual advances by senior leaders and other members of the command. Most of these came from leaders that should have been looking out for us but instead preyed on our naivety and fear of authority. I started down the drinking path again.
Harassment and Discrimination
I got so depressed and overwhelmed that I attempted to take my life one day by ingesting a bottle of pills. Fortunately, I wasn’t good at suicide and am still here today to write this story. Years later, the environment of sexual harassment and discrimination would take its toll again, resulting in me having a breast reduction. Why? In hopes that smaller breasts would equal less male attention. Of course, I was wrong.
I did have some really great times in the military. I was so blessed to have traveled all over the world and see places that most only read about from a book. I also married and divorced two more times. Although the relationships were horrible, I did come out on top with my two beautiful children. Each time, I had to completely start over financially. I began having medical and mental health issues towards the end of my military career. I was medically retired from the military around the 18-year mark.
This is when my life really took a turn. I struggled very much during that first year out. I nearly became homeless (with two kids) because I couldn’t find a job and was unable to make my mortgage payments. I finally got hired in the eleventh month with an organization that helps veterans with employment. Everything that happened to me during that year really started a fire in me. A desire to help other veterans figure out their transition to civilian life.
Can’t I Get a Break?
I also started volunteering with an organization called Dress for Success, which helps to empower disadvantaged women in the community. Having been raised by a single mom, also being one myself, this organization was very close to my heart. I eventually became a board member for the organization in addition to being a volunteer.
Just when things were looking up, I got married again (yes, this is #4). Soon after our marriage, I quickly learned that he had severe mental health problems and had a crack addiction. He drained my bank account, pawned several things from our home, and had me in such fear of him from his outbursts that I kept a handgun with me at all times. Good Lord, can’t I get a break?!!
I turned to God at this point – something I had never done before. I began going to church and serving at the church and really devoting my life to it. I divorced #4 and managed to physically get him out of my home.
Focused on Volunteering
From this point onward, things have gone well. Despite all the bad things thrown my way, I kept pushing forward. Failure simply wasn’t an option for me. My medical issues caused me to lose my job, so I got creative. I mowed yards and did some landscaping to bring in money so I wouldn’t lose my home. I also stayed focused on volunteering since I now had lots of time on my hands.
The more I committed to helping others, the more good things came to me. I started an organization to help women military veterans. I started a blog to help veterans. I started a blog to empower women. I became a veteran’s advocate and am pretty well-known for helping veterans and those in need in my community. I was also offered a spot (not paid) to co-host a radio show which I do every Saturday morning now.
My life now is devoted to helping others and thru that, I’m succeeding in both my personal and financial life. What is my point in all of this? You have no control over what life throws at you. What you do have control over is how you handle it. You can join the pity train and sit home feeling sorry for yourself or you can get up, figure out a plan, and make it happen.
Taking Charge of My Situation and Life
Everyone has it in them to be successful with the right tools and the right tribe of others around them. I use my story to empower and inspire others that their situation is not unique and is not permanent. I have literally gone from living on welfare, flat broke from 4 worthless ex-husbands, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity, depressed and over-medicated on psych meds – to taking charge of my situation and life.
I’m not “rolling in the dough” by any means, but I’m not living in poverty either. That cycle CAN be ended and I proved that to myself. I hope to inspire and mentor other women (and men) that are struggling to find their way to success. I also hope to help transform their mindset from victim mentality (poor me) to “I’ve got this – watch me!”. Forget the government, forget politics, forget “the man” as people say.
Ultimately, your future is completely controlled by the decisions you make in spite of the “things” that happen in your life! There are absolutely NO EXCUSES for you not being where you want to be in life. Get up, get moving and make it happen!
This is a guest post, brought to you by LeeAnn Fox.
Name of her Blog: Girl Bosses Rock
Blog link: girlbossesrock.com
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This Post Has 6 Comments
I enjoyed this read. This is why i enjoy u as my mentor because with this story, u show me that there’s light at the end of the tunnel with any negative situation. Plus, with all the bad apples you’ve been around… u found a garden that you can finally enjoy with the fruit of your loins. Challenge is growth. I loved this.
Wow, you’re one strong woman LeeAnn! You’ve dealt with so many horrible situations and you still persevered. I totally agree with you, it’s useless to complain. Nobody is going to make it better for you, you have to do it on your own! Your perseverance and commitment is truly inspirational. Thank you.
Thank you for sharing your story LeeAnn- it’s quite an incredible hourney you’ve been on. When I was reading it I wanted to reach through the internet and hug you. You were dealt a truly unfair deck of cards in life. I wholeheartedly agree that it’s how you choose to use the bad to better yourself;propel yourself forward to better your life. Your time in the military and what happened to you makes me angry. I am so glad you now have good people around you and are helping others. I am rooting for you. I can relate to you. In my opinion, we’ve won at life by not letting the bad take us down! Keep going! Can’t wait to read more.
What a sad start to life but I’m so glad she is doing well now. Helping others is the key. I totally agree.
Wow. I’m so sorry for everything you have been through and am inspired by how you have persevered and helped others!
She is indeed a great inspiration.