The Courage to Change: A Recovery Podcast

Charise Thompson: Overcoming Unimaginable Trauma and Finding Recovery Through Advocacy and Forgiveness

Episode Summary

#10: Charise Thompson is a phenomenal human being. She is the survivor of multiple traumas including domestic abuse, a Hepatitis C diagnosis and the loss of multiple family members. Charise also tells the harrowing story of how she was abducted, brutally beaten, gang raped and left for dead on the side of the road. Charise is a Victim Advocate, Counselor, Ordained Minister, Writer, Poet and Support Group Facilitator for Hepatitis C and Survivors of Sexual Assault. She is also a Women's Roller Derby League Coordinator and Coach. Previously, Charise was an Administrator for a Drug/Alcohol Treatment Facility, and Victim Advocate for SafeHouse Sexual Assault Services, after leaving Real Estate Management. She is someone who has learned how to turn surviving into thriving!

Episode Notes

#10: Charise Thompson is a phenomenal human being. She is the survivor of multiple traumas including domestic abuse, a Hepatitis C diagnosis and the loss of multiple family members. Charise also tells the harrowing story of how she was abducted, brutally beaten, gang raped and left for dead on the side of the road.

Charise is a Victim Advocate, Counselor, Ordained Minister, Writer, Poet and Support Group Facilitator for Hepatitis C and Survivors of Sexual Assault. She is also a Women's Roller Derby League Coordinator and Coach. Previously, Charise was an Administrator for a Drug/Alcohol Treatment Facility, and Victim Advocate for SafeHouse Sexual Assault Services, after leaving Real Estate Management. She is someone who has learned how to turn surviving into thriving!

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Show Notes:

3:00 - Charise’s original story was aired publicly, and picked up by the Daily Mail and she speaks about what it has been like.

5:30 - Charise describes her childhood and background

9:25 - Leaving another abusive situation

12:50 - The night that changed Charise’s life forever (the attack) + her son’s illness at a young age

25:15 - What it was like to physically recover from the attack

29:00 - Being diagnosed with Hepatitis C, getting treatment and being confined to a wheelchair for 13 years

41:46 - Charise talks about her suicide attempt

44:10 - What life looks like today + advice for the ages

46:40 - Stop the damage and let the healing begin.

49:12 - Working with women who are dealing with sexual assault and substance abuse disorders

50:09 - Coping skills and techniques

51:55 - Roller Derby

54:50 - The beauty in the moments of overcoming

57:06 - You know your child better than anyone

59:42 - Advice to mothers who want to put their stories out there, but don’t want to traumatize your children

1:01:57 - Resources for survivors

The Courage to Change: A Recovery Podcast would like to thank our sponsor, Lionrock Recovery, for their support. Lionrock Recovery is an online substance abuse counseling program where you can get help for drinking or drug use from the privacy of your own home. For more information, visit http://www.lionrockrecovery.com.

Episode Transcription

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Hello, beautiful people. Welcome to The Courage to Change, a Recovery Podcast. My name is Ashley Loeb Blassingame and I am your host. I want to introduce you to a woman who has very much touched my heart. Her name is Charise Thompson. She is a victim advocate and a support group facilitator for hepatitis C and survivors of sexual assault. She is also a women's roller derby league coordinator and coach. Previously, she was an administrator for a drug and alcohol treatment facility and victim advocate for Safehouse Sexual Assault Services.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I just want to tell you a little bit about Charise because she's a remarkable, remarkable woman. Her story was featured in the Daily Mail, the news outlet, and we were able to get in contact with her and, for whatever reason, she was willing to talk to us. Said she wasn't willing to talk to any other media, including the Dr. Phil Show, but she was willing to come and talk to us and I was just so completely flattered by her willingness to be open. Her tenacity is just unbelievable.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

One of the things that she's going to talk to us about is the fact that she was told she would never get out of a wheelchair and 13 years later, she is completely out of a wheelchair, walking and coaching roller derby. That's just a tiny part of her story and I am in awe. So, I hope you get as much out of this as I did because this woman is a force to be reckoned with and it is a perfect example of not letting circumstances, situations, events, stop you from being the person that you are meant to be.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, I hope you enjoy this and this recording was done with a different software, so it's going to sound a little bit different than our normal sound quality. I would love for you to hang in there with us as we have an amazing guest and interview coming on. Episode 10, let's do this.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

All right, Charise. Welcome to the program.

Charise Thompson:

Thank you very much, Ashley. I'm excited to be here.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I'm excited to have you. So, this past couple weeks has been pretty crazy in your life. Your original story aired on a local statewide newspaper and then was recently picked up by the Daily Mail. I know that your mission and journey has been about sharing your experience, but being picked up by this international media source, probably was not something you were expecting. What has that been like?

Charise Thompson:

It's been a little overwhelming, at times. I was contacted, well first, by Dr. Phil, and then by numerous magazines and newspapers and this is the only thing that I have done so far. It just needed to step back a little bit and get my stuff in a group and decide what I want to do from here.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Did you feel like your story was accurately represented in either of those print media sources?

Charise Thompson:

Well, when The Sun did it, it was very accurate. The lady spent a lot of time with me and then the Daily Mail just picked it up and they used some pictures and some stuff that I hadn't authorized. It wasn't a big deal, but there were a few facts that weren't quite right, but still the basic was there and able to do the work that we want to do.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yes. So, I mean this, if you're listening and you don't know Charise's story, we're about to talk about it and it's an incredible story. Really, what drew me to you, Charise, was what you're doing with your story because so many people have intensely horrific, tragic stories of things that we've been through; traumas, but what you're doing with your story is using it as a source for good and really being about recovering from sexual trauma and trauma, in general.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's what I love. I remember, you and I, when we first started talking about the podcast and doing your story, I was saying that as a mother I was so drawn to the piece of your story, where you talk about having to get back to your son and again, we'll talk about what happened, but having to get back to your son, and come to find out that you are a mother figure for many women throughout the world, at this point. So, I'm so excited for everybody to hear about what you've done with this situation. Talk to us a little bit about how this all began and what your mission is. Where did you grow up? Give us a little background on Charise.

Charise Thompson:

I was born in Louisiana. My mother was Canadian, married an American serviceman. So, most of my growing up, I did in Canada. Then at 17, I moved to south Texas from Canada, was doing seismic survey work. My home life was not the best. My mother was an angel and a godsent, but my father was the person that taught you everything you never wanted to be in life. He was a brute. He was brutal. He beat us. He minimized everything that we did. He just was not a nice person. So, I grew up with some strikes already against me because, when you're told every day of your life that you're the worst thing that ever happened, that you'll never be anything, you'll never amount to anything, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you let it, and that's one of the big reasons that I left Canada and moved to Texas was just a fresh start, a new beginning.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So this was going on with your dad when you were living in Canada, but you left where he was living when you were 17?

Charise Thompson:

Yes. Then he and my mother and sister followed me to Texas, so we all lived in Texas.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Whoops, oh gosh, okay. How did you feel when you found out they were all coming to be in this place you got away?

Charise Thompson:

It was fine. My mom had an import/export store and I worked there with her and she was kind of the thing that made him okay. As long as she was around, you could deal with him.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay. So now you're in south Texas and working at this store. What was going on in your world once you got to Texas?

Charise Thompson:

Mostly work. I was doing, at that time, like I said, the import/export store was my mother and just getting used to a really different life. South Texas is a lot different than Canada and everything that I knew. Then I met my first husband and got married at 18, had a baby at 19 and left when he was just an infant. I had grown up in a house where the kids were brutalized and nobody was ever going to lay a hand on my son. My husband, at that time, got drunk one night and put his hands on my baby and that was the end. I was packed and gone before he got home from work the next day. So, then it was just my son and I for seven years.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, was your father an alcoholic?

Charise Thompson:

He was, in the beginning. He did quit when I was about 15 or 16. I had left home by that time. I had two other older brothers that were just absolutely my world and we knew, as long as we were together, we'd be okay. I was 14, almost 15, so Craig was 16. Roy was 17, when we left home and we lived in a condemned building in downtown Edmonton in the winter, but we were okay. We were together and we took care of each other and they were just my world.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Are you still close with them today?

Charise Thompson:

I lost both my brothers in 1980 and 1981.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So growing up with them, that was the camaraderie and the safety in your survival.

Charise Thompson:

Yes, absolutely. It still is. I quite often think, "What would Craig say?" Or, "What would Roy tell me?" When I need that little bit of a boost. They're never far [inaudible 00:08:54]. Those are the people you carry forever in your heart.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Absolutely. I'm so sorry for your loss with them, but I am sure that they are watching you and very proud of all the amazing work that you're doing. So, you left your first husband and you took your son, James, with you. What happened there? What went on that you left and how did it feel coming out of that situation and leaving another traumatic abusive situation? Obviously, this was not the first time this has happened in your life.

Charise Thompson:

No, it wasn't, but I knew what to do.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yes.

Charise Thompson:

When I met Billy, he didn't drink. We got married and his father and stepmother came to the wedding and he drank a lot that night. My mother and I had to pretty much drag him up the stairs, put him to bed and he never stopped drinking again. I was told later that he had been an alcoholic as a teenager and had been sober for a period of time, but that went out the window. So, alcohol was pretty much a part of our lives and he'd come home late and he'd come home drunk and, this particular night, the baby had chicken pox and, like any child when they don't feel good, they just want mom and they want to be held and I had spent most of the day just sitting in the recliner, holding him.

Charise Thompson:

When Billy got home that night, I put the baby in the playpen in the living room and went out to the kitchen to get his dinner out of the oven and get it on the table. He said, "Can't you do something about this kid?" I said, "Billy, he sick. As soon as I get you dinner on the table, I'll sit back down in the rocker with him and he'll be fine." I heard him say, "If you can't shut him up, I will." I came flying around the corner from the kitchen into the dining room, looking into the living room, just in time to see him pick the baby up by his arm out of the playpen and toss him across the room.

Charise Thompson:

He hit the back of the couch and bounced on the couch cushions. It didn't hurt him, but it startled him, you know the... Kind of effect. So, I got diapers and everything that I thought I would need and I locked us in the master bedroom and then I locked us in the master bath and took linens out of the linen closet and made a pallet in the bathtub for James. That's where I was until I heard Billy leave for work the next morning and I was packed and gone before he got home that night and I never looked back.

Charise Thompson:

If he would touch him once, he would do it again and that just was not going to happen. It was frightening. 19 with a small baby and no real place to go. Nothing laid out ahead of time because you just don't predict those things. So, I stayed with my mom and I worked graveyard shift because it paid more than daytime shift. That way, I was there when he got up in the morning and I would nap when he did. I'd get him to bed night then I'd go to work and I knew that mom was with him while I was at work. It was a tough life, but I did that until I could buy a better car that would get me back and forth to work and I worked for a little while in a travel agency. Then, went into seismic survey work.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Did you ever contemplate or feel like, "Gosh, I got out of this situation that I was in as a kid where alcohol was a negative part of my life," and then this guy that you marry was sober up until the night you got married. Was there ever feelings of self-pity or, "How did this happen to me?" That kind of stuff swirling around?

Charise Thompson:

I think, for everybody, there's times where you go, "Why me? What did I do to deserve this?" The answer was always the same. You didn't do anything. You made it better. You tried to make it better. You made it better for your son than it was for you. That's the best that I think you can do.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, take us to the night that really changed your life.

Charise Thompson:

It was the week of Thanksgiving in 1981. It was a tough year for us. I had lost my brother, Craig, the 22nd of November, the year before, and my oldest brother, Roy, 6 months later that May. So, I worked until noon on Wednesday and then, like so many of us did then, I just filled a whole backseat floor with blankets and pillows and threw my soon back there with his teddy bear and some toys and headed on the road two and a half hours to Corpus Christi where my mom lived and that's where we going to spend the Thanksgiving weekend.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Now, just real quick, was this before or after your son got really sick in the hospital?

Charise Thompson:

This was after. He was only about 18 months old when that happened.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay. You want to tell us a little bit about that before we get to, sorry, we're backtracking, here.

Charise Thompson:

He has repeated ear infections and he had been on penicillin. I was sitting in the living room one night and I heard this really strange sound. So, I muted the TV and I got up and walked into the kitchen and it got louder. Started down the hallway, it was louder. When I opened his bedroom door, he's laying spread eagle in his crib. His eyes as big as saucers and, when I flipped on the light, I could already see where his little joints were turning dark; his wrists and elbows and ankles, where he was bleeding into his joints. I called my mom, said, "Meet me at children's." Just yanked him up, put him in the car and I was there because I knew I could get him there faster than an ambulance could.

Charise Thompson:

By the time I went through the first set of double doors, somebody had him out of my arms and gone. I signed two pieces of paper, just told them what had happened and, by the time I got upstairs, they already had little IVs in both hands and both feet and had him in an oxygen tent. He had developed an allergy to penicillin and, because he had been on it for nine days, his little body was just completely saturated. The doctor had told me, "He's not going to make it through the night. If you know where his father is, you might want to think about calling him."

Charise Thompson:

Well, I'd seen Billy only twice in that year and a half. Both times, he had come to where I was living and let the air out of my tires and wrecked my house and different, different stuff. So, I'd stay one step ahead of him. Every time he'd find out where I was, I'd move and there was one aunt and uncle that knew where I was, on his side of the family, that knew where I was all the time and I called her and I told her what was happening and I said, "If you know where he is, please call and tell him what's going on and where we are and that if he wants to say goodbye to his son, now would be the time."

Charise Thompson:

Billy showed up the next morning and he was sober and he was sweet and he was caring and he was there as long as they would let him visit. My mom would come in the morning. She'd stop at my house and pick up a change of clothes and then she'd sit with the baby while I went into his bathroom and showered and then, when I got done, she'd go to work, she'd come back after work and sit with him while I went down and got something to eat. That was the only time I left the room. Billy kept telling me the first two days, the baby is still hanging on, and he's telling me, "You have to get out of here. You have to take a break. You're going to drive yourself crazy. You're not doing him any good if you can't take a few minutes and just get you together."

Charise Thompson:

So, finally, the third morning, I walked down to the end of the hallway in the hospital, walked over to the soda machine, got a coke out, lit a cigarette. Tells you how long ago it was when you can smoke in a hospital. Came back and stood in the doorway, took maybe three or four puffs off the cigarette, walked back across, put it out, threw the can away, started back down the hallway and three rooms down, because it's all glass, I could see the empty crib with the oxygen tent thrown back and the IVs laying in the crib.

Charise Thompson:

I started screaming bloody murder and security got him going out the front door of the hospital with my son and his reasoning was if he had the baby, I'd have to go back. I don't think it ever occurred to him that James would have been dead before he got to the city limits. That was the last time he ever laid eyes on my son. For me, that was just the end. He'd lost any right that he had prior to that.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I'm so glad you got him back and James did get better.

Charise Thompson:

Yes, he did. They put tubes in his ears shortly after that and the ear infections were pretty much over until he was 40 and they started again.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Poor James.

Charise Thompson:

He's got a tube in one ear now.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness. We jumped around a little bit here. So, then you're living in West Texas and then take us to where we were before that.

Charise Thompson:

I had gone home that Thanksgiving weekend for the long weekend to spend it with my mom and Sunday evening, I'd loaded up the car and loaded up the baby and was heading back because I had to be at work Monday. I was about halfway between Corpus and Laredo when I had a blowout. So, I just chugged along until I found a place that I could pull off and had the spare out, was in the midst of changing the tire. In fact, I had the old tire off and the new tire on and all I was doing was tightening the lug nuts, when a white Ford crew cab pickup pulled off behind me and one of the men that was in the truck approached the car and, in really broken English, asked if he could help.

Charise Thompson:

I told him, "No, hey, I'm done, thank you, but it's just not a big deal." I heard his footsteps on the gravel, going back to the truck. I heard the truck door slam and then I heard the truck rolling on the gravel and, just as it got up almost beside me, I heard something move behind me and I was looking down the barrel of a gun. He grabbed me and stuffed me into the back of a truck where there were five other men and left the scene, which is the one thing that I was eternally grateful for because my son didn't witness anything.

Charise Thompson:

When I got out to change the tire, I locked the door. That's just automatic for me. Put the keys in my pocket and that was my last memory of him sound asleep in the back seat of the car.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

James did not see anything? He was asleep on the floor.

Charise Thompson:

He didn't know anything. They drove what seemed like forever. I have no idea of direction or time. They're beating on my head and kicking me and stomping me and told me it was the last day I was ever going to have on earth. They stopped. I had no idea where we were. It was overgrown, like a lot of south Texas. Mostly just icky stuff and they pulled me out of the truck. For the next few hours, they beat me, they tortured me. They pulled out a portable drill and tried to drill holes in my ankles. They had the device that you hang game to dry after you've skinned it and the intention was to get that through my ankles and hang me like wild game, but they couldn't get the drill through my ankle bones, though they did try in both ankles.

Charise Thompson:

They tied me to the back of the truck and drug me for a while. They ran over me with the truck. There's not too much that you can imagine that they didn't do. They beat me with a tire iron when they couldn't rape me anymore, they used the tire iron and, at the end, they picked me up and they threw me into a drainage ditch. The last thing he said was, "She's dead," and they thought I was.

Charise Thompson:

I laid there forever, afraid that they'd come back and the one thought that was in my mind was that I had to get help to my son because I was terrified that they would go back to my car. So, I started crawling. My legs were broken. My arms were broken. So, I'm crawl a little ways and I'd lay down and, at first, I'd just pray to die because that's all I wanted to do and every time I closed my eyes, the only thing I could see was my son. I knew I had to get help to him.

Charise Thompson:

So, I would get up and I'd crawl some more and it was a really long process. The sun was coming up by the time I finally came upon a little ranch house and it was one of the guys that worked on this ranch. He didn't have a phone. He had to go up to the main house to use the phone to call the police. Then, the ranch owner and his wife came back down and they stayed there with us until the police and ambulance got there and they loaded me into the ambulance and things are a little bit foggy after that.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I'd imagine. As I'm sure you experience with anyone who hears your story, there just aren't really words to express the feelings that come up hearing this, other than great relief that you are okay today and that your son is okay and that everything has shown its meaning later on in life, but on behalf of humanity, I'm deeply saddened that this happened to you and sorry that it happened to you. When was the first time that you remember finding out what the status of James was?

Charise Thompson:

I was in the hospital. I believe it was late that night. They may have told me before that, but my first memory was late that night and I know they told me several times after that, so I'm thinking they just weren't sure that I was hearing because I was in pretty bad shape. Had multiple skull fractures and other broken bones and about half my teeth were either knocked out or broken off or my insides were kind of hanging out where they're not supposed to be. I had knife wounds. I had a cut that went from my cheekbone all the way down to my jaw. I remember feeling the most relief I have ever felt in my life that he was okay and they told me he was with Judy and Rufus, which were really good friends of ours and they kept him for the 4 months that I was in the hospital and for the time that I went in patient rehab after that. Then, their other friend stayed with me when I first went home to help with things.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's amazing. That's amazing. I can't even imagine the relief that you must have felt. I remember when we first talked, you told me that that was like, you could focus. You could finally just let go and heal, once you heard that news.

Charise Thompson:

Yes, ma'am. Once I knew he was okay, it was okay. If it's my time, then take me and if it's not, then let me heal so I can get back to my baby, but I knew he was going to be okay.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I want to get into a bit of your recovery, your physical recovery, after that, but it's interesting, when we talk about things like this, I read a study where basically, it talks about the amount of trauma, depending on the person, that someone can take. There's a cohort of people where they experience just enough trauma to give them something to overcome that they become stronger and then, there's an amount of trauma that causes people to basically not be able to come back from. What's remarkable about you, Charise, is that I think that this is probably in that category of the level of trauma that most people don't come back from, but you did. You did and you've been using this as a beacon of hope and I want to get into that piece because it's just so beautiful and remarkable. First, I want you to tell us what it was like to physically recover from something like that.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You were in the hospital for four months, just the injuries you sustained were so tremendous, what was your mindset around that? What were your feeling? What was going on for you when you were embarked on this actual physical recovery first?

Charise Thompson:

My mindset was all over the map. Some days, it was, "I can do this. I realize it's going to be a very long, slow process, but I can do this." Other times, it was, "I can't do this. I just cannot do this." I hear all the time, "You're so strong." I truly believe that we all have the strength. Most people just have never had to dig deep enough to find it and that was an ongoing process. You had to keep digging a little deeper and finding a little bit more, just to keep putting one foot in front of the other. The attack was painful in every sense of the word, but I think actually the recovery was more painful. It just never ended. Learning to walk, learning to feed myself. All these things all over again and I didn't know where life was going to take me.

Charise Thompson:

I didn't know what I was going to do from that point, but I knew I was going to be a mother and that's all that really mattered. I was going to be there for my son because, by now, I'm through the danger zone and it's a pretty safe bet you're going to live, it's just what kind of disabilities you're going to have along the way. As long as I could be a mother, I was good.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

So, you had to learn to walk and feed yourself again.

Charise Thompson:

Well, because nothing worked. There were breaks, there was nerve damage, there was muscle and tendon damage. There was all kinds of damage that was all a part of recovery and healing. Those things all take time. A lot of time, unfortunately. There is no magic bullet.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

How did the conversation come about when they told you that you weren't going to be able to have kids?

Charise Thompson:

That was a while later. They had done quite a bit of reconstructive surgery, trying to put my insides back where they belong and it was just complication, after complication, after complication. So, I already had a pretty good idea before they told me that they had to do an emergency hysterectomy that my child bearing years were over. I had always wanted two. I wanted a boy first and then I wanted a little girl. I think because of my own upbringing. I wanted a daughter that would have a big brother because that was just an amazing thing. It was like, "Okay, that's not going to happen, but I have James." If this is the hand that I'm dealt, well then these are the cards that I'll play. I didn't spend a lot of time mourning that loss. There just wasn't a point. That part of my life was over.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

What's amazing, Charise, is you had a lot of coping skills. You had a lot of coping skills that many of us take years to learn and build and you had them intrinsically. I'm sure that there were moments. There were many, many dark moments, but you still had that understanding of like, "Okay, I need to look at what I do have. I need to move on from there." That's a huge thing. That's something that is very difficult for many of us to go, "Okay, I'm focusing on what I don't have. I need to look at what I do have." That's not something, for me personally, it's not something that comes naturally. It's really amazing to see that that came naturally for you.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

One of my favorite parts of your story is you, this is going to sound very strange, is you being in a wheelchair because of how it ends. So, I want you to tell us about this because this is Charise Thompson, "I'm a bad ass," [inaudible 00:29:09] So, tell us about that.

Charise Thompson:

Well, I had some ongoing problems because of the attack and I had got home from work. I had been home for a couple of months and I got home from work one day and pulled into my numbered parking space and was fumbling around, trying to get my son and my purse and my stuff out of the car and I turned to walk towards the building and here is the white Ford crew cab, sitting on the street directly in front of my bedroom window, the window of my apartment and, for just half a second, I froze. Just like deer in the headlights. Could not move. Could not breathe. Could not think and the first thought was, "Get James to safety." So, I got him into the apartment and locked the doors and called the police and, by the time they got there, the truck was gone, naturally.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It was the same truck?

Charise Thompson:

It was the same truck. Yes.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

You're sure?

Charise Thompson:

Absolutely. It was two of the same men in the truck.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh.

Charise Thompson:

For me, that was an awakening that I needed to leave where I was and move somewhere where I could feel safe because any attack like that, you see faces in a crowd that may or many not be there. You catch a glimpse and it just, that panic every time. I thought, "This is ridiculous." I can move back to Corpus Christi. I can start over again there in an environment where I don't have this part to deal with and then I can deal with the rest and I started going to the crisis center in Corpus because I needed some help and I knew I needed some help. It was after I had been there for a while and went through their training program and started working with other women that I found my healing. It was not so much the therapy and the counseling and the understanding the process that I had gone through, it was being able to us my story to help somebody else. To say, there is life after rape. There is life after sexual assault.

Charise Thompson:

I worked there for several years and then I got sick and I went to doctors and I did testing and testing and testing and testing. Well, at that time they did not have a test for hepatitis C and the last doctor appointment that we went to, they had run virtually every test in their little folder and this doctor, sitting across the desk from my husband and I, by this time I'm married, and he looks at my husband, not at me and he said, "We've done everything that we can think of to do, there is no place else to go for us. I think your next appointment should be with a psychiatrist because, after everything she's been through, I think this is self-manifesting."

Charise Thompson:

We walked out and I was just stunned. Everything that I had been through. Everything that I had overcome and now I'm going to let my brain convince me I'm sick when I'm not, I don't think so. [crosstalk 00:32:09] Shortly after that, he retired from the Navy and we moved up to Wyoming and they sent me down to Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in Denver and that's where I was diagnosed with hepatitis C.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

And you had this because of the attack.

Charise Thompson:

Yes. About a year later, the blood bank, after they isolated and identified it and there was a test for hepatitis C, the blood bank sent out letters, saying, "You may have been exposed. You need to see your doctor." Well, when they sent out the letters, I got 11 letters from 31 units of blood. So, it could have been worse, but I did the first human trials for interferon treating hepatitis C and, at that time, it was so unknown and so brutal, you had to physically be in the hospital for 30 days, for the first 30 days of treatment. So, we did that and I started having, while I was still on the treatment, my husband was administering it three times a week after we came home and, while I was still on the treatment, I started having these little mini strokes.

Charise Thompson:

Then, about a year later, about 6 months after we finished the interferon, I had a massive stroke. The last thing I remember, it was July. We were talking about summer and plans and my next memory it was two days before Christmas. It was just gone and I couldn't walk. I couldn't talk. I couldn't anything. One whole side of my body was gone and my husband was feeding me and showering me and brushing my hair and brushing my teeth and dressing me. We went to doctors and doctors and doctors and the specialist here said that I was never going to be any better than I was then, that the [crosstalk 00:34:02]

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

In this point, you're not talking.

Charise Thompson:

Right. That the damage was so severe that it would be a waste of my time and money and that of therapists or rehab people to send me for outpatient therapy or rehab or whatever. So, we moved our entire dining room suite out to storage and started with one of the little portable bicycles that you can use sitting down and then bought an upper body machine because, I figured if I could strengthen my upper body enough to hold my lower body, then I could start doing lower body work and we would just keep rotating equipment as I got better and I got stronger. It took 13 years. I was in a wheelchair for 13 years.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, my gosh.

Charise Thompson:

But, I'm not in it anymore.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

No, you're not. Oh, my gosh. No, you're not. That is, talk about, amazing. Charise, you are superwoman. That's just unbelievable. 13 years. So, when did you start talking again?

Charise Thompson:

My husband and I had been together long enough that we could communicate and he could understand my mumble jumble. My mom was living with us at the time. She had left Texas, let a career in law enforcement to come up here and live with us and help and she had a little more difficulty understanding. She'd bring me eight or ten things before she'd hit on the one that I actually wanted where he'd usually get it first or second time, but it was a process. A very long process. The words would come a few at a time and then you'd be able to string words into sentences and then eventually, sentences into paragraphs. There are times that I still have some hesitations, especially if I'm nervous or really tired or whatever.

Charise Thompson:

So, that was one of the things we called the gift that kept on giving was the hepatitis C and the way I tried to look at that was it could have been worse. At least, they're working on it. At least, they're working on treatments. That the interferon was a complete bust. I came out of that six months of treatment a lot worse than I went in, but I knew that someday there would be other things on the horizon and every six months, they kept telling me, "Well, we're going to say you have probably six months to a year to live. Your body just is not coming back. You have these things with thyroid and intestines and theses and thoses and some other things." It got to be a joke. This time, when we go, they're going to give us six months, or they're going to give us a year. I think, for me, the biggest motivation is tell me I can't do something and then watch me do it.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Yes, and the interferon, it wasn't even you weren't a candidate for it, that was not... you had a different [inaudible 00:36:53] right?

Charise Thompson:

I did the six months of treatment. They found out later that interferon is ineffective with my genotype because there are subcategories of hepatitis called genotypes and, at that time, that early on, they really didn't test for genotypes because they were still just in the very basics of hepatitis C. Years later, I did harvoni, which is also not a treatment that works for my genotype because I'm a genotype 4, which comes from areas in Europe and Africa and other places. It's not one that's common here in the US. Then, about four years ago, I did a combination of sovaldi and ribavirin. I did my last treatment Thanksgiving weekend and, by January, the virus was back and pretty much with a vengeance. My viral count was higher than it had been so there was more virus in my system and they told me at this point, there just is no other treatment.

Charise Thompson:

Then, two years ago, I was in for my routine test because they do hepatitis panels and liver panels every six months and the test came back negative. I no longer had hepatitis C. It's what they call spontaneous remission. They don't know exactly why it happens. We don't exactly care.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Don't ask too many questions.

Charise Thompson:

That's right. Just fly low and let it ride.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Oh, my gosh. That's just amazing. Talk about a story of just keep getting up, just keep getting up and overcoming and how many times, how long do you allow yourself to have a pity party because I think it's probably not as long as I allow myself. How long does Charise allow a pity party?

Charise Thompson:

Friday was my last one and it was a day. I woke up Saturday morning and felt like I had a hangover. I think it's an emotional hangover. There were a lot of things that hit me all at once on Friday. I have a friend that has inoperable, terminal cancer and another friend whose daughter has hepatitis C. She was born with it and has had complications that do not make her eligible for transplant. So, at five years old, she will not live more than just a couple of months and I lost my mom in September and we're currently making plans to take her to back to Texas to bury her with my brothers because that's where she should be and I looked over at the urn and it just hit me. It's like, "I'm coming back from Texas without her." In a way, it's kind of like losing her all over again.

Charise Thompson:

Then, I took my husband in for an echo of his heart that afternoon and it's back to the cath lab. Well, in November, he had a heart attack and then in late January, they did a stent, or tried to do a stent and couldn't get it in and then they did another stent in the main artery. Well, when it's in the main artery, they use a thing called an Impella that they put in through the artery in the groin that will keep the heart beating, should they have problems, until they can fix those problems. Everything went fine, seven minutes flat the stent was in, everything was perfect, until they went to take the Impella out and it caught on some calcification in the artery and ruptured his femoral artery. So, 13 units of blood, emergency surgery that took three and a half hours.

Charise Thompson:

When they brought him back to me on ICU, he was gray. The doctor said, "All you can do is pray." He didn't say, "Pray for your husband." He didn't say, "Pray for Chris." He said, "All you can do is pray for the best and the strength to get you through it." In other words, they didn't think he was going to make it, but he did. So, it was just, I thought I had dealt with most of that, but it's been such an ongoing process that I think there were still some things there that I hadn't fully dealt with. That all came flooding back and it was, I just came home, I turned off the phones, I turned off my cell and I cried myself to sleep and that was my pity party. Then, I woke up Saturday morning and it's, "Okay, now what do we need to do to move on from here?" It's the first day like that I've had in a long time.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Your story continues to be that of strength and I ask about the pity party because I think that's something that we all... Those feelings that we all have sometimes just like, "Okay, I feel sorry for myself right now and I'm feeling this," and moving through those feelings and knowing that they're going to end is something that we work on and certainly work on in recovery and that's something that you seem to know how to do really well.

Charise Thompson:

Something I don't talk about ever; I've been in a wheelchair for, I think, about four years and it was just so overwhelming, all the things that I couldn't do. My life virtually ended and started again, once more, and I had been depressed, I had been going to the doctor and they had me on all these meds, which I understand meds can help in a lot of situations, but they just kept piling on more meds and more meds and more meds until I couldn't think, I couldn't function. So, I had quit taking everything, which is never a good idea, but I went into this deep, dark depression and, one day, while I was here by myself, I wheeled my wheelchair into the bedroom and I got out of the wheelchair and on my hands and knees into the closet and I got my gun and I got back into the wheelchair and I wheeled into the bathroom and I got into the shower stall and closed the door, sat down on the floor and put the gun to my head because I truly believed at that moment that it would be easier for everybody.

Charise Thompson:

It was just so overwhelming and I got into the shower stall because I thought, "Okay, this will be the least mess that they'll have to clean up later."

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Right, right. You're still thinking about other people.

Charise Thompson:

When I closed my eyes, the only things I could see, the only things I could think of were my husband and my son and I got out of the shower and got back into the wheelchair and wheeled back to the closet and put the gun back up and that was the only time in my life that I have ever actually been suicidal. It was to a point that I just didn't know how I was going to cope and, like I say, I truly believed that the world would be better off. Chris would go on with his life. He and James could get out and do things that they couldn't do because of my condition and my poor mother. She had already lost three sons, one as an infant before they knew what to do about preemies and then my two older brothers and I couldn't do that to her. I couldn't do that to my husband. I couldn't do that to my son.

Charise Thompson:

That's where it ended for me. That was rock bottom for me and things start to crawl and to climb back up.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Back up, yes. What are you doing, what's your mission today and how is that going? I know that you told us a little bit about the crisis counseling center and I know that that's something that you've gone back and have been doing. What's Charise Thompson's life about today?

Charise Thompson:

I am lead coordinator and I coach roller derby and a lot of women come to roller derby because they find empowerment there. There is a never ending way that I can help others through that. I run a small ministry. I do support groups online for sexual assault and for hepatitis C. I have since 1995.

Charise Thompson:

Most of all, I tell my story and it started out, every year I would put it on Facebook and every year, I would get letters and messages and emails from people that would say, "This happened to me and I've never told a sole." Or, "Because of your courage, I'm finding that I have the courage to tell," or, "I have the courage to start the journey to healing," or, "I have the courage now to go into therapy so I can deal with what happened to me," and from the very first time that someone told me at Safehouse, "You have made a difference. You made me not feel so alone," That was the key for me because I was pretty sure there, for a long time, that I was completely alone, that I was the only person that felt all the things that I felt. I was the only person that hurt in all the ways that I hurt and you realize through helping other people that you're not, that there are so many of us that are struggling with whatever aspect of abuse theirs was.

Charise Thompson:

It might be child abuse. It might be child sexual abuse. It might be incest. It might be domestic violence. What it does to us is the same. I have people that say, "Well, I can't even begin to relate to what happened to you because I wasn't brutalized," and I, "Wait a minute, wait a minute. That doesn't matter. There are no degrees of hurt. For all of us, what we come out is the same. What we do with it is different. How we choose to heal. How we choose to maybe help others heal. That's what makes the difference." There is still such a stigma to sexual assault. One of the first people on the scene asked me, "What did you do to make them so mad?" Instantly, you think, "Oh, my God. It's my fault. What did I do? Was I dressed wrong? Was I this wrong? Was I that wrong?" There are so many things that contribute to the damage that you continue to do to yourself and it's not until you decide to stop the damage and let the healing begin that things can really change.

Charise Thompson:

For me, telling my story lets other people know that they're not alone, that they're not the only person that has experienced what they've experienced and that there is life after rape. There is life after sexual assault. There is life after domestic violence, after whatever trauma you have been through, there is healing. There is life and it's a really good life. I have worked with girls whenever they need me to. I work through the ministry in whatever way that I can.

Charise Thompson:

I get a lot of referrals. "Hey, can you talk to this person?" Or, "Can you talk to that person?" From friends, from families, from acquaintances because now, pretty much, everybody that knows me, knows my story and the article that they did in The Sun and the Daily Times was just almost overwhelming. There was such a response from around the world some just saying, "Hey, kudos. I was so glad to hear your story. I feel blessed to have heard your story." Whatever. Then, there was probably several hundred victims that are looking for a way to move from being a victim to being a survivor and that's something I know a lot about because I'm not a victim. I will never be victim. I am a survivor and I am always going to be a survivor and I will work in any way that I can to help others make that same journey.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's amazing. That's amazing and I love that you talk about the degrees of hurt. The degrees of hurt because I really feel that way in my own trauma and I feel that way with my recovery in my alcoholism. The feelings are the same. The feelings that I felt that I was using to cope with the feelings are the same that if we can relate to one another's feelings, that we can actually find a lot of community and a lot of recovery and I think it's so hard when we're trying to relate to each other's exact experience. Sometimes, that does happen and that is always an interesting, special connection, too, but when you can relate to the feelings when you're looking for the similarities and not the differences, that's where the connection comes in.

Charise Thompson:

Exactly. Exactly.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

How often do you deal with women who are struggling with this type of trauma that we're talking about who are abusing substances?

Charise Thompson:

On a weekly basis. It is a coping skill and, until you learn other coping skills, that's all you have. Whether its popping a few pills to make the pain go away or having a couple of drinks just to make the world go away for a little while, that is a coping skill. Children learn what they live and, if you didn't grow up in an environment where you learn coping skills and learned how to deal and learned how to cope, you have to learn it somewhere and, until you learn those skills and find a way for them to take the place of the pills or the alcohol or whatever you're using to make yourself feel better, you're not going to grow.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

What were the things that you learned about coping that have helped you over the years?

Charise Thompson:

Chris said it's not my fault. Second, that things are going to happen and it's about 10% what happened to you and 90% what you do with it. To me, that is huge. It's all about you and the person that you want to be because life is growth. We never stop growing. If we do, we start stagnating and stinking. Life is a process and growth is a process and you get out of it what you put into it. You can't sit back and go to one therapy session and say, "Well, jeez, I did what I could. Now I'm stuck in this place." You chose to leave yourself in that place and you're the only person that can pull yourself up by the boot straps and choose to go to a different place.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I love that. I love that. I do hear that a lot. Someone will go to three therapy sessions or whatever it is and stop going, like [crosstalk 00:51:06]

Charise Thompson:

Well, it's not helping.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Well, it's three sessions. You probably haven't even finished getting everything out on the table, let alone starting to work on the solutions. Like you said, I think the wheelchair example is perfect because it took you 13 years to get out of a wheelchair and talk about, imagine if you had given up. I'm 13 years sober. I'm just trying to think of 13 years to get to that place where you could finally participate in life from a standing position and had you given up at 9 years or ten years.

Charise Thompson:

Exactly.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's the kind of stuff. You just can't give up on that and keep trying. Now, what you do with roller derby. It sounds like roller derby's a coping skill, too. Tell us about that.

Charise Thompson:

Absolutely. Absolutely. Roller derby saved me. I played roller derby back in the seventies when it was all banked track and knock-down-drag-out and then it faded away. Well, at the time, I wasn't actually old enough to actually be on the team. So I could practice with them and I could do exhibitions, but I couldn't travel with the team or skate on the regular team. Then, I turned 18 and, "I got this now," and then I was pregnant. By the time he was born and I was looking at going back, it was fading into the woodwork again. Then, in 2010, I had a friend that had been approached about being a coach for roller derby and she's, "I really want to check it out, but I don't want to go by myself," and I said, "Okay, I'll go with you."

Charise Thompson:

I went with her that night and talked to the girls and met the girls and it was just, it's like a family like no other. They were so inviting and so welcoming and I was tagged as Derby Mom that night and I've been momma ever since, not only to my team and our league, but everywhere we go, every team that we play, I come home with another 25, 30 girls that are calling me momma, all through the US, in Canada, in other countries and it is truly like one huge family around the world.

Charise Thompson:

We have girls that'll go on vacation. They take their gear and they guest skate with the team wherever they're visiting. [crosstalk 00:53:28] We have girls that come up here visit and they bring their gear and they come out and they skate with us or, if they don't have their gear, the roller rink rent skates and we have loaner gear and the more people you skate with, the better you get. It's an advantage to the skaters, but it is a team. It is a sport but, more than that, it is a family.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It's a community. I hear so often from every single person that I talk to and that come on this podcast to talk about their recovery how much sharing your story and having community make all the difference in the world.

Charise Thompson:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It sounds like that. That you have an amazing international community now and now you've shared your story internationally. Charise, it doesn't surprise me because your story is truly remarkable and not because of the horrific things that have happened, but because of what you have done as a result of them. That is what makes you remarkable. There's a lot of drama to what's happened in your life and that makes it intriguing or enticing to people, but the beauty of it all really comes back to these moments where you put the gun back in the closet. These moments of founding out that the doctor is talking to your husband instead of you, telling you that, he's speaking through your husband to you, that you're not going to be able to walk again so we're not even going to pay for rehab. We're not even going to prescribe rehab because it's such a waste for everybody involved and you go home and move the fricking furniture out of your house so that you can get started on it because it they're not going to prescribe it, that doesn't stop you.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's so cool. That's so inspiring to me and I hear you when you say that you have dark days and dark moments. Maybe they're more moments than days, now, and I think that just makes you human. I think that's part of the beauty is that you're human and then the next day, you wake up and you're like, "Okay, here we go again. What do I need to do?"

Charise Thompson:

"I'm done with that now." One of the things that was just such a hurt for me, we waited until James was an adult to tell him what had happened and with tears in his eyes, he said, "You mean the picture that you have in your jewelry box?" It's a Polaroid picture that they took in the hospital.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

It's in the article, right? It's the black and blue one.

Charise Thompson:

Yes. I said, "What are you talking about, son?" He said, "I don't know how old I was." He thinks he was maybe six. He was looking for something in my room and digging through my jewelry box and he found the picture and for all those years, he thought that his birth father had done that and that's why I had left him. I think, in some ways, it was maybe a relief to him to know that that wasn't the case. My son and I are close. He and his dad are close. Well, Chris adopted him after we were married and to think that that poor child went through all those years knowing the kind of trauma that had happened to me because he saw it in a photograph, but not knowing why and just having to fill in the blanks for himself, that was a huge hurt for me. Then, you second guess yourself. "Well, maybe should I have tried to tell him earlier?" But he wasn't old enough that he could have understood.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Do you have moms that you work with who are in this situation where they have to explain?

Charise Thompson:

I have, yes.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

What do you tell them to do?

Charise Thompson:

I tell them they know their child better that anybody. If you're going to explain it to them, explain it in terms that they can understand. "A man beat mommy up." You don't have to go into a lot of details. They don't care about details. They just want to know that you're okay. So present it in that positive light that, "Something really bad happened to mom but I'm getting help and, on days when I'm a little cranky or I'm a little short, it's not because I love you any less, it's because I'm dealing with my stuff. So, if you notice that, let's sit down and talk about it." So burdens don't become the child's burden. It's not their burden. It's ours and one of the most important thing is being able to lay that burden down.

Charise Thompson:

I have forgiven and I'm asked frequently, how can you forgive people that did something like this to you. Well, forgiveness isn't about them. Forgiveness is about me. Forgiveness is about being able to lay the burden down because that stuff's heavy and you have to be able to let go before you can truly deal with it and move on without packing up that baggage and taking it with you for the rest of your life.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

When do you think you go to that place of forgiveness?

Charise Thompson:

I was working at Safehouse, so it would have been early 2000s.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

How long after the attack?

Charise Thompson:

20 years?

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Okay, so kept working [crosstalk 00:58:34]

Charise Thompson:

That's when it really, there had been a lot of healing and I was okay and I could talk about it. We did presentations for the Safehouse training. They do a 40 hour advocate training for anybody that's going to be a victim advocate and I did a segment in that training, showed the pictures, told the basics of my story as a shock value. If you can't deal with things like this, you need to know that here and not when you walk into the emergency room and say something or do something that is going to affect that person. If it's not something you can do, that's great. We can find other things for you to do, but we need to know that now. You need to know that now so you know what your limitations are because we all have them and you have to be honest with yourself. It's not something that everybody is cut out to do. Yet, those that are do an amazing job.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

What do you say to the survivors or those of us talking about our stories, especially as mothers, I've just used myself as example as a survivor of sexual abuse, wanting to help other people in putting our stories out there, but also I have two little boys and not wanting to traumatize them. How do you, when you are doing advocacy, what do you talk to them about in terms of having conversations or being out there with your story while having relatively young children?

Charise Thompson:

That's a real delicate balance. You have to know your children. You have to know what your children can and cannot accept and again, you have to present it to them on a level that they understand. If you choose to tell your children this is what happened, you have to have it on a level that they can comprehend without a lot of detail that they don't need. If your children are sensitive or struggling or having problems in other aspects of their life, going public with your story is probably something that you maybe want to hold on to for a little while, but there are so many other ways that you can help in sexual assault crisis centers or safe houses or they have guests where you can come in and talk about your story. You can do things like Good Touch, Bad Touch or date rape or stuff in schools. It doesn't have to be a public forum where your children are going to be exposed to that.

Charise Thompson:

If you do something like schools, children are children and they can sometimes be very nasty little people and that's another consideration if you're going to be working in schools and possibly encounter people that your children know and tell your story, your child is going to hear that story, but probably not in the same light that you would present it. You want to make sure your family knows, as little or as much detail as you're comfortable with that you think they can handle and, as they get older, then you can fill in some of the blanks if they have questions.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Being open to those questions. What do you want people to know who have been survivors about resources that they can reach out for in terms of wanting to give back? Obviously, giving back and doing the advocacy has been such an important role in your recovery. How can people get involved if they want to get involved? Where should they go? Where can they look? How can they reach out to you?

Charise Thompson:

Get on Google and search domestic violence shelters or sexual assault shelters. Talk to resources in your area if you have something like a crisis center or even a homeless shelter. They will also have lists of resources. It's a question I get asked a lot and I will get on and I will do searches, plus I've still got books with listings and stuff where I can quite often give them referrals to places and then you just call and talk to them. "This is my story. I feel like I have healed enough that I want to help others. What opportunities do you have that will then able me to do that or to be a volunteer or to help women in the shelter?" Or whatever you're looking for to be and that's all ages.

Charise Thompson:

Most of the shelters, most of the homes like that have foster/grandparent programs where [inaudible 01:03:08] women can get involved. My mother also went through the Safehouse training and we worked together as advocates for several years. There's no limit to what you can do, but you have to make sure that you you're comfortable with what you're trying to do. First, do no harm.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

That's amazing. Charise, you're just a wonderful, amazing superwoman and I am so grateful that you were willing to talk to me and share your story and your strength and I'm just so inspired by your willingness to never, ever give up on yourself.

Charise Thompson:

Well, I think you either lay down and wait to die or you come up fighting. I've never known how to lay down and I'm sure not going to start now.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

I see that and I love it. I absolutely love it and I am just so grateful for you and your strength so thank you so much for coming on here and talking with us and for the people who want resources and links to ways that you can heal and help, I will put those in our episode notes.

Charise Thompson:

Okay, thank you for doing what you do and helping to spread the word and helping people to heal. That is so important.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Absolutely. Absolutely. Glad I can help. I, too, am recovering like you.

Charise Thompson:

We all are of something.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

Exactly. Exactly. Well you are a remarkable, remarkable woman, Charise. I am grateful to know you and your story and the ins and outs and the in depth piece. Oddly, it's a beautiful story, even though it's not meant to be. To me, the beauty shines through all the rest. I'm really grateful that you let me help you tell your story and please, please stay in touch. I want to stay in touch and hear about how things are and just keep me posted.

Charise Thompson:

I'd like that very much. Thank you so much, honey.

Ashley Loeb Blassingame:

The Courage to Change, a Recovery Podcast, would like to thank our sponsor, Lionrock Recovery, for their support. Lionrock Recovery provides online substance abuse counseling where you can get help from the privacy of your own home. For more information, visit www.lionrockrecovery.com\podcast. Subscribe and join our podcast community to hear amazing stories of courage and transformation. We are so grateful to our listeners and hope that you will engage with us. Please email us comments, questions, anything you want to share with us, how this podcast has affected you, our email address is podcast@lionrockrecovery.com. We want to hear from you.