Life update Part 1: Trauma , Coping, and Substance Use

Glennon Doyle once said, “it is not until we are fully healed that we can begin to share our story in a meaningful way.” Well, I completely agree with that. I also am of the opinion that writing and sharing things is another form of therapy, and that healing is a journey that does not happen overnight, and is not something that I think we should stop doing for ourselves. I hope that sharing my story will be empowering to others, and if it helps even one person, that’s all I can ask for.

Before I begin, I would like to note that while this platform has brought so much more into my life than I would have ever imagined, it has come with some very negative impacts for me mentally. Information that I have shared online has ended up in court, ended up in gossip conversations, and someone literally made an instagram account taking our content and bullying my sister and I. Those circumstances, and my previous role as a prosecutor, really made me hold back on sharing information.

With that being said, I am in a place where I feel like my story is ready to be shared.

While there is not an easy way to share what is presently going on in my life, I am just going to pull off the bandaid and share that my immediate life update is that I got a divorce from my husband. I am at the final stage of grief right now, which is acceptance. I am happy about the decision, and we both know it’s the right for us both. There were red flags that popped up for me, and it wasn’t until I started talking about them with my family and friends, that I had the courage to leave. If you are in a situation where you feel unsafe to discuss, please message me. That’s all I will say on that topic out of respect for our privacy.

While I have made it through the divorce in a pretty healthy manner, there was a point where a lot of my old coping mechanisms have come back roaring their ugly head, which was terrifying to me. A new bestie advised that I need to be completely honest and self aware so that I stop myself from going down a bad path. It wasn’t until I sat down and did some reflecting, that I knew I needed to share my story with you. I hope through sharing my story, you will feel empowered and we can go on this next stage of life together, because I freaking loved blogging and connecting with you.

So, here we go with Part 1.

Before we begin, I do need to put a trigger warning out. This post talks about physical/ sexual abuse. If you are in a place where you cannot read that, I would stop reading now, and return back in a couple days when I post part two! xoxo

Growing up, we lived on a farm in northern Minnesota. We had a ton of pigs, cows, and lots of room to run around and play. My family owned a grocery store in town where we spent a lot of time, my dad worked on the farm and my mom did a good job taking care of me and my two siblings, while also working. Things were pretty happy then for the first 4-5 years of my life. At around age 4, my mom, who was working insane hours at a window factory (Marvin Windows) was essentially ripped from our home and brought to a mental health facility in northern Minnesota. When I say ripped, I mean two police cars pulled up and she was taken away. All I remember seeing and feeling was the flashing lights from the police car, and sheer panic. It was super confusing to me because everything seemed normal and safe up until that point. I’ve spent a lot of my adult life trying to put myself in her shoes, and my heart goes out to her because I cannot imagine how scary that must have been for her. There are not and were not the proper mechanisms up there to help her. However, I was not an adult back when that happened to our family, and I was left trying to process what happened to my mom at such a young age. My sister was so sad, my dad was so sad, and I don’t remember much about my brother, but I bet he was sad and confused too. We were all just kind of left in shock, I think. Out of respect for my mom’s dignity, I will not share the events that occured to bring her to that place in life.

But, once my mom got the care she needed, my mom moved out, and my parents got a divorce. My sister stepped up, and really took on a large role in caring for me (even though she really wasn’t much older and was going through so much on her own). My dad worked a few jobs, and kept up with things on the farm. My dad was a really successful football player in college, and took on the role of coaching high school kids in the town 40 minutes from us. While the timeline of what happened next is blurry to me still, it was probably a couple months later that my dad hired some help for the farm. He brought in some of the past players he coached, to help come bail some hay at the farm. One of the guys he hired stayed at our house since we lived a ways out of town. This is the trigger warning part ***

I am not sure why I was the one that this guy went after, maybe it was because I was young and vulnerable, but he made the decision to sexually assault me. Again, I think I was around four or five when this happened. I think it happened more than once, but there is only one vivid memory I have of the abuse. I know who the person was, I know what room it happened in, and I know exactly what color the floor looked like, that it was late at night, and the acts that occurred. I say these things because oftentimes people don’t want to believe that children remember these things, but I can promise you I will never forget those memories.

In addition to that main incident, I remember another incident when we were bailing hay and he tried to do something weird to me (in front of my family, nonetheless). Other than these two things, I don’t remember anything else. I haven’t decided yet whether I should share his name or not publically. My family knows him, and unfortunately, he is still living in that same town.

After these incidents occurred, I became a completely different child. I became really sad, really introverted, and anxious. I was glued to my dad and my sister, and was terrified of people. The abuser told me I couldn’t tell anyone and begged me not to say anything so he wouldn’t get in trouble (this is so typical for any abuser– they will typically tell you that if you tell someone, something bad will happen to you or your family). My little 5 year old brain didn’t know that it would have been safe to tell literally any adult in my life.

My dad was also very thoughtful about abuse potentially occurring, and he always told me and my sister that if something like this happened, that we should tell him. However, I truly believed that if I told my dad that something bad would happen, so I just kept that secret inside of me for another 15 years. I was also terrified to tell my mom because of her mental state, and I was scared she was going to be mad at my dad because it happened when I was at his home, and try to take me away from him. Again, this is really unrealistic, but my 5 year old brain did not know how to process things properly.

Not sharing my abuse really had a horrible ripple effect on me until I confronted it head on when I was 26. I went through middle school and high school avoiding telling anyone what actually happened to me. I had sex at a super early age, started drinking alcohol with my friends on the weekends, and drowned myself in athletics and school. I had this huge misconception that I had to pretend like everything was normal in my life, that I had a great home life, and that if I just looked pretty and dressed well that no one would know I was dying inside.

I am not sure what angel introduced my sister and I into volleyball, but it became my saving grace for a certain part of my life.

I put the majority of my free time into volleyball, and after four years, had a successful high school volleyball career. We won state twice, and always placed well when we didn’t win. I earned all state, all city, all conference honors, and at the state championship match my senior year, led my team to a state championship. After my final game was done, my sister came down to the court to celebrate with us, and she very clearly told me that she could tell I was unphased. And I seriously was. Everyone else was stoked we won, I was still dying on the inside, wasn’t excited to continue my volleyball journey in college, and just felt so lost and alone, despite being surrounded by the best family. My whole support system was at every big volleyball match, and every big event in my life, but I just felt so burdened by this secret that I never felt safe with anyone.

Me and one of my high school best friends after the state championship who is now a defense attorney in Sioux Falls 🙂

I continued this path into college, where I went to the University of South Dakota and played division one volleyball there. I was in the best shape of my life physically, but it took a lot of hard work to get there. Working out and becoming the best player I could was the best distraction for me. I will never forget my first year of heading into fall camp, which if you are an athlete, you know how brutal fall camp is. Typically our schedule included at least two practices a day for two to three hours each, along with a lifting session, and team meetings in between. I was pretty focused during season, and volleyball on top of school kept me pretty distracted on my secret. I was able to stay away from alcohol and drugs pretty easily. Frankly, there was no time to party, and second, I cared too much about volleyball and my body. I also didn’t really need it to cope at that point because my coping mechanism was just avoiding things in the gym. After our first season was over, and I had time to explore Vermillion and campus, I slowly realized there was not much for me in that town besides volleyball, school, and partying (no offense to any USD grads).

Me and my cousin Leah after a volleyball match at the University of Wisconsin in Madison

After the fall season was over, I went home for fall break, and had a drink with some friends. I wish I could say this is where my story started with alcohol, but it really didn’t start then. After that drink, I drove home and got stopped for speeding. The officer asked if I had been drinking, and honestly the lawyer in me who is so freaking honest, said yes. I don’t even think I blew anything in a breathalyzer, but he gave me a ticket for it. My volleyball coach was pissed and gave me some pretty heavy workouts. I had to take a class where I really didn’t learn much because I thought my one drink did not mean I had a problem.

Then, a couple months later, I was in a dorm room with my teammates, recruits, and some random football players, and someone brought some alcohol. Honestly it was so dumb because we had 5 AM workouts the next day, but I decided to drink with them. Of course, someone stopped by our dorm and we all got in trouble. My coach screamed at us the next day, and it was honestly so deserved, but a little intense. After that we had a nice, long chat, and I still admire and heed his advice to this day. More on that next time!

thanks for reading and being here!

xoxo,

Steph

if any of this resonated with you, please feel free to drop a comment or send me a message on instagram at @attorney.attire


2 responses to “Life update Part 1: Trauma , Coping, and Substance Use”

  1. So proud of you for talking about this! I was also abused as a child and still am trying to come to terms with it. Because it happened as a child and so long ago, I have just tried to forget it about it. But, as an adult I have seen how it had affected me both socially and mentally. My family and husband still do not know what happened to me. I am not ready nor do I think ever will be ready to talk about my abuse as my abuser is someone very close in my small family. Maybe one day.

    Steph, you are someone I really admire and look up to and you are truly an inspiration. Thank you for sharing

    Like

    1. Stephanie Kroeze Avatar
      Stephanie Kroeze

      Wow, Taylor, thank you for sharing that with me and trusting me with that information. I’m so sorry that a part of you was taken, and I will be thinking about you. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to have that person still be in your life, but I hope you know you’re brave. Please reach out if you ever need to talk about anything, I’m always here. Stay strong and keep your head up 💗🦋xoxo, steph

      Like

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