Connie Griffin, a resident at Downtown Rescue Mission, was 14 the first time she tried to kill herself.
She had just learned the man raising her was not her biological father. In fact, he was a piece of work—in later years, she learned her biological father was married eight times, and she had a handful of step-siblings across the country. And he never really wanted her.
News like that was life-ending information for the 14-year-old. It upset her so much she spent the rest of her high-school career in and out of psychiatric hospitals.
When Connie was in second grade, an older student molested her. Over the next few years, doctors prescribed medication to keep her calm when she didn’t want to go to school. But discovering her father was really her step-father was the last straw for Connie, and she tried to end her life.
“Something snapped inside of me, and I can’t explain it,” Connie said. “I couldn’t handle it…At the time it feels like a way out. I just can’t believe I’m still here.”
It wasn’t a one-time try, either. Connie made several suicide attempts, each one landing her in the hospital for a month-long stint.
Broken Nose, Busted Ribs
Connie met her husband in New Orleans; both of their parents were in the military, stationed in Louisiana. Life was good until the honeymoon period ended. Connie got pregnant, and her husband started beating her.
He was into martial arts and knocked her teeth out with a roundhouse kick to the face—wearing steel-toed boots, Connie said.
“I remember him … picking me up off that ground and just slamming me back down,” Connie said. “If he hadn’t picked me up … I was choking on my blood. See how God is in control even then?”
Connie loved her husband. That’s why she stayed, why she kept going home to him even after he broke her nose, busted her ribs and left her in the hospital with seven stitches. He said he was sorry.
He and Connie had two daughters. Soon, they ended up homeless, living in their van. On a whim, they headed out to Texas to meet her biological father, only to find a damaged man with a substantial alcohol and drug problem.
He never apologized for leaving. He never told Connie he loved her. He just badmouthed her mother.
Her father’s home was in the-middle-of-nowhere Texas. in a desolate part of the state, and their van was no longer running. They couldn’t get away without a car and money, and her father gave them neither. One day, when her father and wife #8 were away, Connie stole one of his checks, forged his name, got a car and got out of Texas.
There was a bench warrant out for her arrest, and Connie spent 10 years on the lam. But it caught up with her when she was living in Florida, going to Bible college. She got drunk and hit a car. When officers came to her home, the warrant came up. They arrested her.
But that’s jumping ahead.
After leaving Texas, Connie and her husband traveled around the country living on alcohol and crystal meth. Her husband physically abused Connie and verbally abused their daughters. It took a toll on the girls, and they ended up in the same spot that Connie had been years before—attempting suicide.
Throughout their 13-year relationship, Connie estimates her husband beat her more than 75 times. He was finally sentenced to 12 years in prison, giving Connie and her girls the chance to get out of a bad situation.
But instead, the state took her two daughters away—she had an extreme drug problem. Connie admits she neglected the girls after her husband went to prison. Someone turned her into Child Protective Services, and they removed her children.
The girls went to stay with a Christian woman named Terri who took Connie under her wing. Connie was a mess at the time—husband in prison, about to lose her apartment, drug dealer threatening to cut her legs off—but Terri was up for the challenge. She got Connie into a rehab program, encouraged her to go to Alcoholics Anonymous and even let her live at her home with her kids for a month.
Terri talked to Connie about God and Jesus. It was her first taste of a better life.
When it seemed Connie was getting everything back together, Child Protective Services returned her daughters. She got her first apartment, and things were looking up. That is, until she fell in with the wrong crowd and a man who wooed her.
After 13 years in an abusive marriage, Connie was drawn to a man who showered her with attention even though he spent most of his days smoking weed in his trailer.
The next few years were cyclic. She would meet a man, get into a bad relationship, start using drugs again and struggle to get away. Shockingly, Connie met these men at her recovery meetings. It seems her motherly personality was to blame—she just wanted to help people.
“My heart is in the right place, but you can’t lift someone up if you’re not careful. But they can pull you down,” Connie said.
One of Connie’s flames, Chris, was still married but living on the streets when he met Connie. Things were good at first. Then, he turned a particularly crazy shade of sadistic when he broke her neck, then made her stand outside a tent while he went inside and had sex with other women.
“One day I asked the Lord to make a way,” Connie said. “I packed up a little bag, I turned around and looked at him and said, ‘I’m leaving.’ He let me walk away.” And she turned her back on that lifestyle.
Knowing (of) God
Throughout the story, Connie mentions talking to God, how she walked around after her husband beat her up, asking God for a way out. She knew of a god, that there was some deity watching over her.
In jail, another inmate told her about a place, Downtown Rescue Mission, where she could go to get help. Connie went as soon as she got out of jail but only stayed two months. She lived on the streets for another seven months before returning to the program for good.
Connie says the enemy has been after her since day one—through the molestation as a child, abusive husband, drug problems, being stuck with her biological father, alcoholism and a string of scary boyfriends—and things didn’t magically let up when she decided to turn her life around.
In the year Connie has been in the Downtown Rescue Mission program, she’s had to bury eight friends.
It’s a lot of pain to take when you’re trying to kick a substance abuse problem, but Connie isn’t going to let that get her off track.
“I sit before you with 10 1/2 months clean, with a relationship with our Father who has drastically changed me,” Connie said.
After she finishes the program, Connie will oversee a discipleship team that goes out and shares their faith with other people. When she’s not sharing the Gospel, she’s the loving Nana to those sweet grand babies.
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