Cheri Peters grew up seeing the type of evil that is normally only reserved for fictionalized horror.
As the final event of Women's History Month, Peters, host of the television program "Celebrating Life in Recovery," and founder of a non-profit organization that provides recovery, spoke about her life and struggles as an addict..
Born to a fourteen-year-old, Peters lived with her alcoholic mother and sexually abusive father.
One of her sisters was a meth cook. The other a cocaine addict. Her brother was a violent alcoholic.
Peter's attempted suicide for the first time when she was three. At eight, she threw herself off the roof of her house.
At the age of thirteen, Peters was alone and living on the streets of Los Angeles.
When she was twenty-one, a drug dealer put a gun to her head and demanded money.
"Please shoot me," Peters thought.
The dealer didn't pull the trigger though.
"I can't do this anymore," she decided.
After almost ten years on the street, Peters was 100 pounds, reading at a third grade level, and addicted to heroin.
The only place she could think to go was home, and with her family of addicts, that was far from a safe space.
When she walked in the door, her mother was surprised and happy to see her.
"You'll never believe it Cherie," her mother said. "I'm back in school!"
"Oh really," Peters said. "What are you majoring in?"
"Social work," her mother said.
Peters asked the crowd if we had ever seen the stories where someone stabs another person 30 to 40 times.
"That's what I felt like doing," she said. "One of this woman's daughter's was cooking meth in her garage. The other was an addict with a porn site. My brother couldn't go a few hours without shaking due to his alcoholism. I had left home at thirteen due to molestation and neglect. What on earth was this woman going to tell people about raising a family, because she certainly had not been very good at it."
"You'll do great," Peters told her mom.
"I almost forgot," her mom said. "This is for you."
Her mom handed her a manilla envelope and told her to read it.
"But not right now," her mother said. "Later."
All Peters wanted to do was tear up the envelope, however, she felt compelled to read what was inside.
The top of the paper had a large red "A" on it, and under the A were the words "Give this to Cherie."
Cherie read the paper, an assignment from one of her mother's classes. In it, Cherie's mother confessed how she had taken all of her frustrations and anger out on her second child, Cherie.
For the first time in her life, Peters realized that what happened to her when she was younger was not her fault. She was not born with a problem, which meant she could change.
For recovery, Peters found herself moving in with a vegetarian who believed in healing the body through good foods.
"All I wanted was coffee, or soda," Peters said. "And she would tell me, 'I have some lentils.'"
She also encouraged Peters to drink water.
"If you know an addict, then you'll know there's nothing we hate more than water."
She stayed with the vegetarian for awhile.
"She had me taking five showers a day to clean off the drugs that were leaking out through my pores," Peters said. "She helped me so much.
After she began her recovery, Peters took a literacy program. Then she received her G.E.D. and went to college.
"Though addictions are all different," Peters said. "They have something in common, a desire to change one's mood."
"Think about the first time you tasted chocolate," Peters said. "Do you remember how good it made you feel?"
"I want addicts to know that there is always a potential for healing," Peters said.
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