Liz’s life has been a struggle from the start. Liz and her older sister were removed from her mother’s custody when she was just two, after her mother tried to kill them both. A series of foster homes and a brief stay in a residential school followed, where Liz was subjected to unimaginable abuse and neglect. “I was in four different foster homes before the age of five. And I was horribly emotionally and physically abused in each one.”
At age 13, in her final foster home, Liz found herself pregnant by her foster father and at age 14 gave birth to her first son. She was married by age 15 to a man who was both physically and verbally abusive, and had two more children before the age of 18 – a daughter and a son. “I kept going on sheer willpower,” she recalls.
Just as she left the marriage, tragedy struck and she lost her oldest son Michael when he was just 12 years old. “My life shattered and I couldn’t pick up the pieces,” she whispers. “It broke me.” After Liz made a suicide attempt, her estranged husband took custody of her kids.
Liz spent the next few years drinking to dull her pain, working sporadically and living in different cities. She eventually moved back to Edmonton, and unable to find work, found herself in her mid-30s in the sex trade. For the next 20 years, she worked on the frontlines, sleeping wherever she could and using crack and alcohol to numb herself. “I did what I had to do.”
And then, Liz met Hans, e4c’s Crossroads Outreach Team Leader. “He was always there, but he never pushed me.” Over time, she learned to trust him and finally felt comfortable enough to ask for help. “One day I called him and said ‘I can’t do this anymore, I need help.’ And that was the start.”
Today, Liz is 53 and has been clean and sober for two years. She has an apartment and a cat named Miss Bobby, volunteers at e4c’s Crossroads Outreach and is upgrading her high school English. She is close to her son, her daughter is back in her life and she is involved in all four of her grandchildren’s lives. Most importantly, she’s in therapy and is learning to recognize that it was her own strength and resilience that brought her here.
“My story is no different than any of the girls that are working the frontlines right now. We’re survivors and we’re worthwhile.”