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Ex-addict, abuse victim finds hope at Louisiana facility

January 12, 2019

ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) — The Christmas tree is simple, clean, orderly— much the way Brittney Metrejean aspires to live her life these days.

It’s full but not overcrowded. It’s colorful but not clashing.

“It’s the most beautiful thing,” Brittney said.

The tree might seem unremarkable, distinguishable from millions of others people have in their homes during the holiday season only by the way they’re decorated. But to Brittney, it represents so much more.

It’s the promise that she won’t let drugs take control of her life again.

It’s the relief from the abuse she took for years, some of the beatings so bad that she wondered when — not if — her fiance was going to kill her.

It’s the security of having a place to come home to, without wondering what friend would let her sleep on their couch or what facility would take her in.

Most of all, it’s the time she can spend with her children, and the determination that she won’t let them down again.

It’s the future. It’s hope.

“I went from existing to living,” Brittney said. “I just existed in this world, accomplishing nothing. My only goal was to score something for tomorrow. I didn’t want to live like that any more.”

There have been many helping hands that aided Brittney in the journey from the darkness her life once was to the comfort and stability she enjoys now.

Perhaps the most important has been the appropriately named Hope House, the transitional housing facility in Alexandria that provides a safe haven for homeless women and their children, with the goal of empowering them to independence and self-sufficiency.

At Hope House, Brittney said, she learned what responsibility and accountability really meant. It was a sometimes painful process, but the person that emerged after more than a year there was different in every way imaginable.

Now she has steady work, pays her bills, has custody of her children and a relationship with family members who previously couldn’t trust her.

“I have lots of friends who died,” Brittney said. “That could have been me. If I didn’t find Hope House, I’m 100 percent certain I would be dead or in jail.”

Brittney started smoking marijuana when she was 13. She never expected to get hooked on anything stronger, even when she graduated to pills.

“I never thought I would ever put a needle in my arm,” she said.

But, eventually, she did. At her lowest moments, she would do just about anything to get high.

When her ex-husband got sober before Brittney was ready to, that marriage ended, and she lost her oldest daughter and stepson.

She turned to a man she had known since she was a little girl, someone she felt safe with.

“He wasn’t a bad guy,” she said. “But drugs really changed him.”

In a relationship defined by abuse, Brittney had her teeth knocked out and her face scarred. She would lock herself inside a shed when she got too terrified of what he was going to do to her.

The turning point for Brittney came when she was late in her pregnancy with their daughter. After he beat her, “I got down on my knees and prayed I would not go into labor.”

Brittney delivered a healthy daughter, her third. Soon after, she found the will to leave her situation.

She went to a treatment facility, followed by a halfway house. The detox got her off drugs, but still left her without any idea how she was going to support herself, let alone get her children back.

When she ran out of money to pay for the seedy hotel room she was staying in, Brittney agreed to talk to the folks at Hope House.

At first, Brittney saw Hope House as anything but her savior. It seemed to her to be more of a burden.

There were rules, like keeping your room clean and looking for a job, and they were non-negotiable. Failure to follow them to the letter, Brittney found, had consequences.

“I didn’t want to be here,” Brittney said. “But then I started to realize what they were doing for me. I wasn’t ready to be independent and on my own.”

“It was grow up time,” said Sandy Ray, CEO and executive director of Hope House. “I think the biggest piece she accomplished was accountability and responsibility. It wasn’t an easy road for her, but I think she’s come full circle.”

At Hope House, Brittney found structure and learned life skills. She also found out she was pregnant with her fourth child, which depressed her at the time but she has since seen as a blessing.

When Brittney left the facility nearly a year-and-a-half ago, she started putting together the pieces of a real life again.

She got an apartment and has held down multiple jobs. She reconnected with the family she’d temporarily lost.

She has custody of 11-year-old Julianna, 3-year-old Baylianna and 2-year-old Brynnlea, who was born while Brittney was at Hope House, and a healthy relationship with her oldest daughter, 14-year-old Jayden, who lives in Gonzales.

“People trust me and want me around now,” she said. “People believe in me now. My kids know they can count on me now. The older kids know they never have to see me high again, and I know the younger kids will never have to see me that way.”

What would Brittney say to someone in the same place she was in a few years ago?

“Don’t stay in your bad situation,” she said. “I want girls to know they don’t have to be scared. There is a place, there are people who want to help you.”

“There’s hope,” Ray said.

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Information from: Alexandria Daily Town Talk, http://www.thetowntalk.com

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