Once she was free from more than a decade of drugs, alcohol and worse, Sharon Blake volunteered at the Rescue Mission in Tacoma and made a quick discovery.
“A young woman came in and told me her story, but said she knew I couldn’t help her,” Blake recalled. “She didn’t know I had the same story.
“I remember saying the same thing to other people. ‘If you haven’t been through it and come out of it, how can you help me? You can’t even give me hope, because you don’t know what I’m dealing with.’”
“I realized people who have been through this and survived it do give others hope. And I thought, I need to put this in a book to prove you can come out of this.”
The book is “Chronicles of Pain,” and it’s the story of a life filled with pain, much of it self-inflicted.
Like so many women and men who fall into addiction, Blake had her fuse of self-destruction lit in childhood by what she saw at home. Born in Missouri, her mother brought her to the Northwest when she was eight or nine years old.
“I was introduced to domestic violence here,” Blake said. “I watched my step-father abuse my mother, and I thought that was what love was.
“My mother and I never connected. I grew up longing for love somewhere, and got into a lot of relationships that were toxic. I thought love was pain. Pain kept me in bondage.”
Blake gave birth to a daughter, Vashon, when she was 15.
The men in her life abused her, and she believed that was normal. To ease the pain, she tried drugs, or alcohol if she couldn’t find drugs. When she couldn’t afford either, she found men who could help her get them.
At 17, she had a second daughter, Jasmin.
She married twice, and had a third child, son Darius, when she was 27.
Talking about her children now — in print or in person — her honesty is anguishing.
“I wasn’t a good mother. I was on drugs, I was gone a lot. I was taking care of my needs. I didn’t recognize my kids’ needs,” Blake said. “I was doing to them what my mother had done to me.
“My children hated me for a long time. They had good reason.”
To that point in her life, she was just another sad story of a lost soul. She’d been in and out of treatment programs, gone back to the streets. She was homeless, stashing the kids with her mother.
For six months — time she can’t bear to remember — she was a prostitute.
“I’d allowed myself to do things that were eating at my soul. The last six months of drug use, I deteriorated emotionally,” said Blake, now 45. “One day sitting there, I realized I’d had enough.
“I could feel my body and mind deteriorating, and it scared me to death. The first thing I did was start praying and reading my Bible.”
She got a job in nutrition services in a Federal Way school, and went through new pain — cleaning up her body, getting to know her children again.
“My first breakthrough was with my son. I listened to him when he told me, ‘All you did was yell. I’d wake up alone at night and be scared for you. I didn’t know what had happened to you.’
“I’d never realized how much I was damaging my children.”
Determined to do more than be drug and alcohol free, Blake decided she’d go back to school. She said she has an associate degree and a chemical dependency trainee certificate, and she’s working on a bachelor’s degree in psychology through an online program.
“If you’d told me 4 ½ years ago I was going to read a book — let alone write one — I’d have laughed,” she said.
She has rebuilt relationships with two of her children, is working on it with her middle child. She says she’s been clean for more than five years, gone to church, landed a good job as a para-educator at Todd Beamer High School.
“I work with special ed students in the Federal Way School District,” Blake said. “And I spend time watching my grandchildren play. I’ve realized I might be worthy of self love and, one day, the love of my children.”
Looking back, sharing her life with those who ask — at church, book signings, women’s shelters — Blake wishes it weren’t all true.
“My lowest point?” Blake began to cry. “Selling my body for a little bit of money in a bush — that was my lowest low. How did I do that? There’s no possible way one does that in their right state of my mind. I needed drugs.
“I’m not that person anymore. It’s like a bad movie playing in my head. It shakes me, because it was me. I did that.”