Many people look at me with a stunned look when I tell them I was a teen mom. In fact, many people are truly in denial when I tell them I was just 16 when I got pregnant with my daughter — who is now nine years old. When I ask people why they are so surprised, they always share with me that I carry myself differently. I never really understood what that meant from the outside looking in. However, being a mom at 16 versus now has been quite the journey.

Being a 16-year-old mom was full of mixed emotions. I found myself constantly being judged, losing “friends” and missing out on homecomings and prom. I couldn’t even attend my doctor appointments without getting that awkward stare from adults. Not to mention I was in a very unhealthy relationship at the time with my daughter’s father, and my mother completely resented me for getting pregnant. Eventually my lack of ambition and lack of self-love led me into getting married to the father of my child at just 18.

After we married, I moved to Virginia Beach where my husband was stationed. We lived there for a year, but in the process I lost myself.  My life revolved around being a mom and wife. There was never any time for me or my goals. According to my ex-husband, that didn’t matter because my only job was to cater to him and my daughter’s needs.

My daughter literally became my best friend. I KNOW, RIGHT?! How crazy do I sound saying a 3-year-old was my best friend? But she was. We did everything together. The fact that I created her before I knew what life was made of or what to make of it caused us to grow up together. We had long nights together reading, playing, crying and doing many other countless things together. Our favorite was watching Animal Planet.

I always knew I had more to offer this world. I desired to become self-sufficient and free to live my life with no limits. But there was still something standing in the way of that, and I was never warned about this part of the journey.

I was being abused mentally and physically in front of my daughter on a regular basis. The flowers, apologies and gifts never healed the pain. It only gave my ex-husband more excuses as to why I should stay. Eventually the pain turned into resentment, and I decided it was best to leave the relationship and move back to Colorado. I had no help from my family as far as getting back to Colorado. Everyone washed their hands of me at that point because they thought I should not have left in the first place. So it was up to me to find my own way out… dead or alive.

I was so desperate to leave this relationship that an overwhelming amount of courage led me to ask my ex for a divorce. I explained to him that I didn’t want anything but my freedom back. That meant he could keep the money, the car, the house — you name it. This, of course, struck his ego and the next thing you know I was laying in a pool of my own blood as my daughter held me crying.

I spent three days in the hospital trying to figure out my next move. I spoke with an officer who told me a story about another woman whose situation was similar to mine. Unfortunately for her, she didn’t make it out alive. The officer told me that the state favored the military and that he couldn’t promise me that my ex would pay for what he did to me.

Instead, he told me to run and never look back.

The escape plan had begun. I spent all day searching for resources to help me out of this situation. I called dozens of numbers just to hear: “We can’t help you”. I remember taking a moment to cry because I felt like I was going to die if I didn’t get out soon. I prayed hard, and dropped to my knees and asked to God for a way out. My message was received because my intuition told me to call one more number. That number was to Hope House of Colorado. Jenny answered my call, heard me out, and immediately offered to help once I got back to Colorado. My best friend helped me get back to Colorado and offered me to stay with her until I got back on my feet.

Two weeks later, I was back in Colorado ready to start my new journey. Hope House helped me become self-sufficient by providing tools like a Mentoring program, Healthy Relationships classes and Parenting classes. They also helped me finalize my divorce. My favorite class at Hope House was definitely the Healthy Relationships class. That class is the reason why I refuse to settle for anything less than what I deserve. I am able to take what I’ve learned and not only pass it along to my daughter but also to many other women who struggle with an unhealthy relationship. The class also inspired me to be an Advocate Speaker. This has been very rewarding to my soul.

Hope House truly saved my life. Fast forward six years later and I’m now living the life I desired to give myself and daughter. My daughter’s father recently committed suicide, and raising her alone has been quite the transition — on top of dealing with the emotions she goes through after losing him. However, I’m pushing through life with no limits. My daughter is amazing on so many levels. She loves to dance, act and help others. She encourages me to be the best person I can be in this world.

What made me a better mom was the choice to put God, myself and my daughter first. I no longer have drama in my life. I no longer have people questioning me about the decisions I make for myself and her. We live by peace and faith in God. As long as I have that, I will continue being the best mom I can be and giving my daughter the life and love she deserves.

“Be thankful for what you are now, and keep fighting for what you want to be tomorrow.” – Girish Jeeboseea

Update on Alicia:  As for me, I spend a lot of my time giving back to my community. Last year I became a mentor myself. I am currently working with young girls from ages 7-16. Our mission is to provide the knowledge and tools necessary to help these young women become self-sufficient. We consider ourselves a sisterhood. Every month we put together a workshop that discusses a different topic in life that will help them along their journey (such as building credit, self-love, bullying, volunteering and so many other hot topics). Marketing and building business partnerships is what I do for a living, and I’ve been blessed to have encountered such beautiful souls in this line of business. My business partnerships have opened many doors and opportunities for me. I am also in the process of launching my own hat/jacket line. I have a passion for fashion and beauty as well!