I had shared my story with only three people in my life, and was encouraged to apply for the Saprea Retreat by my cousin. I did so with confidence that I would not ever get the opportunity to participate. Then I got the call! I sat in disbelief. However, I knew that I needed to do this—for my family and for me.

I had been in such a dark place for so long that I wasn’t sure how much longer I could continue to walk through this life not feeling anything. The day that I decided to go, was a day that I was changed forever.

On the outside my life was amazing! I have a great job, a wonderful husband, and amazing kids! I had just completed my masters. But on the inside, I was dead. There was nothing left of me. I was just a shell going through the motions of having a great life. There were no feelings—the retreat, the staff, the sisters I made—changed all of that for me.

Walking through the door on that first day I was filled with nerves, I was sure that this had been a mistake! But then I was greeted by my caseworker, and there was such an immediate sense of love that you can’t help but feel a little more at ease. That feeling of love and peace grew, I began to feel safe and then something in me shifted. I felt not only love, but acceptance, and in that love and acceptance there was a sense that I wasn’t alone, and never would feel alone again! I found in that moment that I could speak my truth, that I could find peace, and that I could face those things that had been hidden for so long.

Feeling like I had taken the first step in a long overdue recovery was incredibly empowering. I felt worthy, I felt that I mattered. That there was a better way to live. And I deserved to enjoy my life.

I am finally free of the guilt and shame that I have carried for too long. Being at the retreat helped me to see that I have value! That I am beautiful!

I was given tools to understand myself, my triggers and my emotions are better as I navigate this journey of healing. I feel empowered to be brave and to fight for the person I deserve to be.

-Michelle, Survivor

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