After a troubled past, local woman is beating the odds
OCALA - On
first impression, Cindy Yawn is a
youthful-looking waitress, dishing up smiles
and good-natured banter. Her energy level
belies her age of 51 years and her sunny
disposition gives no hint of the darkness
that once consumed her.
It was a darkness that began at age 11 with the sexual abuse that laid the foundation for Yawn's self-destructive behavior over three decades. The genetic footprint for alcoholism was already established with a history of abuse on her mother's side of the family.
A pattern of sexual abuse often is a predictor of chemical addiction. The loss of self-esteem and sense of being devalued makes the opportunity to escape into drugs attractive to victims of rape and incest. It would take years of self-deception for Yawn to make herself an exception, not a statistic.
Yawn, the oldest of four, and her siblings, reportedly suffered emotional and sexual abuse.
"I thought I was protecting them. I found out about my sister fairly soon, but not my brothers until years later," she said.
A decision to get pregnant at 17 was Yawn's first way of coping with an intolerable situation. "I so desperately wanted something that would love me for me," she said.
That led to a 10-year marriage, three more children and, said Yawn, her introduction to domestic violence.
"My ex-husband was an alcoholic and was full of rage. When he hit my children, I left," she said. The divorce left Yawn on welfare with four young children.
Her second attempt at coping was even more disastrous.
"I tried a lot of drugs and a lot of men, but they never filled the emptiness. I had no real adult skills," she said.
She then met a new man, and a powerful drug - cocaine.
"I was fortunate that a friend took care of my children for me through the worst of it. That is not to deny there is ever a good time for children in a drug-abusing household. We each paid a price for what happened then," Yawn said.
She said she grew increasingly sickened by what was happening to her and her children.
"One day I picked up a copy of an inspirational poem about God carrying us without us knowing it," she said. "I fell to my knees - I knew he was carrying me. I asked him to stop the cocaine."
The next day the couple's drug stash was stolen, and they decided to stop using cocaine. Yawn was entering the first stages of abstinence, thinking she was in recovery. Facing the consequences of her choices brought pain and shame, so she would pick up a new drug to fix the hurt.
"I thought if I got rid of the cocaine I had fixed the problem. But new problems kept happening, and I kept asking God for help. It took me a while to figure out that prayers are answered, but you might not like the changes required," she said.
By 1989, Yawn had moved from New York state to Marion County. Alcohol was her sole drug. "I was still running on empty though. I was looking for love in a bottle."
A chance invitation to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting proved to be the lifeline she needed.
"There was a roomful of people who knew about my life and were telling on me. It was such a relief to learn I wasn't alone," she said.
Yawn also sought counseling for sexual abuse and domestic violence. Then in 1998 she met her future husband, Brain Yawn, at a church function, and began the first healthy relationship in her adult life.
But the road has not been detour free.
"I have relapsed a couple of times - a day one time and two weeks another. I picked up my white beginner's chip at AA and started over," Yawn said.
Then came the sinkhole that swallowed all of the couple's assets and tested their love to the limits. In 2000, she was prescribed oxycodone and told she would be safe if she followed the dosage directions.
"I didn't know that an addict's brain can't follow directions when it sees an old favorite back on the menu. We lost everything but each other," Yawn said.
Now clean for almost eight years, Yawn is active in church work and the recovering community, and fosters orphaned cats.
"I am so grateful to be alive and sober. To anybody with sexual abuse issues, I say run to the Rape Crisis Center. They were wonderful. If you think you have a drinking or drug problem, you probably do. Call the local AA or one of the hotlines.
"You are not alone, and you are worth saving."
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