Growing up, Viviana wanted to be a fashion designer. She loved drawing and sewing, and for many years, that was her only escape from a traumatic home life.
“My stepdad started abusing me when I was 10, and he continued all the way up until I was 21,” she says.
Going to the Art Institute of Seattle allowed her to break the cycle of abuse, but she was unprepared to be on her own. “I wasn’t really equipped with life’s fundamental skills. I didn’t know what to do with my new freedom and I got super depressed,” she recalls. “I had never told anybody about the abuse I’d been through and it started to catch up with me.”
Viviana dropped out of school. “I just was scared and overwhelmed, and a lot of bad stuff started happening. Even when I moved around, my stepdad kept stalking me and I’d find him hiding the bushes.”
Drugs and alcohol provided the escape she desperately wanted, but eventually they caused her to lose everything that mattered in her life.
Viviana spent over a year living on the streets of Seattle. “I would sit on the sidewalk crying and I didn’t even care. I was just so tired of suffering and hurting myself over and over and not knowing how to stop what was going on.”
Viviana’s brother, who was in recovery, reached out to her and said, “I know you don’t want to live like this. I’ve been living at the Union Gospel Mission and they have a women’s program called Hope Place. You could totally get into it and they’ll help you.”
The change that she could see in her brother’s eyes inspired her to check into Hope Place.
She says, “It was scary at first, but being around other women who were broken like me changed my life. We cried together, prayed together, shared our stories and grew strong together. Some of the women that I got clean and sober with are still my best friends today.”
Hope Place also rekindled Viviana’s relationship with God. “I always thought God was mad at me because I let so many bad things happen to me,” she says. “I never thought I was going to be able to have my own children because I couldn’t protect my own self.”
But God blessed Viviana with a son early on in her recovery. She says, “It was a huge turning point in my life. I literally felt like God was talking to me and saying, ‘Viv, your life is going to be totally different. If you go this way, everything is going to be fine.’”
More than two years sober, Viviana and her husband today run a successful cleaning business that allows them to schedule their lives around being there for their son.
Viviana also shares her story frequently to inspire others who are going through the same struggles she did.