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Moscow woman moves past abuse, addiction and self-sabotage

Daizy Fletcher works on an algebra lesson Nov. 17, 2016, with  Tyler Jacobsen at Paradise Creek Regional High School in Moscow, Idaho. (Geoff Crimmins / Geoff Crimmins Moscow-Pullman Daily News)
Daizy Fletcher works on an algebra lesson Nov. 17, 2016, with Tyler Jacobsen at Paradise Creek Regional High School in Moscow, Idaho. (Geoff Crimmins / Geoff Crimmins Moscow-Pullman Daily News)
By Shannon Quinn Moscow-Pullman Daily News

MOSCOW, Idaho – At 19 years old, Paradise Creek Regional High School student Daizy Fletcher has a lot to look forward to – and more lessons to look back on than many twice her age.

Life hasn’t been easy on her, nor has she been easy on herself, she admitted.

“I’m good at self-sabotage,” she said, reflecting on the past several years when her life was a flurry of struggles with family stresses, drug and alcohol addiction, and the basic teenage desire to at once fit in and be free.

It didn’t start out that way.

The only child of a single parent for the first nine years of her life, Fletcher said she had a good relationship with her mother and wasn’t much bothered by her absent father.

“It was basically me and my mom,” she said, and that was OK.

When the family dynamic changed with the addition of a stepfather, the struggles began.

Fletcher began to experience what researchers call – in clinical understatement – adverse childhood experiences.

“(My mom) got married when I was about 9,” Fletcher said. “(My stepdad) ended up doing some bad things to me. Lots of abuse the whole entire three years that we lived there.”

From 9 to 12 years old, Fletcher said she kept quiet about what was happening under her own roof.

“I finally admitted to it, and I told my stepbrother, ‘This isn’t alright, I don’t know what to do,’” she said. “I told him, ‘Don’t tell anybody,’ but, of course, he told somebody. That’s just what happens.”

That was life-changing, she said, as suddenly Fletcher, her mother and young sister were faced with a new set of challenges.

“We lived in a shelter for three months directly after I told,” she said. “That was tough. The shelter wasn’t in Moscow, and I was still going to school in Moscow. They basically just sat in the car waiting for me to be done with school.”

After the shelter, the family took up residence in a motel while waiting for an apartment to open up. Although there was a bit more space for the three, the emotional aftermath of Fletcher’s abuse began to catch up.

“I was trying to continue with school and forget that it happened but it was hard. I had to sit there and talk to all of these counselors, all of these officers,” she said. “I didn’t necessarily know how to deal with it, and my mom was having her own problems with it all … ”

Fletcher said as her relationship with her mother grew more strained, she began acting out.

“I got caught smoking cigarettes behind the police station when I was 15 years old,” she said. “I don’t really know why I did that. I think I was just trying to get attention because I felt like I didn’t have any, and my mom and I still weren’t getting along.”

Making friends was another motivator, she said.

“I didn’t have much of a life. I wanted to do something bad and different,” she said. “I wanted to get into that friend group that seemed cool and outgoing and had their own lives, and they were free-spirited and did what they wanted to.”

The road she was on did lead somewhere different, and perhaps more “bad” than Fletcher intended.

Cigarettes were soon joined by marijuana and other substances, leading to a stint in the Idaho Youth Challenge Academy when she was 17, probation, incarceration and finally, treatment.

The second time was a charm in the Coeur d’Alene treatment facility, and Fletcher said she left it feeling more positive than she had in years.

“By the end I was so happy I was sober,” she said. “I was almost crying.”

The following year brought with it some slips and false starts, but also an increased awareness that life goes on, and hard work pays off.

“I’m doing my work and getting A’s,” she said.

Part of that work included research into a series of studies connecting adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) with risks and challenges later in life.

According to the ACEs study, begun by Kaiser Permanente researchers and continued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adverse childhood experiences are common, with about 66 percent of study participants reporting at least one ACE and 20 percent reporting three or more.

Researchers believe the cumulative childhood stress can lead to poor choices in adolescence and adulthood.

“It gave me a lot of answers,” she said. “It helped me realize how I got to the point that I did. It doesn’t just say, ‘You’ve had all of these traumatic experiences, you’re out of luck with life.’ It gives you answers, too.”

Fletcher said that work gave her the knowledge she needed to keep her eyes up front.

“It’s helped me want to continue doing good and not just fall back and go back to where I was. I can see there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I want to keep working towards it,” she said.

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