Last September I was reading one of the gazillions “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books, called Tough Times, Tough People. Half way through the book I came across a short story about a 15-year-old girl who grew up in world filled with addictions and abuse.
In the book she talked about the pain and anger she feels towards her birth mother, asking the question, “How could a woman who gave birth to me and my three siblings put us through the worst possible things that no child should experience?”
She is strong in her convictions – telling us that she’s determined to take her life in a different direction then that of her mother and siblings. In her own words, “Recovering from the abuse, I have grown stronger. I am not going to follow my mother’s steps. I’m going to be who I want to be, not who everyone else wants me to be. I can’t change anyone else but myself so I’m changing the path of my family history.”
After reading this heart-wrenching story I felt compelled to email the young lady who stole my heart. I told her that her story is inspiring and that a stranger is rooting for her. Hoping that she stays on the right track and becomes the success that I know she can be.
After sending the email, I often thought about her and wondered how she was doing. To my surprise six months later I received an email from her. She agreed to let me tell her story and also give an update about how life has been since being published in the Chicken Soup series. .
Alexis Ludeman who is now 17 and is all too familiar with how drug addiction destroys a family. In the book Alexis describes how her mother, a Meth addict for over 25 years, would leave her and her baby sister behind in crack houses to fend for themselves because she would get so high and forget about them.
Most of the time they were left to raise themselves. Alexis, a child herself, took on the role as parent to her little sister making sure she had three meals a day – bathing/clothing, homework and getting them both to and from school every day.
When Alexis was 13 she was put in foster care. After living in a few foster homes, she says she’s found her “true parents” – in a couple named Diane and Monique. Saying that she has a great relationship with them but often bumps heads with Diane who is always getting on her case. I explained to her that she’s very lucky to have someone who keeps on her – as this is Diane’s way of letting you know that she cares and only wants what’s best for you.
Alexis was honest in letting me know that since her story was published she has given into peer pressure and experimented with drugs and alcohol. She tells me that she’s learned her lesson is now getting her life back on track. She’s currently volunteering a few days a week at a learning center working with elementary school kids. She finds it very fulfilling and says that she wants to go to college to become a special education teacher.
Alexis is learning from her own mistakes and from others. She finds strength in seeing what she doesn’t want – in watching those around her (family and friends) living in addictions and where their lives have taken them. “I don’t want to be like them. I want to achieve a lot in my life. Doing drugs is a cowardly way out – escaping life the easy way and hiding from reality because you can’t face it.”
Even though she knows she can’t control the path her siblings take in life but she can’t help but worry about them. She will never give up hope that one day they will chose to get sober. She’s especially concerned for her little sister who is now 14 – who’s doing drugs and puts more energy into boys then she does in school. Alexis knows that the only thing she can do is just live by example. As long as she continues to chase after her dreams and stays sober she may one day be the positive influence and mentor they need to get clean.
Beating the odds…
Alexis has the making of a success story. Will she make it? It’s a choice that is totally up to her. She understands that in order for her to stay on the right path she must surround herself with positive and strong influences and learn from her mistakes. She’’s seeing first hand what the power of a positive role model does for young kids because she is one to those she comes in contact with at the learning center. I hope the experiences she recieves from helping others will continue to encourage and inspire her to keep reaching for her goals and to never give up.
What started out as an interview has blossomed into a friendship and even though there’s 4000 miles between us, I made it clear to Alexis that I’m just an email away whenever she needs advice or someone to talk to.
Alexis, I believe in you and hope that this dedication helps inspire you to keep reaching for the stars.