Faces of Recovery: Alycia’s Story

Published 10:12 am Thursday, July 26, 2018

This week’s Faces of Recovery, in which we spotlight local individuals who have overcome addiction, focuses on Alycia Rhymer, who currently resides in Claiborne County.

Alycia Rhymer was given her first taste of alcohol, a cinnamon flavored liquor, by her abuser at the age of eight.

She recalls it burning her mouth, throat and stomach, and it made her gag. After the initial disgust, Rhymer described feeling “warm and a little tingly.”

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Rhymer stated that the abuse she suffered from at that age was sexual.

“It was something that had been happening regularly as far back as I could remember. The only difference was this time I didn’t care, this time I didn’t feel the pain from what was happening to me. I was numb. After that night, I was only able to sneak the occasional drink during family get-togethers and holidays,” she said.

When Rhymer was 11, she tried marijuana for the first time.

“I smoked pot for the first time with some of the neighbor boys and their friends. It was late, I remember looking up at the stars and laughing at nothing, just laughing. I felt happiness, an emotion I hadn’t felt very often in years, all because of that little joint,” she said. “After that night, I couldn’t get more pot until I was 16 years old. By then, I had told on my abuser and I was no longer required to stay the night with him. However, I was told to keep what had happened to me a secret and tolerate him in public, so no one would suspect the truth,” she said.

Rhymer recalls the disgust and anger she felt during this time.

“I felt so disgusted with myself. I hated myself for doing these things and keeping the family secret. I began to lie and hang out with kids like myself,” she said. “We drank on the weekends and smoked as much as we could. I dated abusive men during this time and frequently thought about death. I craved it at times.”

By the age of 18, Rhymer joined the military as a way out of her current lifestyle. She quit smoking marijuana and lied about her prior usage to get accepted. While in the Army, she studied foreign language and would party with her fellow soldiers on the weekends.

Rhymer was feeling happy with her life at this point in time. She had made plans to marry when she got back from the military and move in with her fiancé and some other family members in California.

One day while out Christmas shopping, Rhymer got a call nobody ever wants to receive. She had just been told her fiancé committed suicide.

“In that instant my whole world crumbled, I fell to my knees screaming ‘NOOOO’, crying uncontrollably. How could this have happened? We were finally going to be happy, we were finally going to have a real family. I asked my First Sergeant for leave to attend his funeral. I was denied. I blamed myself and believed it was all my fault. I shouldn’t have left them alone.”

A few weeks after this, Rhymer herself tried to commit suicide by overdosing on pills. She woke up from the pills, sick and disoriented. She then proceeded to try again by cutting her wrists.

After neither attempt worked, Rhymer told her Sergeant what had happened and she was committed to a psychiatric hospital and diagnosed with PTSD and depression. She was then honorably discharged.

At 19, Rhymer went back home and pressed charges against her abuser. The case was arduous, but the person was ruled a convicted sex offender. Rhymer eventually fell in love with a man and had a child with him.

“When I became pregnant with my son, I stopped drinking, smoking and experimenting. At 22, I gave birth to my beautiful baby boy. Seven months after the birth of our son, I ended the relationship with his father. I left him because he was abusive toward me and our infant son.”

The following year Rhymer had a daughter with another man she had fallen in love with.

“I was content with my family life, and I finally felt happy again. I had the family I’d always wanted. Unfortunately, court ordered visitation between my son and his father had begun right before my daughter’s birth,” she said.

It was later revealed that Rhymer’s son, now three years old, was allegedly being molested by somebody close to them. Rhymer sought legal help for her son’s allegations, but due to his age he was not open to cooperating with a stranger and the investigation was closed.

Due to her anger and frustration, Rhymer went on a week-long binge of opiates and spiraled into a depression.

After pulling herself together, Rhymer then began a month’s long search for a councilor that specialized in child sexual abuse trauma. As the session went on the councilor determined that Rhymer’s son was indeed being abused by the person suspected. This was reported to the Department of Children’s Services by the councilor, but due to similar circumstances from the previous investigation, the case was stopped.

Throughout all of this Rhymer’s use of drugs became heavier and heavier as she did it to cope and function in everyday life.

“Without the opiates, most days I was too depression to even leave my bed. I decided to move my family to North Carolina because I had heard that they had much stricter laws and procedures when sexual abuse was suspected,” she said.

Rhymer’s usage continued with alcohol and opiates while she lived in North Carolina. Due to the ongoing family issues, she ended up back in Bell County. She used money she had saved to go on another binge. She described feelings of self-hatred and worthlessness as a mother.

In 2015, Rhymer was arrested for domestic violence. She was ordered by the court to stay away from her husband and released. In the following weeks, she was served with divorce papers, got a job, received custody of her two children and stopped using.

The ongoing situation with her son’s abuse reared its head, and her son was again in contact with his abuser causing Rhymer to seek solace in drugs. This was when Rhymer hit rock bottom. She was using drugs off and on, suffering from insomnia and experiencing delusions. She recalled driving around with her daughter and a church sign catching her eye.

Rhymer pulled over to look at it, feeling it was meant for her. A cop pulled up and she attempt to drive away. She was arrested for various charges such as reckless driving, child endangerment and driving under the influence. Rhymer stated she was having a psychotic break. While in jail, she attempted suicide once more and was ordered to attend a rehab program.

“The rehab was a faith-based female facility where I was surrounded by the most loving, caring, kind, supportive women I’d ever known. There I learned about addiction and co-occurring disorders and how my own childhood trauma had caused my PTSD. I learned that I had attempted to manage my PTSD with addiction,” she said.

Currently, Rhymer is clean and has custody of her daughter and sees her son every other weekend.

“I have overcome alcoholism and addiction during the most turbulent time in my life. With the support of my network and my connection to God, I have continued to face my struggles, my fears and my pain head on. Whenever I run low on hope or faith, I look to my fellow recovering addicts and see the miracle of the struggles they have overcome and remind myself that too can happen for me, and my son.”