I wish she would have known me.

Have you ever re-read a book years later and been affected much deeper by it even though you’ve read it and possibly even re-read it before? Hell, maybe you even lived it and wrote it?

I was looking for some documents in storage and came across this picture. The photo captured me and a new friend I had made at church camp, Shannon. She was what I wrote about in Wholly Sober, a good girl. The picture is out of focus, but you can see that it’s me in my swimsuit, cut-off shorts, and pigtails on the right.

Even now, my stomach has an ache in it. As if there is a fist-sized knot pressing up against my heart, causing my breath to catch and giving me a bizarre tingly sensation through my body. Anxiety.

In a different box, I found the letter the counselor from that church camp had written to my mom, “Teresa was our constant smile of sunshine…”

I would never be a good girl

In Wholly Sober, I wrote about this pivotal moment in time.

“…I Would Never Be A Good Girl

Rather than trying to become what I could never be, I disconnected from God and the good girls to be on my own… I stopped thinking about God… I walked away and never looked back. 

I was twelve.

Coincidently that same year, I experienced my first intentional drunk…

I liked how beer allowed me to disconnect from my feelings. And while Doug was kind of old and gross, his touches and kisses weren’t awful. Not like when I was a little girl—I hated being touched when I was little. For once, it “felt” good not to feel bad about being bad. 

My momentum picked up from there. In eighth grade, I drank as often as I could, smoked pot when I couldn’t drink, started smoking cigarettes, and got good at having sex.”

I wish she would have known me

I’m not who I was. But oh, how I wish twelve-year-old me would have had someone, anyone, tell her that she was good. That what had happened to her did not make her who she thought she was or wasn’t, good. I wish she would have known me.

I can’t change the past. There’s no rewind or do-over. I allow that little girl part of me to heal by letting her speak now. By letting her feel what she feels, what I FEEL, and not excuse it away and tell myself to just get over it, I become even more empowered and determined.

What I can do is keep sharing my story and continue to do the work I feel compelled to do. The more we make it okay to read, speak, listen to the heartbreak, the more aware of it we become as a community and make it a safer place to open our hearts and heal.

Don’t be afraid to ask the little girl still in you or in your family how they are doing. Be curious about how she’s experiencing life. What are her hopes and dreams? Fears and doubts?

Listen. And connect.

Much love,


Teresa Rodden Author Coach Advocate for sober possibilities