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by Abigail Van Buren

Woman's Emotional Scars Heal When Love Walks Into Her Life

DEAR ABBY: I grew up as the abused child of a woman who lived on Valium but condemned my father for drinking. When she got mad at him, I was beaten. When someone else messed up, I was beaten. I spent my life being told how worthless I was, and wishing I were dead. I became a heavy drinker and experimented with drugs to block out my pain. The problem was, when I sobered up, the pain was still there.

When I became pregnant, I thought it was my one chance at happiness. When my infant daughter died, I no longer cared if I lived anymore.

Daddy escaped the nightmare, remarried and had a wonderful new family. I stayed, thinking it was my "duty" to look after Mother. Then one day my life changed. A wonderful man, "Barry," entered my life. He has stuck by me through all the grief and heartache my mother could dish out. She told me Barry was worthless and would never take care of me. Barry and I finally moved away from her because my health could no longer take the stress.

Fourteen years have passed since my best friend/lover/husband came into my life. We are still together. He treats me like a queen. My father has since passed away, but not before he and my husband became good friends. My step-siblings are wonderful to me; my stepmom and I speak regularly on the phone. Barry's mother has told me she loves me and is glad her son found me. Every day I thank God that she gave birth to him.

Abby, I am writing to say this: No matter how rough a hand life deals you ... hold on to the goodness and love that can be found. Love does exist -- you just have to find it. Sometimes the search is long and painful, but it is worth it once you reach your destination.

I have progressed from a worthless person to a job in management; from an empty life to one filled with family and friends; from nights filled with tears to days filled with laughter. It is possible.

God bless the people in my life, and God bless you, Abby, for being there to listen. -- A RESCUED SOUL

DEAR RESCUED SOUL: You may have been "rescued," but it took great strength to make it to that point. A more accurate definition of who you are is a survivor -- and an inspiration to those who have read your story.

When things were at their worst, you never gave up on yourself. You deserve the happiness for which you have struggled.