Two days a week, Renée comes to the House of Mercy in Östervåla. There, she is replenished with care, knowledge and community. The road to a new, healthy and sober life is not easy, but Renée is determined to move forward. Sometimes the memories catch up with her, but now they no longer have power over her. When Renée talks about her life, she tries to highlight the good memories, her loving parents and the fun visits to her mother's family in the US. But the shadow of her father's alcoholism is there. And her grandmother's cruelty has stuck in the back of her mind as truths about how ugly and stupid Renée is. How it affected the little girl, she didn't understand until adulthood. At the age of 14, Renée developed an eating disorder, but received help through child psychiatry. However, she still felt bad and started to self-harm. - 'When we went to the US that year, it was the first time I drank alcohol. I remember how it burned and ran down and I felt a sense of calm. I finally felt no anxiety, I could be myself. So it was immediate," says Reneée. At the nine's graduation party, the alcohol flowed and Renée continued to drink whenever she could.
- I loved it. And I drank as much as I could.
Again and again, things got out of hand. She often drank until everything went black.
- I woke up, didn't remember anything, felt ashamed and sad.
And so it went on.

On one occasion when Renée was sober, she was subjected to a serious sexual assault, which led to a terribly painful time filled with anxiety and shame. It also brought up repressed memories from when she was four years old and also abused. Year after year, she tried to drown those memories with alcohol. Every attempt to study or work failed. Renée was admitted to hospital for detoxification several times and went from one treatment center to another. In addition, she lived for periods in relationships that involved both psychological and physical violence.
Renée had no power to break the spiral.
- I was so stuck, so dependent. And I had such a high tolerance that I drank so much. At one point when I woke up in hospital, I had 4.7 parts per thousand in my blood. It was a miracle that I survived.
She also tried cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana, but alcohol won because it was easier to obtain.
- In the end, I had a constant feeling that I didn't want to live anymore. Even though I now hated the alcohol and didn't want to drink, I couldn't help myself," says Renée.

At the same time , Renée's mother had found a deeper faith in God, organized a prayer chain for her daughter, and one day she gave a brochure about the House of Mercy to Renée - who didn't care about it at all.
But then she found the note and in desperation wrote a message to Kari Borgsö, the director of the House of Mercy, which is based on Christian principles. This led to Renée being one of the first to arrive at the shelter in April 2021.
- I had told God that if you exist, help me, otherwise I want to die.
- Here I only met nice people, it was so different. And when Sebastian Stakset came here, he prayed for me. Then I felt 'yes, that's right - Jesus' and I was saved at once," says Renée with some surprise in her voice.
- So many people have been praying for me for years. Prayers are strong!

Here began a long period of rehabilitation on several fronts. All in a close, familiar and honest community.
Now it's time for Renée to be released, and it will take time. Some treatment programs are still ongoing, but she has also started studying remotely. "Everything hasn't been easy, and it hasn't been smooth sailing, but now life feels full of hope.
- The fears can come and I get disgusted with myself and all the memories, but here I have been given tools to deal with life when it's tough.
- Now I want to get an education and my dream is to help others, and to have a family with a home together with God. But I have learned that I have to take things slowly.
- Now I live a real life, says Renée gratefully and hopefully.

Text: Kerstin Schönström Photo: Kenneth Lillqvist

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