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By ANNETTE HARVISON
We often find it hard to talk about uncomfortable situations like abusive relationships and drug addiction. It can hit close to home or right in our living rooms for many of us, but is not talked about out loud nearly enough.
For the people in those hopeless situations, it takes someone on the outside to help them see a way out when they are ready. It takes a lot of guts to help someone in an abusive relationship or someone addicted to drugs, or even both. But it takes a lot more guts to leave the situation. They just need to know someone is in their corner fighting for them because it’s too hard to do alone.
McLain resident Norma McCluskey began helping people escape toxic situations a few years ago and wants people to know there is a way out of the darkness. McCluskey said a few years back when she heard someone calling for help. Without much hesitation, she did all she knew to do-she helped. After that incident, it seemed as though she was chosen to be a doorway.
“A young girl was hiding in the bushes at the post office,” McCluskey said. “She said help me. I told her to get in the back of my car and lie down. A few weeks after that incident, another young girl asked for help.”
“This got laid in my lap. After the second girl, I prayed about it. Now I do it all the time.”
‘This’ is helping people escape abusive situations and helping people find a way to break the hold of addiction-the two usually fall hand-in-hand. McCluskey said she wasn’t sure what to do when the first girl got in her car. She took her somewhere safe and began to make phone calls to people she knew could point her in the right direction. Some days, it takes multiple phone calls, but to make sure someone can rest in a safe place tonight, it’s worth it, McCluskey said.
“I reach out to judges, law officers, lawyers and many others for advice,” McCluskey said. “I want to thank each one of them for their part in this. I could not do it without them.”
There is a village of people out there waiting to help. For those people who are trapped in an abusive relationship, escape seems like a dream, especially when there are death threats-and yes, it happens to people you know. Even if there is someone there to help, the victim feels like there’s nowhere they can go to be safe. There is low to no self-esteem after enduring abuse, and it takes a long time to rebuild oneself after leaving. This situation is compounded when drug use is involved.
“I advocate for women who are abused,” McCluskey said. “Some of these women turned to drugs as a way to cope.”
Drug addiction leaves a person with low to no self-esteem as well. Most of those lost in addiction have alienated themselves from family and friends and often feel like there is no one there to help them even if they do want to come clean. They fear judgement of others and fear asking for help. Sometimes, it takes a stranger to show them a way out of their situation. McCluskey wants anyone in those situations to know she is there to help.
“If I can help just one person, it’s all worth it,” McCluskey said. “I help anyone wanting to change their life, male or female.”
McCluskey said she works to get abuse victims to a safe place, and she works to find help for those addicted to drugs. She has had lots of help from Daniel and Rebecca Hanks, who graciously offered the church as a safe haven for those wanting to make a better life for themselves. She said some cases may take several days to find the right place, but she keeps working to make it happen. She said all the work is worth every minute to see someone turn around their life.
“Most of the programs they go into for drugs or abuse is at least 18 months,” McCluskey said. “The programs help rebuild their lives so they can be back in society and live productive lives.”
“I have seen and heard good stories of the ones we’ve helped.”
This job doesn’t offer a paycheck. She is employed, but this mission is her own. She helps others from her own pocket, and her family supports what she does, which means a lot to her. She doesn’t do it for fame or glory. In fact, she said she has just recently begun being open with the public about helping these people. She said she wants those people in these situations to know she’s their advocate and she’s in their corner. It doesn’t matter if you’re a young man or woman or older man or woman.
“The accomplishment comes from seeing these ladies get their lives back, to see them live again with no bruises and wondering if the next time may kill them. To be able to sleep again with no fear. To live again,” McCluskey said. “And the ones on drugs to be able to live and be happy again, and to have family again because so many lose their family due to the addiction.”
If you need help out of an abusive relationship, a drug addiction or if you want to help support those who leave those situation, call Norma McCluskey at (601)766-5448.