My name is LaVonia Lucille Parham. I was born and raised in Saginaw, Michigan. I am the youngest between 2 sisters and my brother. Both of my sisters were close and I was close to my brother. I was the black sheep of the family, because I was dark skinned. My mother was never around, she would call us every once in a while. My father was around sometimes, because his mother was raising us. He treated me so different. He told me to call him “Buster” instead of Dad because he said I’m not his child but I look like him, walk like him and we all have feet like him.
When I was 5 years old my siblings and I moved in with my grandmother, step-grandfather and step uncle. Shortly after moving in with my grandmother I started school, but I don’t remember a lot about going to school. I do remember my sixth grade teacher because she nicknamed me “Dufus”. I thought that name was just a funny name until I became grown and found out what dufus means — STUPID PERSON.
When I was 12, my mom called me on January 23rd to tell me happy birthday. I told her my birthday is the 27th and she said, no — it’s the 23rd. So for 12 years I celebrated my birthday on the wrong day, even though I never had an actual birthday party.
My grandmother had to work 3 jobs to take care of us, so she wasn’t ever around. When she wasn’t around I was being sexually abused by my step-grandfather. I was 13 years old when I told my grandmother about what had been happening to me. She slapped me so hard and told me to stop lying. Not long after, my step-grandfather had an aneurysm. My grandmother blamed me for this, because she felt I had lied about what he did. With all this hurt and guilt I began to act out sexually and invite abusive men into my life.
I love myself so much and I think, I mean, I KNOW I’m the most beautiful person in the world.– LaVonia
By the time I was 22 I had 4 children and was in an abusive relationship. This man was a drug addict and wanted me to use too. After resisting drugs from him, he put a gun to my head demanding I give him money and smoke crack with him. I spent years being abused and using drugs with this man. After a severe beating from him that left me with 150 stitches, I just wanted to die. I felt God had other plans for me, but this was the only life I knew.
By 23 my addiction had control of my life. I started selling my body, stealing, and lying to get the drugs. I ended up getting pregnant again, but used drugs my whole pregnancy. I had to go into treatment in order to keep him. I stayed for a year, but the day I got out was the day I started using again. That’s when I lost custody of my children. I got pregnant two more times, having both children taken out of my arms at the hospital. I wanted to stop using drugs so badly, but I didn’t know how.
At 43 years old I was in another abusive relationship and I moved to Grand Rapids with him. I believed I was ugly, fat, worthless, because that’s what I was always told but there's more to my story...
I finally decided I had to do something to save myself. I reached out to Our Hope and got connected to a recovery coach and therapist, but I continued to use.
My recovery coach told me to call Mel Trotter and connected me with Janice. I wanted some help so bad. I really thought my life was over. When Janice from MTM’s Step-Up Recovery Program called me back I knew this was the place for me and began crying.
I entered the program August 16, 2018. The staff worked with me, and I attended the classes and intensive outpatient therapy (IOP). My favorite class was Boundaries. With this class I was able to learn how to stop allowing people to use me. I learned to use my voice. I also learned so much in IOP. They showed me how to love myself and love others. They showed me that others can love me without abusing me. They showed me how to forgive myself — which was harder than anything, but by the grace of God I did! I love myself so much and I think…I mean I know I’m the most beautiful person in the world. I have made lifelong friends in this program who love me and will support me in life.
I graduated from the Step-Up Recovery Program and Restoration. Now I’m enrolled in school for my GED. I thought I would never be going back to school. I have learned so much since I’ve been here. I feel positive and like I can accomplish anything I want. This truly feels like a new chapter of my life.
I don’t believe I could have done any of this without the help from Mel Trotter Ministries. I thank God for keeping me safe to tell my story. I want to thank Charles for being the friend I never had. For sticking with me, loving me even when I couldn’t love myself. Thank you Janice for calling me to come here. And I want to thank Mrs. Maggie, she helped me in so many ways. Thank you Anna, Amanda, Shelby, Mali, Pastor Leonard, everyone for putting up with me, Mr. Charles the IOP teacher, and my sponsor Jo-Ann. And the Step-Up group!
After this experience there is a verse that holds so much truth to me. Psalm 56:3-4 “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In GOD, whose word I praise, In GOD I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” Amen.
Mother's Day 2019 was "the first Mother's Day LaVonia felt like a mother..."
"I became a mother when I was 16 years old and today I am the proud mother of 6 beautiful children, 5 boys and 1 girl. I am a grandma to 18, and a great grandma to 2. I love to hear them call me granny. Having the title of granny is my proudest title yet. I light up with joy thinking about the place each one of them have in my heart! "