I don’t really know where to begin with my story but I’ll start with a brief introduction about myself I suppose. My name is Carla Maria Cadotte and I am a 31 year old Personal Trainer and Nutritional Consultant, model, and Fitness Competitor currently residing in Los Angeles, CA. I am a college graduate with my Bachelor’s in Business Administration and Marketing from California State University of Fullerton, though I am originally from the San Francisco Bay Area.
I am a Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivor, Rape Survivor, and Domestic Violence Survivor, and a recovering addict with 4 years clean and sober, an ex stripper, I am proud of who I am today, but above all else, I am UNBREAKABLE.
Since I am not much of a writer, I will just begin with my personal story and journey that has made me the woman I am today. Looking at me most people would never guess the trials and tribulations I have endured throughout my life. Oftentimes people look at me, and based on my outward appearance, demeanor, and dress, they assume that I am a privileged woman whose beauty has provided her with an easier than normal life, or that I am lacking in intelligence, grew up with money, you name it I’ve heard it all.
However, very few aside from those who know me personally know that I am about as real of a person as it gets and that in the 31 years I have been alive, I have faced challenges that would break down most permanently.
With 4 years clean and sober, I am a recovering addict from prescription pills and cocaine, addictions that nearly destroyed my physical body, and my entire life from the time I was 16 years old until and 26 years old. But more important than the story of my past addiction is the story of what had taken me to such a point to begin with.
I grew up in an upper middle class suburb with loving parents, a tightly knit Filipino family, and an exceptional education. Most people would assume from initial glance that my life was “perfect” or that I had an “ideal upbringing.” My childhood in its earliest years was one full of love and joy, and I was surrounded by family and friends at all times.
However, around the age of 8 years old, during the time that my father was completing his Residency for Medical School, I became the victim of Childhood Sexual Abuse and Incest by one of my uncles, and later in time another relative; a nightmare that would continue on a regular basis for about 6 more years of my life, a nightmare that would eventually lead me to years of depression, emotional pain and suffering, drug abuse, verbally and physically abusive relationships, love relationship issues, and hardship before leading me to my passion and life’s purpose.
The sexual abuse I endured as a child was terribly painful and isolating for me, I still remember the feelings of sadness, loneliness, anxiety, depression, shame, hopelessness, confusion, anger, and fear that I felt everyday and for years to come.
Like many other sexual abuse survivors, I did not have a normal childhood. I grew up with a fear that “all men wanted to do things to me sexually” and a deep inner sadness stemming from the confusion and anger surrounding my abuse.
By the time I was 13 years old though I was still a Straight A student and a varsity athlete, I had begun drinking alcohol regularly, abusing prescription drugs, and experimenting heavily with illicit drugs as a means to escape the pain of the secrets I carried inside. By the time I was 15 years old my grades had started to fall and my behavior had become so bad that my mother began to try and figure out what was fueling my defiance. It was around this time that my mother went through my diaries and read my entries in which I had written about my abuse, thus uncovering my secret.
I was ridiculed and made fun of by peers when my abuse was discovered, and disbelieved by members of my own family when diaries I had written about my abuse in were read. Perhaps the most painful aspect of my sexual abuse was the lack of support I received from my family and most of my friends once the truth had come out, where rather than believing me and helping me to get the “help” I truly needed, I was told to basically pretend as if nothing had happened and that it would be “dealt with,” by sending me off to a psychiatrist, and doped up on antidepressants without the type of counseling I truly needed to recover. When my secrets were revealed I remember being so relieved at first, but when I was met with questioning and blame by my family, the shame I already carried inside of me worsened, causing me to dive deeply into drug addiction by the time I was 18 years old.
By the age of 17 I was such a misfit that my father was threatening to kick me out of our home on a regular basis. Sadly, he had no idea about what had happened to me and thought I was simply being a rebellious teenager. The arguing at home was so horrible between my father and I that I moved out a few months before my 18th birthday.
When I was 18 years old, while I was completing my high school diploma at a local community college, I decided to take on a job as a stripper in San Francisco to help me support myself. Choosing such a profession was a personal choice I made for myself, a decision of which I have no regrets for as it served its purpose for the time being, and in my opinion a profession that is often misunderstood and I have a great deal of respect for the women in the business who are utilizing it as a means to an end.
Becoming a stripper, which I was for about 8 years of my adult life, was something that I did out of desperation as a young girl trying to survive, but was a job I was able to emotionally handle due to the lack of connection I felt to my physical body as a result of having my body abused and used for so many years at such a young age.
Although I do not believe in having regrets as I am proud of who I am and embrace all my faults and life experiences good and bad, the craziness of such a lifestyle and the abuse that one will endure working in it is oftentimes horrifying and was a huge factor in the worsening of my drug addiction.
In addition, during my time working as a stripper I worked in cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Las Vegas, and New Orleans, and a very prevalent trend was that in my experience about 90% of the women I met in the industry were also childhood sexual abuse survivors as well. Though I am not a psychologist I have always believed that the reason so many women in the sex industry are sexual abuse survivors is because such trauma often results in a woman feeling a “separation” from her own physical body due to having such abuse inflicted upon her.
For example, it was not uncommon to hear a woman in the business feel as if she were empowering herself by capitalizing on her sexuality, and given the fact that things such as “virginity” or her “sexual body” were abused and taken advantage of before, using her body for money was in a sick way, “taking control” of what happened. Though to many it may not make sense, the actuality is that for an abused woman, her mentality may be that her body was never hers to begin with, so using it for money was taking control back and using it to further her own ends instead. However, I always felt, and still feel that I used stripping as not only a way to capitalize on and take control of a body I had never felt ownership of, but I also chose the profession as a way to subconsciously continue the abuse that I felt I “deserved.”
At age 21 I was involved in my first really serious love relationship, something that was and is still very challenging for me due to my trust issues with men. During this time I was working a great deal as a model and travelling all over the world for shoots and events.
It was during this time, at 21 years old, that I lost my best friend, Derek MacQuarrie, who was my high school sweetheart, first love, and the young man who had taught me how to begin trusting men. About 2 months after his passing I became the victim of a violent rape by a photographer I had been sent to shoot with for my agency.
Though I had dealt with so much sexual abuse in the past, what was the most crushing for me this time around was that I blamed myself for allowing it to happen as I had promised myself that after all my childhood abuse I would never allow myself to be victimized again. For 6 months I waited patiently to ensure that I did not contract HIV or AIDS from the assault. My relationship eventually ended due to the fact I was so emotionally shut off from the death of my best friend and the trauma of my rape, and so I fell deeper into my addiction.
During my 20’s I struggled with my addiction, in and out of meetings and rehab, and had been admitted for drug overdose. When things were good, I would have several months, and at one time up to a year and half at a time that I would maintain sobriety, but in the end I would always relapse. I continued on as an addict throughout my college years and was able to somehow graduate with honors in 2009, despite the fact that at this point my addictions had spun out of control to where I no longer was speaking to most of my family and had cut off anyone and everyone who had an issue with or dared to confront me about my addiction.
In the late summer of 2009 I awakened after hitting “rock bottom.” It was September of 2009 and I had just returned to Orange County where I lived after a 30-day drug binge and non-stop party stay in Vegas. My friends in Vegas had held an intervention for me a few days before as they had not realized how bad my addiction was until my extended time visiting and I left Las Vegas to return home for a few days as I was angry with them for confronting me about “my problem.”.
At this point I was spending thousands a month to feed my addiction, my credit cards were maxed out, bills were going unpaid, my health was deteriorating and my physical body was already shutting down with kidney infections, kidney stones, sinus infections, anemia, malnutrition, and my life was falling apart. Upon returning to OC, I was running errands and going on 2 days of no sleep and almost killed a family crossing at a pedestrian crosswalk, in broad daylight, but instead nearly totaled my car driving onto the sidewalk to avoid hitting them with my vehicle. Horrified and scared by what had happened I went home and binged on cocaine. That night I remember trying to lay in bed to sleep, my heart was beating so rapidly it started to scare me, and breathing became difficult as I felt like I had a ton of bricks on my chest. As I tried to move my body was so weak and felt paralyzed and I realized I may be about to overdose. I remember the anxiety and sadness I felt as I thought to myself, “I am going to die tonight, alone in my home. I haven’t spoken to my family in months and my friends all have no idea what city or state I am even in. It may be days until they find my body, and when they perform the autopsy my parents will know I died of a drug overdose.” I remember praying for my life, promising that if I made it through the night I would stop using for good.
When I awoke the next day I looked in the mirror and realized I had no idea who I was anymore. The gauntness of my face, the pale color of my skin, the dead stillness of my eyes; it was awful. I called one of my best friends from recovery who I had not spoken to in months and he took me to my first meeting. Though I had made efforts towards my sobriety before, this time was different. I realized that I had been given two chances at life when I should have died from overdose, and knew that would not have another chance if I made the wrong choice.
The first several months of my recovery were the worst both physically and emotionally. However, as time went on I began to improve. During my recovery I was forced to begin facing the real reasons I used drugs, and for the first time in my life I truly began to heal and address the issues and pain I had been using drugs to avoid for so long. It wasn’t until I was about 6 months into my sobriety that I was able to truly accept and face the fact that my childhood sexual abuse was the reason I had turned to drugs to begin with. Making the decision to truly face the pain I carried inside was terrifying for me, as I knew it would be a long and difficult journey. Little did I know however, that the source of my greatest pain would later become the fuel for my success, and the inspiration for my life’s purpose to educate and empower others.
As I continued to evolve in my recovery I returned to fitness as a way to deal with the depression that came with detox and to rebuild my body, which had withered away to nothing as a result of years of drug abuse. Making my body stronger and rebuilding what years of drug abuse had nearly destroyed was empowering for me and eventually bodybuilding became my passion, leading me to where I am today.
In 2011 I entered my first Bikini and Figure Competitions and won my height class and the overall at my very first Figure Competition, an accomplishment that was very meaningful to me as the strong, fit, and healthy, 5’2” 116lb body I had built was a huge difference from the sick and malnourished 98lb I had during the peak of my addiction. Though I no longer compete, I am still very active in Fitness and work as a coach for other athletes competing in Men’s Physique, Women’s Bikini, and Women’s Figure.
Though I am now living a fulfilling life that I love and am passionate about, while helping others to achieve a healthier lifestyle, I am far from accomplishing what I believe my life purpose to be. And though I continue to face challenges and have faced far more hardship than I could even begin to write in this chapter, I refuse to allow anything to break me or destroy me. I know and realize that if I made it through what I did, it was for a reason, and that I am strong because of it. I believe that nothing can break you unless you allow it to, but it took me years of self-inflicted suffering and addiction to realize how true that statement is.
As I write this I am amidst a very difficult Domestic Violence case against my recent boyfriend who became physical at the end of our relationship and tried to choke and strangle me during our breakup. However, despite the emotional turmoil I am in due to recent circumstances, returning to drugs or self-destructive behaviors is not even something I would consider and I am remaining strong and hopeful. Just like my abusers, I will not allow him to break me or rob me of the life I deserve to live.
If there is anything that I hold to be firm and true it is that an individual has the power to make the decision as to whether or not they will allow something bad that has happened to destroy them, or if they will use it to make them stronger. I am living proof of the choice to live as an unbreakable survivor and not as a victim. I spent years of my life in self-pity and angry at the world for cards I was dealt, but I no longer allow my experiences to imprison me.
In order to continue to deal with the pain that still lingers from my experiences, I remind myself daily that I was given the battles I was given because I was strong enough to handle them, and I know in my heart that someday I will be a driving force in creating greater awareness for difficult issues such as Domestic Violence, Sexual Abuse, Rape, Incest, and Drug Addiction. I believe that it is through sharing our story that we heal ourselves and empower others who have experienced similar things, and I hope that my story will help other women to see that they are not alone, that there is hope, and that no matter what has happened, you deserve love and happiness and can pursue the life of your dreams and attain success.
I believe I was put on this Earth and given the challenges I was given to someday help the world in a grand scale. I know I am still alive, against all odds, because my purpose in this world is not yet fulfilled. Someday I will stand before thousands sharing my story, empowering others and heading foundations and charities that provide resources for those that have been victimized.
I now know I am unbreakable, and hope to help others find the same strength and courage within themselves to guide them through whatever challenges life throws their way.