#186 – Episode 186 – Overcoming Trauma with Kelly Wallace


**Trigger warning*** Kelly Wallace shares her moving story of childhood sexual trauma, alcoholism and recovery.

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about this episode

This is a story of recovery and hope after trauma.

As a survivor of childhood sexual trauma, Kelly Wallace’s childhood took her from one ordeal to another. She had to repeatedly defend herself – in court and with skeptical family members – and later endure a brutal custody battle between her parents. Years later, she found alcohol and the massive toll it takes.

Now, with over 21 years of sobriety under her belt, Kelly has created a life for herself that is more than she ever dreamed possible.

Kelly embodies the idea that recovery is possible and that even against painful odds, we can overcome our past.

In this episode, Kelly shares her journey to sobriety and how she’s gotten to a place where she loves her life. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this episode – reach out to me on Instagram @VeronicaJValli.


About Kelly Wallace

Kelly Wallace developed a writing style that both roots in the moment and peels back the layers of human nature at the Pinewood Table writers group led by award-winning authors Stevan Allred and Joanna Rose. Kelly’s writing honors include publications in The Manifest-Station, On Loan From the Cosmos, VoiceCatcher and Perceptions magazines, fellowships at the Summer Fishtrap Gathering and the Attic Institute, and residencies at Hypatia-in-the-Woods. A graduate of Wells College in Aurora, New York, and an entrepreneur in Portland, Oregon, Kelly avidly photographs odd sights while out driving for her day job. Kelly is an active and recognizable member of the Portland writing community, consistently engaging with hundreds of readers and authors of all genres and levels of writing.

key highlights

Family visits

Around the age of six, Kelly’s parents divorced, and she moved to a different city with her mother and sister. On weekends and holidays, she’d visit her father, who had moved in with her grandparents.

It was on those visits that things took a turn. From the start, her grandfather was grooming her, and with each visit, the abuse went further and further.

After one particular visit, she happened to see a childhood sexual awareness video at school, and at that moment, she realized that what was happening with her grandfather wasn’t right.

Being close to her mother, she decided to tell her what was happening. Thankfully, she immediately leaped into action and reported him to the police, and her mother put Kelly into therapy.

Through that, her healing process started.

The signs

Since Kelly was so young, nobody knows how often it happened or if it started earlier.

Before she disclosed, Kelly had a lot of behaviors that concerned her mother, like at age nine saying she wanted to die and generally having a lot of anxiety.

Once Kelly disclosed, it all started to click to her mother. She started researching the effects of childhood sexual abuse and recognized all these behaviors as the signs they were.



While her mother did exactly what we’d want any parent to do, her father was the opposite.

Kelly’s father and entire paternal family turned against her, accusing her of being coached by her mother and that the whole thing was a made-up story concocted by a disgruntled ex-wife.

The reality was that Kelly had brought to the light an open secret that her grandfather was molesting girls – she was not the first. But the family swept everything under the rug to keep their family business afloat and to avoid disrupting the livelihoods of the people involved.

The trial

“The long-term effects for me have been centered around the trauma of having to tell my story repeatedly to strangers and detectives.” Kelly Wallace

Kelly’s mother’s report ended up with the police charging her grandfather with one count of child sexual abuse and one count of rape.

A year later came the trial, which ended up becoming another trauma source.

During the trial, two other women disclosed that her grandfather had touched them inappropriately at events where he was a chaperone. Unfortunately, the police opted not to keep questioning those women and instead focused solely on Kelly.

Many factors came into play that made the case a difficult one to win. Ultimately even though Kelly was a reliable witness and had a therapist who testified on her behalf, it was not enough.

Kelly blamed herself that he had been found not guilty. Unfortunately, it’s something that she still struggles with to this day.


Custodial abuse

After the trial, Kelly’s father decided to file for sole custody.

Painting her mother as an unfit mother due to being a recovering alcoholic, he continued to drag Kelly and her mother and sister through trauma after trauma.

It was a financial and emotional strain on them all.

Luckily the judge, also a recovering alcoholic, saw through his argument, and her father lost the case.

Saved by alcohol

While all this was happening, Kelly remained a quiet student in her school life and never had many friends. After going to college in upstate New York, she became a different person.

She went from being very shy to being very outgoing and having many different friend groups.

“I found my people, but I also found alcohol.” – Kelly Wallace

Since she was little, Kelly had watched her mom go to AA meetings. Because of that, she was sure that there was no way it would happen to her.

She was wrong.

What started as social drinking very quickly snowballed into drinking to get drunk.

Through alcohol, she finally felt comfortable in her body and like she could be the person she always wanted to be.

Along the way, she also found an eating disorder, leaving her in a punishing cycle of drinking excessively on an empty stomach and rolling through the next day with a bad hangover.

Finding sobriety

Finally, when Kelly was 23, her mother encouraged her to attend AA.

One day after work, she dragged herself to a meeting and shared openly and was surprised at the overwhelming support she received.

That was the first step in her recovery.

After a few months of sobriety, Kelly got an apartment and her first permanent job.

“The job wasn’t like my life’s work or anything. But those baby steps, those little building blocks, gave me the confidence to start moving my life forward.” – Kelly Wallace

Kelly developed a network within AA and started to write. She created a guide for young women who had just graduated from college, and from there, she found an agent.

Years later, she found a writing group of like-minded writers who were just in the beginning stages of writing memoirs, and she started writing the pages of what now has become a working manuscript.

Life in recovery

“The important thing is that my mom, sister, and I have been able to stick through this together. And while the relationships aren’t perfect, there is that cohesiveness. That has been good for me.” – Kelly Wallace

In sobriety, Kelly has parented herself with the help of her 12-step community and a great therapist. She has a successful consulting business where she helps people with developmental disabilities find jobs and takes such joy in her daily life.

Sobriety has brought Kelly more than she ever thought was possible for her.

“My life is so full. I would have never dreamed of any of this.” – Kelly Wallace

She’s been able to accomplish the goals she set for herself in early sobriety, and 21 years later, she continues to do the emotional work. For her, the best part of her life is knowing she can show up for herself and others.

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