The Power Of Dreaming Big With Kathy Tuccaro
Episode 377: The Power Of Dreaming Big With Kathy Tuccaro
People who come out from a place of darkness and succeed in life give us some of the most powerful stories that inspire us to be our own change, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in. The power of dreaming big is that it enables us to use whatever resources we have to get out of those situations and eventually succeed. Motivational speaker and author Kathy Tuccaro is one of these success stories. Since her epiphany with her incident with “Toothless Joe,” Kathy has written a book and helped countless people who are experiencing abuse to stand up and take control of their own destiny. She joins Mitch Stephen in the podcast to share her journey from a lifetime of trauma and abuse and how she used her experience to help people work on their self-worth and succeed in life. Listen and be inspired by a strong, empowered woman who has the guts to take the wheel and drive, both literally and figuratively.
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We’re doing something a little different. We’re talking to Kathy Tuccaro. She’s going to be talking to us about living a life where she was abused in many ways and at one point homeless at age 42 and a drunk and down and out. She turned it all the way around. When I heard her story, I told Julie, “This is going to fit under the motivational and inspirational side of this show because there are people out there that may be going through things similar and they need to hear this lady’s story.” If we can help change one person’s life with this story or even, Kathy, herself can get involved with her Dream Big! workbook, then we need to do it. We’re here with Kathy. How are you doing?
I’m doing fine. Thank you for having me as a guest on your show. It’s a real honor.
This story goes a little further. She leaves her career in nursing and ends up being a major big equipment operator at a mine. You can’t even call it a 180. She jumps planets for her career. There has to be a lot of fear scattered in and out of all of this from the abuse and obstacles to changing careers and becoming a whole different person. Her workbook is on overcoming fear. I’ve done a solo cast on fear. Fear is a real thing. You’ve got to look at it in a certain way or fear will kick your butt up and down the street for the rest of your life and you can’t have it. You’ve got to stop it somewhere. Right, Kathy?
That’s correct. It’s all on mindset.
Give us a little bit of your background.
There’s a lot to say but I’ll keep it short and sweet. A lot of sexual abuse as a small child, I was in a foster home. My first memory is a hand covering my mouth for me not to scream and that stayed with me my entire life. It’s as if I had this invisible hand preventing me from having a voice in life. I would internalize everything. It was difficult for me to even be a speaker and even start to get out of the shell of mine. I was in a foster home until I was four and then my mom came back and got me. She had remarried. I have two older sisters, there are three of us. My stepfather, she thought she had married well, he was the town genius. Everybody looked up to him. It turns out behind closed doors he was a real monster, tons of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and violence.
In my chapter one in my book Dream Big!, I used to pretty much live in the doghouse because I was in my safe place. I’d have conversations with God trying to figure out, “If you’re such a loving God, how could you let all these horrible things happen to us?” I didn’t understand. To make it worse, he took the dog out back and he shot it. I was completely alone and there was lots of neglect. My mom was overwhelmed mentally and emotionally. She wasn’t available there. Going on through life, my first boyfriend, because I had already grown up in fear and all this violence, he raped me. At fifteen, I was attacked again. The police were involved in that attack. There were no charges pressed. The way my family dealt with it is you don’t talk about it. You internalize all that.
I became a model when I was 16, 17. I was down in Miami and I was drugged and raped by the photographer after a photoshoot. I was drinking Diet 7 Up because it’s not fattening. He took me out after the shoot to meet people in the industry downtown Miami. One minute I’m drinking a Diet 7 Up and the next minute I wake up and he’s on top of me. He was telling me it’s my fault that I wanted it and all this stuff. I internalized all that again. I went to New York, I modeled there for a while and I ended up leaving and going back to Montreal. I was gang-raped at 3:00 in the morning after my shift at the local restaurant that I worked at. That sent me over the edge. I ended up with three suicide attempts. I was on a bridge. I swallowed pills.
At the time, I didn’t think of calling the police. I felt dirty and ashamed. I didn’t have proof. My clothes were torn. My bag was gone. I didn’t do anything with it. Instead, my idea of dealing with it is that I crossed Canada. I went as far as I could. I got away from my family. I took $150. I had a suitcase. I hopped on the train and I went from Montreal and went back all the way to Alberta in the Rocky Mountains and I started over. “I’ve got a new life here. We’re going to pretend it never happened. Life is all good. Forget about it.” A lot of people say that with their personal trauma. It was a long time ago. What I did instead is I put myself through nursing school and pretended everything’s fine.
When I graduated in 1998, I got this great career. I started believing that I was smart instead of being told as a child how stupid, ugly, useless, a waste of skin and you’ll never amount to nothing, yet here I am, I graduated from nursing. It was a big moment for me. However, the problem being is that all that trauma that I hadn’t addressed with is still inside. You put it and you lock it away in that vault that you got and deal with it later. I didn’t deal with it. What that did, that internal wound became infected. That infection started acting out, coming out in behaviors because I couldn’t cope with it. I got all this low self-esteem. Even though I’m a nurse, I’m still carrying that around.Trauma builds in layers. Getting out of it takes time. Click To Tweet
All of a sudden, it’s coming out. I started to drink. I started making poor choices. I started working and taking care of everybody else and not taking care of me. I ended up in seven years of intense domestic violence. There were two men involved. One went first and then the next guy was even worse. I was stopped, beaten, and raped. I was strangled three times to the point of losing consciousness. I lived with a shovel on my porch as a reminder of what I was going to be buried with. I lost a baby due to violence. It went on. It was absolutely horrible. In the midst of all that, I am still nursing. I’m in and out of women’s shelters while I’m nursing. What does that say? That alone shows you how unwell I was because it was easy to take care of everybody else’s problems. “You’ve got a wound, you’ve got cancer, you’ve got this and that.” I can deal with that but to look at my own trauma was a different story.
I had a ten-year-old daughter at that time. I ended up sending her to her dad for safety reasons so she could live there while I try and figure out how I’m going to escape this guy. I did manage to escape in 2007. I say escape because that’s exactly what it was. I came in one day from my nursing shift and I must have looked at him wrong and I turned around and in turning around, he was on me fast and he had me pinned on the floor. He’s punching me in the face with one hand. He’s strangling me with the other. His face here and his veins are popping and he’s yelling, “I’m going to take your bloody battered body, put you in a truck, tie you up, roll you down a hill, and burn you alive. You’re stupid, useless.” I was up in the Yukon by Alaska and he says, “We’re in the Yukon, no one will ever find you. Do you doubt me?” At that lap moment, I couldn’t speak and I passed out. I remembered tears coming down. There’s nothing I could do because he had me pinned.
I wake up and I couldn’t speak because he had strangled me hard. He had left and I got a phone and I croaked my way out of there. I had a friend buy me a ticket. I got on a bus and it’s a 36-hour bus ride. This is where it gets critical because a lot of people will be able to relate to me on this. During that bus ride, because I had 36 hours and I escaped him, I made a few phone calls. One was for a previous employer, he said, “Kathy, as soon as you get here, you have a job. Get here.” I called a friend of mine, I said, “I need a place to stay.” He says, “I have a basement apartment. You come and I’ll give you a place rent-free for a while.”
At that moment, it’s critical because I know I have a roof over my head. I have a job. That means I could feed myself. I can pay my bills. I can get moving. What I did is I shifted my mind. Even though my face is all black and blue, in my mind, I’m like, “I’m fine. I’m good. I’ve got this. It doesn’t matter. We’re going to leave that back there and we’re going to keep moving on and keep trudging on. You’re a survivor. You’re a tough girl.” I put that mask on that many people wear every day. In doing so, I had a job. I had a roof over my head. My mental health was a mess because not only did I have all the trauma from all the rapes and all that but I had seven years of incredible violence that I put on that mask and pretend that I’m fine. You can only do that for so long. I managed to do that for a whole year. I put one foot in front of the other.
You keep throbbing. You’ve got bills to pay. You’ve got this and you’ve got that. I did that until one day I show up at work, I’ve got ten patients to take care of. That’s a lot. I’m on the night shift. I am mentally and emotionally tired. What I did was I get to work and I look at my sheet and I couldn’t read the words. I could not see the words on the paper. It was like Chinese, mumble-jumble on the form. I knew right then and there that I was done. There’s no way that I can continue pretending that I’m okay when obviously I’m not. I quit my job. I turned around. I went from the medical unit. I ran down to the psychiatric unit. In between the two, I lost my mind. It’s as if 40 years of repressed pain and trauma and all that stuff came bubbling out like a geyser.
I get down to the psych unit and I’m pounding on the door. I’m like, “Let me in.” They called security, “Get her out.” Security came to drag me and I went to the emergency. It was the first time that I told someone everything. Even my own mother didn’t know anything. I told him everything and I expected him to give me some happy pills, some good drugs to make me happy. He says, “There’s no number of pills that are going to fix you. Number one, pills don’t work like that. Number two, you need to quit drinking. You need to address all these issues.” He sent me to treatment in 2008. The lady had me take a bottle of water and on every little line, she had me write a specific traumatic event that affected me. I did that and I thought it was a stupid thing to do but I did it anyway.
What I realized as I’m writing down on every line, I had some on this side of the sheet, some on this side of the sheet, I had to flip it over, I had to write on that side, and that’s when it sunk in, “I’ve got a lot of stuff here. I need to deal with that.” Change doesn’t happen overnight. Change takes time and it took from 2008 to 2012. I had quite a few relapses in there because I was a wicked alcoholic and it was difficult for me. This trauma builds in layers. I would release one layer and then I got another, I got something else that I forgot, repressed memories and then there would be something else. It took a lot of time to deal with this.
Were you doing this through hypnotism?
No. The lady, when she was doing that water bottle worksheet that I did, she said, “You’re going to need long-term treatment. This is not going to happen in two weeks.” I went back to nursing and then I ended up losing my job because I drank, I showed up to work drunk. I lost my career. In chapter eight in my book, I talk about three days of incredible depression and I couldn’t move. I couldn’t function. During that time, I had a powerful spiritual experience where I knew that there was something greater for me to be doing and laying on the couch depressed, wanting to kill myself, it wasn’t it.
What happened is my friend came and picked me up and he brought me to detox. From that detox place, that was the first time that I found out that there was a place for women where you live there. It’s a faith-based community where you live in a house and there are 25 other women and you have your own room. You have your own thing but you work on yourself. You’re removed. You live off $262 a month but you have a roof over your head. You have three square meals a day. You have counseling 24/7. That’s what I did for a year. That’s how I started to learn slowly about boundaries, codependency, and anger management. She said, “Kathy, you need anger management.” I’m like, “No, I don’t. I’m one of the nicest people on earth. I’m not angry.” Anger comes out in different ways. Anger is sneaky. I did need anger management. I had to work on self-esteem.
How are you showing your anger, through the drinking?
Through depression, eating disorders, and low self-esteem. It attacks in different ways and drinking alcohol of course. I was there for a year. There are a lot of layers. When I left there, I thought I was fine but I ended up drinking in two weeks from that date. I managed to go back to nursing for a short time. When I relapsed, then I officially lost. I’m 42. My daughter was sixteen and she didn’t talk to me for two years. I lost my career. I lost everything I owned. I ended up on the streets drunk, a complete mess, and homeless. I had slashed my arm in a drunken moment. I spent three days in ICU. I should be dead but I am not by the grace of God alone.
I was even robbed. I had no identification. I had no backpack. I had the clothes on my back. That was it. This guy named Toothless Joe, on the seventh day, he comes up to me and he slapped me on the back. He’s drunk and he goes, “This is the life. Live it. I love it,” with his big toothless grin. When he did that, it was my saving moment. I call it a Godsmack because when he slapped me, it’s as if that cloud of depression that I’ve been carrying around for decades shattered. I’m looking around my dismal surroundings and I’m like, “Oh my God.” All of a sudden I saw it crystal clear and I’m thinking, “How did I end up here? I’m educated. I shouldn’t be homeless. This is wrong.” I’m looking at him and I said, “What did you say?” I stomped my foot and I said it out loud, “This is not my life.”
I turned around and I went to the hospital. I detox again. I went back to that women’s place and I said, “I’m not leaving here until I figure this out.” Two years from Toothless Joe, exactly, the picture on the cover of my book is I’m standing beside the biggest truck in the world looking up. I’ve got this big grin and I’m learning how to drive this. In two years, I managed to go from homeless to operating the biggest truck in the world. It was mind-blowing. In the picture, you can’t see it but I’m crying because I’m looking up at this thing. For those that don’t know, I drive a two and a half story house. It’s a 3,800 square foot truck. It holds 400 tons. The tires are 14 feet high. It’s an $8 million vehicle. It’s a Caterpillar 797 heavy haul mining truck. It’s massive. I’m looking up at this truck and I’m thinking of Toothless Joe. I’m thinking, “How does this even happen?” That was years ago. I am sober now. Life has completely transformed. I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome my life has changed, but it took a lot of work. It didn’t happen overnight.
Give me a chance to ask some questions here. It’s a great story. Every time you’re talking, I have a billion questions. The first one is, was there one biggest challenge? Can you boil it down to one thing that you should have done or should have done earlier? If you had it to do over again, is there one thing that would have speed things up for you?
Yes, press charges. If I had to press charges from a young age, that would have given me the confidence.
It would’ve made you talk.
It would have definitely changed things because had it happen again, I would have press charges again and again, but I never did. I never said anything. I never voiced anything until I was 40.
Obviously, you’re a believer. It’s not a real stretch but I need your confirmation. God was in the whole thing?
Absolutely, 100%.Anger comes out in different ways. It is very sneaky. Click To Tweet
You said something. You were asking the question in the doghouse. I want to know what you found as an answer. You said, “If you’re such a loving God, why do you let this happen to me?” What answer did you get to that?
I can’t say a specific answer to that but my understanding is that we have certain things that happen to us that make us grow or that makes us learn from. Even though as awful as it was, it has empowered me to help many other people. I’m talking thousands and thousands of people.
That’s where I was going. The theory is that you’re going through all these things not because you deserve to go through them but because he’s trying to make you stronger so that you can help everyone involved in the situation. Maybe even the person that’s doing it to you. More obvious as you’re trying to help people that had it done to them. Have you ever been able to help someone who committed a crime against you?
To be honest, I haven’t even tried.
It’s not like you’re expected to or not. I was wondering because sometimes life has weird twists. I won’t be surprised before it’s all over, it comes around. It might happen that way. For sure, you’re going out to try to help other people that have had things happen to them. You do have a place. You’ve come out of this with a mission, right?
What’s the mission?
My mission is mainly to have people speak out when something happens to you. Most people keep these secrets for years and years. My goal is to reach one million youth to have them learn to say that it’s okay to not be okay and to stand up and speak out about it. I visit schools. I travel all over talking to specific age groups between 13 and 17 specifically for this. I go to different countries. I go everywhere to talk to the schools for this.
Have you started a nonprofit?
No, I haven’t. It’s on my to-do list.
I want everyone to get a copy of this book. Kathy is offering the first chapter free. The book is Dream Big! workbook and the first chapter is on fear and that’s where you’ve got to start. I did a solo cast on fear. The fears that I had were not nearly as critical as the fears that you had, but the principle is still the same. You have to take what scares you the most and you have to get right up face-to-face with it.
You have to look at it right in the eye and you have to say, “We’re going to brawl in the street. You may kick my butt, fear, but you’re not going to drag me around anymore. We’re going to get down to it.” You find out that your dragons are not nearly as big in real life as they are in your imagination. That’s been my experience in life. I want to be humble here and succumb to the fact that I have not been through anything like you’ve been through. I was scared. I couldn’t find my place. Honest to God, I had the greatest family in the world. We weren’t rich. There never was an abundance of money but we never lacked for anything. I come from a different place. I’m grateful for how things are for me and the way that life works out for me.
This show is to help people find where they belong. You want to do it and create a real estate investing? I can help you and my friends can help you. If that’s not it, you’re an entrepreneur, let’s find what it is that you can do to make some money. Get up so you can live who you’re supposed to be. I don’t care if you pick real estate or not. I want you to find where you belong and get happy and be the person that you’re supposed to be. It’s hard to do it when you’re living with a gun to your head or you’re broke. It’s hard to go out and be that person. What do you say to people that are struggling?
The struggle is real, it’s always going to be there, but you can get back up and keep fighting. There are many resources that are free nowadays, online, and available. For people that say, “I have no help,” that’s the problem right there. It’s the mindset here. If you want the help, you’re going to find it, the end of the story. There is help available.
You can’t stop at the first person that says, “They don’t have anything like this in this town.” You don’t stop there. Besides that, it doesn’t have to be in your town. At a minimum, you have to get 3 to 4 noes before you change the way you’re asking the question or change who you’re asking the question to. Remember when we used to dial 411 for information. You would dial and go, “I’m looking for Mr. so-and-so.” “We don’t have a number for him.” Hang up and dial right back, get a different person. Hang up and dial right back, “Here he is.” Did other people give a crap? Did they got a different set of yellow pages or what? I don’t know but it was amazing.
If you called back enough times, someone always found the guy’s phone number. Don’t even ask me, “Mitch, I can’t find so-and-so. What do I do?” I said, “First of all, have you called at least three different people to figure out that question?” They say, “No.” I said, “Call me after you’ve called three.” I never get the call from them because they’ve figured it out. There are resources. Even for the most obscure things in the world, it doesn’t even have to do with this. There’s someone out there. This is a giant world. I suppose this was much more difficult in your time because probably the internet wasn’t what it is nowadays.
It was different then. I’m grateful to be where I’m at now. Even on my own website, there’s a page of resources, there’s a whole list. I have people from the States emailing me and wanting to be on my page of resources. That alone is awesome.
Keep building the resources. That alone can help a lot of people. To get this free chapter on fear from the Dream Big! workbook, I want you to go to our REInvestorSummit.com/fearless.
This is my book, Dream Big!.
Is that you, that tiny speck in blue down there by the tire?Get back up. The struggle is always going to be there, but you can get back up and keep fighting. Click To Tweet
That’s me. That’s my baby that I drive. The book has ten chapters. Each chapter is dedicated to an emotion. My first emotion I’ve ever felt was fear. There’s loneliness and it goes on. These are emotions that men, women, anybody can address because we all have them. The workbook came out after this. I’m only releasing a chapter per chapter every couple of months. It goes with the book. Chapter one on fear, if there are twenty questions directly related to fear, I have spiritual exercises to stop when the pain gets too much and different ways of dealing with it. Chapter two is on loneliness. It accompanies back and forth.
This is not something you just read. You can work on this.
You don’t do it in one day.
Is there any contact with you? Do they have a coach? Is there a chance to get a coach? When they get the books, they’ve got to go through the steps on their own.
I’m always available. I was going to start a coaching thing. The thing is, I work on that truck. I work in the mines sixteen days at a time and then I’m off for sixteen. When I’m in the mine, I don’t have my phone. I don’t have my laptop. I only have an hour a day that I do. It’s hard to coach people if I’m not available. I can via email. That’s about it.
You are doing what you can do and trying to help people with this book. REInvestorSummit.com/fearless, go and get your workbook. I can talk to you probably all day long. My hat is off to you. I’m proud of you because there are a lot of people that don’t come back from this. By the way, can I share something with you that’s personal?
I quit drinking after 40 years. No smoking, no drinking.
Good for you.
I lost 45.6 pounds and went from 36-waist to 30. You should’ve seen me. If we did this interview long ago, I was a real fat ass. I don’t know if it’s relevant to the conversation. They had a bunch of beer and everything and I went and bought the beer. I don’t struggle with it at all. I can go to the bar. I have a full bar at the ranch. I have a full bar in my house. People drink and smoke around me all the time. It doesn’t trigger me. People say, “How is that?” I say, “I like looking much better and feeling way better than I want that.” I wouldn’t trade the way I look and the way I feel for a drink. I don’t want to trade that. I put that together.
Someone asked me and I didn’t have the answer to that question. I walked around and like, “Why is it easy for me to turn this down?” I appreciate how things are now. I know that quitting those two things, smoking and drinking was part of how I got to where I’m at. It was a major thing. It’s hard to diet or to make any commitments when you’re drinking. When you get inebriated, your willpower goes out the window. All these big plans and goals you have get minimized under the influence, if not, vanished. Your goals vanish. They disappear.
When people ask me how I went from homeless to driving the truck in such a short time span, it’s exactly that. The desire to change my life overruled any fear, any insecurity. I knew I was going to change and that was it. I was going to do whatever it took. Speaking of fear, fear will hold people back. Look at obstacles. Overcoming obstacles of going to a place where mostly men are working and given my trauma, it was a big thing. The biggest obstacle I had to overcome was myself. It was my mindset of learning how to flip that switch in my mind and say, “Kathy, you are either going to stop yourself from even trying and going for the job or you’re going to persevere and you’re going to kick some butt. You’re going to do it. You’re going to excel at it.” I did.
You made an impression on me too. You were telling me everything you went through and I made the comment, “Men are a big sack of bastards.” You said, “There are plenty of good ones,” which showed real healing to me. You didn’t shut them all out. You didn’t blanket that gender, which to me is a big person to say, “It’s not everybody. It’s not every man. There are good people out there.”
It’s my work that taught me that. I worked for Exxon. For every position that we have in the mine, they interview eight people to weed out the attitudes, weed out the egos, this and that. Everybody at the mine, they’re like family. I worked with the same people for the past years. They’re like me. They’re good, kind, and loving. They take care of their families. They do all this. That is what taught me the most that there are a lot of good guys out there and I love these guys. They would never hurt a fly in a million years. It helped me rebuild my foundation and my belief system that not all men are jerk and they’re not all abusive. There are a lot of good men.
Do you see a common thread in the men that are good and a common thread in the men that are bad?
This is going to sound strange, but what I see is an opportunity, women or man because it goes both ways. When you’re not well, when you’re filled with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and you’ve got all these things going on, you’re not going to pick someone who’s well. It feeds one of the other. It’s my fault for picking a man in a poor frame of mind and for tolerating the abuse. I should have got out the second he hit me or the second he started telling me my hair wasn’t right, my makeup was wrong, the food I cooked was wrong. That is when I should have left, but I didn’t. It’s not all their fault. It’s also me for allowing it to happen. Behind me is my wall of love. I do a lot of charity work. I work with women in shelters. I do all this for free. I speak at schools. I bring supplies. I go to different countries. A lot of the kids are on my wall, there are gifts. There are pictures. There are letters. I started a Hands of Hope project back in 2017. I collected 138 Hands of Hope and I distributed them down in Grenada. These kids, I had them make Hands of Hope for Canada. It was cool.
If I did not have gratitude, I wouldn’t be this kind of person. I am grateful for every breath that I take. I’m not over exaggerating that. I am grateful for the birds, for the sun. I’ve come close to death many times that I see how precious life is. Also, my years of nursing have taught me that people are not as healthy as I am. The one thing that they have at the end of life when they’re dying is regret. They regret not being kind enough or not telling their kids enough that they love them or not doing this or not doing that. I remember back when I was nursing, I’d say, “I’m not going to live my life like that. I’m going to be grateful for every second that I have, everything that I do, every trip that I take because it could be gone in a second.” It can be gone by the end of the day. I believe that having that gratitude and that love in my heart expands to everyone that comes around me and everything that I do.
Kathy, is there a man in your life?
No. It’s the first time. I’m single and I am happy.If you want help, you’re going to find it. There is always a lot of it available. Click To Tweet
Enjoy that freedom.
I’m financially stable. I own my own house. I’ve got everything. It’s mine. Saying that, I was happily married for the past years, and then something happened. We split up but I believe it’s leading to other things. I’m in Hollywood a lot. I’ve got some contacts. There are things that are coming up in the near future that takes me away from home anyway. You’ve got to stay tuned for that. I can’t divulge it but there’s something coming. Everything’s for a reason.
It’s been a pleasure talking to you. Everybody, I want you to get a copy of Dream Big! workbook. She’s going to give away the first chapter on fear. It’s a chance for you to pinpoint or work through your fears.
Read the book first so you understand the workbook.
I enjoyed talking with you. This episode is brought to you by TaxFreeFuture.com. If you don’t have a tax-deferred or a tax-free retirement plan in which to grow your finances or to grow your retirement or to become financially independent, then you have no idea of the size of the tool you’re missing in your tool belt. Please go to TaxFreeFuture.com. Watch 37 little video vignettes. You will not believe what your financial advisors are not telling you. We’re going to tell you what they’re not telling you. We’re going to tell you why they’re not telling you and then you do with it what you want to. You will be amazed. I would like to thank everybody for coming out to get you some Kathy Tuccaro, get you a copy of Dream Big! workbook, get you that chapter on fear and get your butt moving in the right direction.
Bye, Kathy. Thanks so much.
Thank you for having me.
About Kathy Tuccaro
Overcoming a lifetime of trauma and abuse which led to dreams of success, this woman was a nurse, became drunk & homeless at the age of 42. One decision standing beside Toothless Joe changed her life.