KOAT is taking a look at childhood trauma and how it impacts New Mexicans as adults. There’s a tool used to gauge how bad a person’s trauma is and how likely they are to abuse alcohol or drugs, or suffer from depression.

As a young girl, Linda Griego Chavez said she learned how to disappear. She said it was her way of surviving.

“My father was schizophrenic and my mother was bipolar,” she said.

Her mother would fly into rages. She said she would beat and sexually abuse her.

“I was 6 when I took my first drink,” Griego Chavez said.

She said while she was coping, the alcohol abuse got worse; later, she did drugs.

She didn’t reach a turning point until she was almost 30 years old.

“When I hit bottom, I was in the domestic violence shelter with my children and that’s when my life really began,” Griego Chavez said.

She’s worked for decades to recover from her “ACES,” or adverse childhood experiences.

Dr. Andrew Hsi is the director of the Institute for Resilience Health and Justice for the UNM Health Sciences Center

He says an ACE can be when someone experienced some of the following before they turned 18: physical, emotional or sexual abuse, if they lived with someone with an addiction or had someone in their household go to prison.

“Sixty percent of New Mexicans have had at least one adverse childhood experience,” Hsi said.

Those who have had one of these adverse childhood experiences is at a greater risk to abuse alcohol and drugs and suffer from depression.

Someone who has experienced four or more ACEs has a risk of 17 times greater.

“The thing they need to understand is that they did not cause it, they were not the reason why that happened,” Hsi said.

Griego Chavez wants people to know it’s OK to ask for help. “There is always hope,” she said.

Dr. His said everyone should be talking about ACEs because dealing with childhood trauma is an urgent matter, especially if someone has experienced trauma and has children of their own.

Searchlight New Mexico created an online tool to determine your ACE score. Click here to view it.

KOAT is featuring these stories in conjunction with The Searchlight Project. Check out its website for more stories like these.

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