Texas Rose of Tralee contestant Cyndi Crowell has revealed her struggles growing up in an alcoholic and abusive household.
Speaking to the Irish Mirror, the 26 year old Licensed Master Social Worker, said she chose her career to help those with addictions and mental health issues.
“Growing up my dad was an alcoholic and he was very physically abusive.
“My dad’s drinking started when I was small.
“I remember being a small toddler and knowing there were problems with my dad, not feeling comfortable and not feeling safe around him.
“I grew up with my dad having a drinking problem all through elementary school, middle school and high school.
“There was physical, verbal and emotional abuse against me, my mum and my sister.
“It’s hard to say which times were the worst because it was all pretty bad for the most part.
“I do remember Saturday was usually the worst day of the week because it was at the weekend and my dad didn’t have to go to work the next day.
“He would start drinking very early and he wouldn’t stop until very late and that’s when a lot of really bad things happened.”
Crowell said the emotional and physical abuse had devastating effects on her, her sister and her mother Gayle.
“Growing up I was absolutely terrified of my father.
“I was very angry at him and when I was younger I couldn’t understand why he was so mean and why he physically had to harm my mum, my sister and I, or why he called us such bad names.
“I was angry, I was afraid. He wasn’t someone I wanted to be.”
Crowell said her mother tried to help her husband overcome his drinking problem.
“My mother’s marriage was very important to her and divorce was not something she really wanted to do.
“She took her marriage vows very seriously and she saw my dad’s drinking as a problem and tried to be a support system for him to overcome it.
“She was loyal to her husband, she loved him and they had a history together – when they got married he didn’t have a drinking problem.
“But he was in denial about having a problem for so long that at some point you have to realize your well-being is important too.”
When Cyndi was 17, her mother decided to leave with her daughters.
“Things with my dad started to get even more dangerous, they weren’t getting any better and she had enough.
“My mum knew she had to get us out – we started really living then.
“She started searching for an apartment and one day we left.
“She had a good support system with her parents and friends and they helped move our belongings out of the house and into a new apartment.”
Her father entered treatment after the separation but has since relapsed.
“I have always been very supportive of my dad but over the years he has relapsed and that made him hard to trust.
“It’s very hard to trust him when he continues to relapse and the same behavior would present themselves, it would bring back a lot of bad memories and it deterred me from wanting to have a relationship with him.”
Crowell decided to become a social worker so she could help other families trying to cope in similar situations.
“I was motivated to be the complete opposite of my father. My mum was a great strength and support for me, as was my grandmother.
“I chose social work because I knew domestic violence and alcohol was a problem and I had experienced it first-hand.
“I felt I would be able to empathize with others, especially because I worked very hard to get where I am today, being resilient and being able to talk about what happened.”
She says she entered the Rose of Tralee competition to give hope to others.
When I found out about the Rose Of Tralee and what it stood for – appreciating your culture and being an excellent, modern, confident woman – those are values that have been instilled in me from my mum and my grandmother.
“I like what the competition encompasses and it sounded like a lot of fun.
“I felt it would be a great way to reach others on a large scale.
“It’s important I get it out there so others can see they can get themselves out of it, take control and live a happy life.”
Crowell said: “I was fortunate to have a very strong mother who provided for my sister and I.
“And she motivated us, kept us involved in extracurricular activities because she knew it was important for us to be involved in other things that kept us away from my father.”
Crowell is headed to Tralee next week and hopes to be role model to other children.
“My advice would be stay motivated in yourself, be patient and have faith things will get better as you can reach your goals.
“It’s possible, you might have to work harder at it but it helps to make the experience all the better.
“Believe in yourself and don’t let it be an option to fail.”