Myakka City is a small town of 6,000 in Manatee County, Florida. According to Stephanie McLaughlin, there is not much there, except for the elementary school. The closest grocery store is 35 minutes away. So when her mother, Vicki Albritton, lost her license because of a DUI, she was housebound.

After a year of instability and hardship, Albritton hit rock bottom. But “nevertheless, she persisted,” and now McLaughlin and her uncle, Albritton’s brother, are hoping to give her mother a Christmas gift that would help her start anew.

Vicki Albritton/Facebook

It all started when Albritton, a postal carrier for the U.S. Post Office, was allegedly getting sexually harassed by her boss. To cope with the abuse, Albritton turned to alcohol, which led to her getting a DUI.

Albritton told Dearly:

“The harassment I endured was sick… [asking] me to call him daddy and be submissive to him. It really made my life miserable … I was so frustrated and sick of it, I just decided to have a drink — tequila! Which led to my DUI … I went through some bad times. Alcohol was my pain reliever for a long time.”

Because of her DUI, she lost her driver’s license, which is crucial when you’re a mail carrier.

During this time, Albritton was in a relationship with a man who seemed charming and romantic. But later, he emotionally and physically abused her— even beating her dog to death. He eventually left her, emptying her bank account beforehand. At this point Albritton was jobless, struggling with an alcohol addiction, and owing two months’ rent.

Vicki Albritton/Facebook

Albritton realized that she needed to change. So she worked hard to stay sober and started her wood-crafting business, Daisywood.

McLaughlin told Dearly it was difficult to watch her mom suffer.

She said:

“Watching her go through this has been an emotional roller coaster. There isn’t an emotion I haven’t felt. There has been days she calls me, crying in hatred of how her life has fallen apart. No one wants to see their mom in sorrow; it breaks my heart.”

Albritton explained that staying positive helped her cope:

“I was angry. It seemed like everything was unfair because I was right, in my relationship, at work. But I learned the only person whom I was hurting was myself. I choose to be happy and to look at only the good, but deal with the bad if I must.

I’m not superwoman or special. I was strong and endured because I had no choice … I thought I was going to lose my mind, but instead I humbled myself and I realized sometimes bad things happen to good people … I still have my daughter and my grandson, and that in itself is worth fighting for!”

McLaughlin described her mom as a “giver,” and someone who would never ask anyone for anything.

Stephanie McLaughlin

She told Dearly:

“I have a four-year-old son and I work 45 hours a week. She’ll show up at my house when I’m at work and clean it for me. She’ll leave a note for me [saying,] ‘I stopped by, dinner is in the crockpot.’ And that’s all the time, that’s how she is. She’d do that for anybody. Even right now, when my mom is truly, truly struggling.”

Albritton’s brother, who is a pastor, and McLaughlin had seen how hard their mother tried to get back to herself, and they felt that they needed to do something to help her get back on track. So they started collecting money for her so that she could pay the court fines she owed in order to get her driver’s license.

McLaughlin said:

“She gave me life and that’s what I want to try and give her now — a life. I want nothing more than to see her succeed, to be truly happy.”

But not everyone wants to help out.

McLaughlin said:

“Some of our family has been negative. Just an aspect of ‘she chose to drink, she chose that life — why should we fix it for her?’”

McLaughlin told Dearly that she and her brother didn’t tell her mother about collecting money, because she would never want to take from others. However, her mother found out.

Vicki Albritton/Facebook

Albritton described how she felt when she found out:

“I cried. I still cry, hopeful that I can get back my life. I do feel a bit like there are more serious problems for other people than myself that could use the help, but my little brother wanted to help me.”

Albritton told Dearly she wanted to send a message to women who might be dealing with sexual harassment at work.

She said:

“Write everything down — dates, times, keep track and talk to someone; your husband, child, so that they also know what is taking place … I didn’t write things down because it’s stressful. I just wanted to ignore it, but I was wrong because he had written things down, fabricated. But still the same, he had a book on me. I just had my word.”

McLaughlin is hoping that collecting the money will lead to a fresh start for her mom.

Vicki Albritton/Facebook

She said:

“We’re hoping we can make this a Christmas for her to start over. For someone who took such a wrong path, she’s trying to make it right … I can’t wait to see her face when it happens.”

Albritton has been through a lot, but has overcome a lot just by having an optimistic outlook. She told Dearly:

“I count my blessings, life is short! There’s so much beauty in the world — just look around. I notice even the smallest flower growing in the grass. Some call it a weed, [but] I see it’s beauty, and that’s how I want to live.”

Albritton’s family is fundraising for Albritton on the GoFundMe page they set up for her.

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