Story & Photo by LISA ANDERSON
“Once you’re so low and doing bad things, you come to realize you’re living in a bubble. The world is going on around you and you don’t know how to get back to [it] and become a better person and grow.”
Tiffany Ritter had a good and safe family environment for her childhood. She was also active, played sports, and was in a healthy relationship for nine years. After attending University of Florida for a business degree, she returned to Fort Myers and worked for her father’s company.
Her previous relationship had ended, but Tiffany again found love, got married, and had two beautiful girls. However, it wasn’t as picturesque as she had hoped it would be. “It became a very emotional and physical abusive type of relationship,” she states. Her hair, clothes, and makeup are perfect—everything you would expect from a hairstylist—but she is stoic as she recalls the details of her past.
LOSING IT ALL
Her husband was into drugs, and though she was never forced to take them, they were always present. “Once you are beat down to a point where you feel lower than dirt, stuff like that kind of numbs the pain.”
Tiffany’s parents became aware of the abusive situation and reached out to the Department of Children and Families (DCF). When her children were taken away, her world stopped. “It’s heartbreaking to the point where you feel like you have nothing. There comes a point in your life that, as a person, you’re so broken that you can’t care for anybody else. Like we say in the program, you have to care for yourself, you have to be okay with yourself before you can be a mother. That was a hard thing for me to grasp. My parents were allowing me time to find myself before I [could] be a mother again.”
No one has communication with Tiffany’s ex-husband, including the girls, who are now 14 and eight and live with their grandparents. She feels not having a father in their life is hard, but as she says, “My dad has now become their father-figure.”
PURSUING HER PASSION
Even though Tiffany’s degree is in business, she has always had a passion for doing hair. “Even in high school I was always doing people’s hair for prom.”
After her divorce, Tiffany headed to the AVEDA Institute in Ft. Lauderdale. She was able to find work immediately after school within the area, but she longed to be near her girls. So, she moved to Williston and began working at a salon in Ocala. “When I’m going to work, it doesn’t feel like work. When you find something like that in your life, you don’t let go of it.”
COMPASSION FUELS GOALS
Two years ago, she applied for a position at Austin James Hair Studio, owned by Kimberli Fanucci. Tiffany was in a 12-step program, and she wanted to let Kimberli know of her situation. “She was very open and very accepting. She was awesome,” she recalls.
She recognizes the compassion from someone like Kimberli because Tiffany knows her past would not be accepted in all professions.
She is still heavily involved in a women’s group within the program. “It’s become a good place and a safe place for women. [There are] a lot of people with different backgrounds with how they got to where they were.”
Participants are required to do a lot of work on themselves as part of the program, and realizing they are the problem is a big step. Tiffany also feels that listening to other women’s stories and being able to relate to what they say creates a positive change. “As long as you’re willing to put the work in, you will find freedom.”
She has put in the work and continues to do so. Her eyes are now bright with passion, and you can see she has escaped the bubble to rejoin the world. Tiffany looks forward to continued growth in her profession, but most of all, she looks forward to being with her girls again and having a family.