ID : 11010
Name: Nomi Slack
Location: Oklahoma City, USA
Domain: Project and Sales Management, Data Analysis, Customer Experience and Engagement
Job Profile: Senior Sales Executive at Highline, Account Executive at Nextiva, Senior Account Manager – Dell Technologies
A wonderful poet, John Mark Green, had once written about resilience, ‘You are not the darkness you endured. You are the light that refused to surrender.’
This unique story of survival shines a light on the human spirit of flourishing through all obstacles and finding the light that exists within us. This is a voyage of discovering and forgiving the past, finding a voice and identity in the present and dreaming of a future that would one day see people freed from their shackles of pain and suffering.
So, here’s introducing the amazing Nomi Slack, a passionate equality campaigner and an exceptional senior executive from Oklahoma, whose extraordinary story personifies the resilience of the human soul. She has been a survivor through all odds who has paved an incredible path for others surviving through addiction and abuse and, thereby, chartering a course for others through her incredible journey. She represents the new faces of the evolving tech industry that is bringing diversity and equality to the workplace.
A difficult era
Nomi spends her early life in Southern California and recalls growing up in a highly religious family.
‘My earliest memories revolve around the church and my dad looking up at the sky and saying that the Lord will return tonight. As a little kid, I thought everything I knew was over, and I would be going to this place I don’t understand.’, she reveals.
Years later, she would realize through therapy and counseling that she was not just growing up in a religious home but in a cult.
‘My dad traveled most of the time. So, my mom, my sister, and I were mostly alone when I was growing up. It was scary because serial killers like Richard Ramirez were in the neighborhood, and my dad was away on business.’, she discloses.
She constantly felt like she did not fit into the world she grew up in and how terrifying it was for her as a child to understand what she observed around her.
‘Whenever we would go into the church, and I would watch people get into the things they would do … like the worshipping … and I never really understood it. I felt out of place. There’s a lot of my life that I have just accepted. As I grew up, I realized I had a lot of holes in my memory.’, she admits.
If her early life until she turns sixteen was a TV show, she confesses how it would be only a thirty-minute show as she has very few memories associated with that part of her life.
She recalls, ‘I remember a few things, such as asking my parents how somebody becomes gay, and they gave me a ridiculous, impossible, and anti-scientific answer. So, anybody that isn’t one of us, especially gay people or the democrats or whoever they were … you’ve got to stay away from them. They will go to hell and get you there with them. So, I grew up constantly afraid of anybody who wasn’t like us or our family or church.’
The threat of rapture or the second coming was a constant theme of her childhood. She recollects how she used to wake up when her parents were away at an empty house and had severe panic attacks.
‘I felt like I lived in a trapped door and all the terrifying things they would tell me about famines and pestilences. My mom would tell people how I had night terrors for the first eight years of my life, but nobody ever asked why. I only have a few memories of going to the doctor or the dentist.,’ she recollects painfully.
As the years progressed, she realized the things that weren’t going right in her church organization. She remembers going to Russia to preach with her church members and being bullied by the other kids. One of the counselors intervened in the situation, and this incident impacted her chance of heading to Brazil the following year.
‘I didn’t understand how all the other kids were going but not me when I had done everything, they asked me to. It destroyed me after they told me I didn’t fit in and wasn’t good enough.’, she remembers.
It was during this time that realization dawned upon her, and she revealed how she apologized to her school friend, Jeff, for judging him for his sexuality, and she made plans with her best friend to get out of there as soon as they could.
‘I graduated high school and started college at seventeen. My best friend and I packed all our stuff at the end of school in spring, drove up to college, and drove back in time for our graduation and then went right back.’, she narrates.
Turning a new page
That was the start of her college life at the University of Texas at Austin, and she recalls how that was an even more frightening period of her life. She got into a cycle of abusing drugs and alcohol after a fraternity party.
‘This is a story that everybody tells. I went to a fraternity party, and somebody gave me a drink. I felt instantly better, and the first time I drank, I got blackout drunk, lost my purse, and had to get let into my dorm. So that’s how it all started.’, she reveals.
She would try and talk to her parents about it, but they would relate it to how she had to set her life right through God, and she admits how they could never tell her that she was doing wrong or point out how she needed to sober up.
She recalls the painful phase of her life, ‘I was experimenting with drugs and sex and anything I could do not to feel anything. It felt better when I was blocked out. I couldn’t remember the things like how I was molested as a child or the trauma of my childhood.’
The cycle of abuse would go on for a long time. Nothing had prepared her for the future. She reveals how she tried everything that didn’t involve a needle, and her life had spiralled out of control.
‘I didn’t think I would live that long. I was never told I was smart, but I was in the top ten percent of my class and got a scholarship to UT. Then I ended up getting scholastic probation. My parents pulled me out after that because they didn’t want to pay for my school.’, she divulges.
That period would be a life-altering phase as she ended up as a waitress in the city of Austin at a bar, and she continued to drink every night, but one night she went home sober at three o’clock in the morning.
‘I got hit head-on by a drunk driver, and it was a miracle that I was not drunk that night. If not, I would probably die or go to jail. For some reason, I lived. My car was on fire, and suddenly some men came and put out the fire. This is three o’clock on the side of the riverside drive in Austin, Texas. There’s nobody around, and these men were there.’, she remembers the incident.
Those kind strangers had called the fire department, and she later realized that she had several injuries, including a broken left arm, a collarbone, and a shattered right leg. She would be on a walker for a year, and that’s when she would move back in with her family and land in Oklahoma.
‘I landed in Oklahoma, where my family was living. That’s where I live now. But my addiction got worse at the time as I was introduced to opiate painkillers. There have been times when I have been drugged and raped—many, many things. But I have forgiven myself for a lot of those things.’, she recounts her troubled past.
That wasn’t the only near-death incident in her life; she had one in third grade. She fell off a diving board at a day camp organized by her church, hit her head, and blacked out.
‘I was scared to jump out of the board and turned to walk back; that’s when I fell off and hit my head on the side of the pool. I should have been paralyzed. But I woke up with only a bloody nose. And that is one of the instances I remember when I was taken to a nurse’s office to reset my nose.’, she remembers.
These incidents would lead her to settle in Oklahoma, where she has been figuring out her life and admits how she had rough patches with her family during this period. She reveals how she had an accidental overdose at a party that would lead her to reassess her life.
‘After this party, I got an Uber and went home. I woke up to throw up, and it was already all over me. I had an accidental drug and alcohol overdose. When I sought medical attention, I wasn’t honest with anybody, but that was the last time I would ever drink or do drugs. So, they treated me for migraine, gave me fluids, and sent me home. I ended up detoxing at my house alone for ten days. I was so sick. And that was the beginning of my life really happening.’, she recollects.
This episode would be the last time she would touch drinks or do drugs. Sobering up made her realize she hadn’t been living and was covering up all the traumas she had to endure.
‘Once I stopped drinking, I realized how I had been covering up trauma over and over again. I just had to feel everything that had happened to me. So, I got a sponsor and did a lot of self-help on myself. I have been going to therapy and taking mental health medication, and things definitely got better for me.’ she reveals a significant moment in her life.
Forgiving the past
As her life took a turn for the better, the pandemic amplified the mental health issues she had been holding on to for so long and took a toll on her recovery.
‘When the pandemic hit, it started PTSD in me that I didn’t even know I had. I did have anxiety and depression but PTSD … seeing the masks and the rules of being six feet apart and standing in lines to get food and shots took me right back to my childhood. I had forgotten the trauma, but my body remembered. So, I tried to stick around people a lot and went to a doctor and got the right medicines and therapy.’ she recalls her struggles during the pandemic.
One of the traumatic memories that would come back to haunt her after therapy was how she was molested when she was five years old. As she tried to fill back the holes in her memory, she found Coleen, her mom’s old friend, over Facebook and discovered more about the past. After realizing it was a cult, Coleen and her husband left the church organization and moved far away.
She reveals, ‘Coleen and David went off after realizing it was a cult, but my parents did not and dug deeper into it. So, in December of 2021, she called me when I was dealing with PTSD and was my sickest. She first said that she was sorry for not reporting the man who molested me when my parents refused to. I dropped the phone and laid on the floor crying for a long time.’
Coleen confessed how the man had been a church member, and her parents refused to report it to the police because they didn’t want to create an uproar. And that was the validation that she needed to heal from all the pain and trauma inflicted on her by her family.
‘There has been a lot of healing since I’ve learned all that. For forty years, my family lied to me. I told my parents how they were abusers and I would never be around them again. Now I have made my own family. Life can be really sad and beautiful, too.,’ she agrees.
Since then, Nomi has found her own family through her adopted daughter Alicia and her granddaughter Marie.
‘I love taking Alicia and her daughter Marie to do things I never did. I have this family now, and it heals me. I take so much joy in doing things with them. As my therapist says, it’ll be like a double-edged sword because it boggles my mind why my family didn’t want to do it with me.’, she discloses.
She found her family through a 12-step alcoholics anonymous program; she had taken to get sober. She met and sponsored a girl named Anna Marie when she was only seven months clean, and they became really good friends.
‘I met her at the step program, and we would always hang out together. She would tell me how she was worried about her sister Alicia and how worse off she was. I used to tell her how she had to focus on herself first and that she couldn’t save everybody before saving herself first. Once, we went to a meeting, and she told everyone how her mom died from drug and alcohol abuse. And how I survived so, she could meet me. Everyone cried, and I drove her home.’, she poignantly remembers.
And that would be the last time she would see Anna Marie again as that morning; she got a call from Stacey Curtis, Anna’s sober house manager. Her friend had relapsed, and the autopsy report found methamphetamines in her system, which she used to treat her sleep paralysis.
‘I dropped her to enter the sober house, and as she walked in, I called her back to hug me and told her I loved her.’ She recalls her final farewell to Anna Marie.
Her family contacted her, and she discovered how the lovely Anna Marie wrote songs, played the guitar, and created original music. Her father had requested Nomi to gather her books and papers and give them to Alicia. Meeting Alicia at her hotel would make her relive her days of addiction.
She recalls the first meeting with the then-troubled Alicia, ‘I remember seeing drugs in the room, and she was a size zero. She was basically somebody sick, living in a hotel and selling and doing drugs. It was like returning to active addiction, and I had to leave. I gave her sister’s belongings, greeted her, and left quickly.’
That incident destroyed her to see another person struggle with addiction, and she spent months feeling sad about the whole situation. Then things changed when she attended a AAA meeting in Oklahoma where thirty clubs were coming together for a huge conference.
‘It was a giant meeting of around thirty clubs, and this pregnant girl walks up to me. And she called me Nomi and introduced herself as Alicia, Anne Marie’s sister. She was sober and looked so healthy… and I saw how Anna Marie’s dream came true. I had to call my sponsor and cry for an hour.’, she fondly remembers.
The pandemic may have made her lose some job opportunities, but she reveals how she gained a family with Alicia. And that’s how she adopted her and got the family she had always longed to have. This path of self-discovery also led her to identify as queer and non-binary. And she ponders how she feels at ease with who she is now.
‘I told her I wanted to be an official grandma to her children. And she was absolutely delighted. At that time, I had just resigned from my job and was searching for one. I was motivated to find a good job to support myself and help Alicia and her two kids. And I was able to do that. I also came out as queer and non-binary. Now I know that’s right, and that’s what feels natural to me. ‘, she reveals.
Having a family has been an extraordinary experience for her. She remembers how amazing it was to see her grandson take his first steps and how she could support them.
‘I should have died in those three incidents, but here I am today… I found a family in Alicia and her children. It is indeed a miracle.,’ she accepts as her voice trails off.
A new life
In one of her job interviews, she remembers how her interviewer touched upon her personal journey, and she revealed how she survived abuse and trauma throughout her life.
‘I remember being interviewed by the VP of partnerships in Highline. He asked me what he wanted to know about me as a person. And usually, that’s a trick question for most companies to assess how much money you can bring into the company. He assured me that wasn’t the case and told me how he was on the board for emotional intelligence in the workplace. And I shared my story of surviving through all odds.’, she recalls.
She didn’t really understand how she got good at sales. The interview and assessing her life journey made her realize how the skill had come through years of surviving all challenges.
‘I realize how it was linked to the way I treat people and how I want to be treated. That self-preservation kicks in. So, you become a good salesperson as you can talk to people and understand the kind of service they need. That trauma makes me a good friend, as I won’t ever want people to feel the way I did. And that extends to my customers. It has been ingrained in me.,’ she divulges.
Times have been looking brighter for her in her 40s as she reveals how she has been dating, finding love, and doubling her paycheck in her work with her years of experience.
‘I doubled my salary too. For so long, I felt like I was underpaid but did nothing, and that acceptance comes as a part of being a child abuse survivor. After working for eight years at Dell and nearly twenty years in technical sales and a couple of awards, I finally asked for that raise and level up.’ she describes her finally seeking a balance in her professional life.
Some people walk into your life and change you forever. And Nomi agrees on how many people have come into her life to teach her lessons she is hugely grateful for.
‘People like Jeff, my old high school friend, or Anna Marie … I still feel like she is around us. You meet people, and they change you. If you look down at the micro-level, you can still find good people.,’ she accepts.
She is now a mentor for women looking to transition into their careers, and she feels incredibly grateful for having this opportunity. Just like how she had found a mentor in Nishita Roy-Pope, who asked her to look for roles in technological sales, which led to her landing a plump raise at her job. Then she met Liz O’Malley, who asked her to interview for their fintech company, Highline, after seeing her LinkedIn post on her survivor journey.
‘Nishita gave me one piece of advice to look for technological sales, and she was so selfless. So, I set goals like reading twelve books or mentoring at least one person. Then after Liz O’Malley saw my post on LinkedIn about my journey and struggles, they offered me a role at Highline. The company seeks to help people who do not have a credit score like me, with all my previous medical bills and living paycheck to paycheck. Life had indeed come a full circle.’, she divulges.
She remembers her first job at AOL after her car accident, where she met people who lived authentically as themselves. Her first job in a tech company introduced her to a new world, and she knew she wanted to be a part of it.
‘My first customer was a guy named Randy, and I convinced him to keep his AOL subscription. It was fun. Many interesting people were working there, like super goth people or people dressed as if they were going to comic con. I was just fascinated. Everything that technology does, the world does it next. People were just accepting of each other no matter who or what they were. I felt so at home. And now I know why.,’ she recalls.
The tech world welcomed her with open arms; she had never felt like she belonged anywhere else. After years of trauma and hardships, Nomi finally found herself a home, and she has become a passionate mentor and guide for people seeking sobriety and change in their lives.
She vocalizes, ‘I want people to know that if I can heal, they can too. The toughest part of your life is right before the most beautiful part of your life. Today is the day that you were worried about yesterday. Just make it through today, and you will be completely fine.’
On people seeking advice to get through, she says, ‘You have gone through so much. Just look into yourself, and everything you need is right inside you. You are your own protector. You have to learn to love yourself and tell yourself that you will make it, and you will.’
Finally finding her happiness, she reveals how she feels her life started after her forty-sixth birthday with her loved ones and people she cherishes for life.
She advises young techies on forging their path, ‘Let who you are shine through. And if I could go back in time and tell myself anything, I would say to hang on. I am coming for you. We cannot take any pain or trauma back, but just to know there will be a place where you will feel loved. ‘
She now wants to spend the remaining of her years on a beach somewhere surrounded by people she loves and her grandchildren. She quotes a few lines from one of her favorite songs.
‘Oh, I wanna dance in the open breeze
Feel the wind in my hair, hear the ocean sing.
I got good things to feel in my life.’
-Lyrics from ‘Reaper,’ Sia
Nomi has shown us how humans can survive and thrive through all odds no matter how tough the road gets, shining a path for other survivors to see how there is always a silver lining somewhere down the lane.
This story is dedicated to survivors and people looking for that light in their lives to get them through the struggles and fight harder to release themselves from the past. And to all the precious Anna Marie’s we have lost in our lives.
For the brightest stars shine on the darkest nights.
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