"I learned to keep secrets at a young age," Gretz said. "We didn't talk about any of the fights in our house. It was easy for me to lie to people, easy to lie to myself. I learned how to wear a really rigid mask. I dated nice boys, got good grades, but had no direction. I just knew I wanted to get out."
Her way out was a boy she met in high school who joined the Army. They married and she went wherever he was stationed. And while she says he was a good man and a great father, the marriage was doomed, she said, because she had so many unresolved issues from her childhood, issues that led her on the day of his initial deployment to get drunk.
"I felt so absolutely empty. I had zero faith in myself that I could raise this baby by myself. I was petrified. Absolutely petrified. And he didn't know. I was very good at hiding it."
They had a daughter together and tried to make it work. They even hoped a move to an Army base in Alaska would offer just enough change of scenery to turn things around. But it didn't, and Gretz's alcohol use and erratic behavior continued.
By the time they divorced, they'd already had a child, and she'd already met the man who would become her second husband. She moved back home with her mother to Virginia, and corresponded with her new love interest with letters. Eventually, he persuaded her to move to Minnesota, where his family owned farm land near Madelia.
And for the first time, she saw how a normal family operates.
"It was the first place I saw people fight and then make up," she said. "I learned that sometimes family doesn't like you, but they always love you."