Messer is a mother to three daughters, 10-year-old twins Aliannah and Aleeah with ex Corey Simms, and 7-year-old Adalynn with ex Jeremy Calvert.
The 28-year-old shares in her book how she was sexually abused by a babysitter when she was just 5 years old, along with her struggles prior to as well as after her daughter Ali’s diagnosis of a rare form of muscular dystrophy, along with depression and being addicted to pain pills led her to suicidal thoughts.
“At the end of the day, if I was going to own my story and own my truth, I was going to own it all,” she shared in an exclusive interview with PEOPLE. “That was the whole purpose behind the writing process, the passion behind my book, all the drive that I had behind it. [I wanted to] open up and allow others to see all the imperfections because it’s okay. We’re perfectly imperfect and we get to embrace every imperfection that comes our way, all the adversity, no matter what.”
In Hope, Grace & Faith, Messer discusses her “come to god” moments during a harsh reality.
Messer opens up about coming addicted to pills she’d been prescribed to manage back pain after the birth of her daughter Adalynn in 2013. Messer reveals in her book how her guilt over Ali’s struggles as well as the devastation over the end of her marriage to Calvert (they divorced in 2015) caused her to take a painkiller one day before jumping into her car. She then found herself speeding down a hill in West Virginia.
Messer writes in her book how she could “barely see the road through the tears” and checked the backseat to make sure her girls weren’t with her as her car got up to 110 mph.
“There’s a steep cliff off the side of the road just up ahead. It would be so easy to drive my car over the edge,” Messer writes. “Then it would all be over. No more worries. No more failure. No more pain… Everyone would be better off.”
Thankfully, Messer slowed down and decided to pull over.
“A lifetime of tears comes pouring out of the deepest part of my soul. I cry so hard I wonder if I’ll ever be able to stop,” she writes. “Then a thought cuts through the deafening static in my brain: My daughters need me.”
“It was so scary because I just didn’t feel worthy enough. I didn’t feel that I was good enough to be their mom,” Messer shares. “It was definitely a turning point for me when I realized that I was legit trying to take my own life. The car was going so fast and I was watching it and I was so angry. That was it for me. That’s when I realized like, ‘All right, Leah, you’ve got to do something.'”
She is now, sober.
After Messer got home after the driving incident, she decided to listen to a message waiting for her from Teen Mom 2‘s producer, Larry Musnik. According to the book, he had seen alarming footage of her in the car and called to check on her. Musnik had planted the seed by encouraging her to go to rehab but this time, Messer decided to listen, she writes.
“I went to a facility in Arizona, it was here in Tucson. Best place that I’ve ever went to in my life,” Messer shares with PEOPLE. “For me it felt like, as silly as it sounds, I didn’t go to college, so it felt like college for me. … It was a schedule, routine, stability, structure. It was just so empowering for me going there.”
She adds: “There are different tracks that you can go to in a facility. For me, it was like laying that foundation for me to be the person that I am today.”
Messer then alleges that when she was just 5 or 6 years old, her teen babysitter touched her inappropriately. The abuse went on for six months and Messer never told a soul.
“My mom didn’t understand why I screamed every time I went to the babysitter’s house. It was because I was being sexually abused there, and my mom, she didn’t have much support,” Messer reveals to PEOPLE. “Reliving those times was really hard, but it was also therapeutic for me… I could go back and really truly allow myself to heal from the child abuse that I went through.”
In addition, Messer also writes about how she clashes with her parents and also how now, she is on good terms with her mother, Dawn.
“My mom had started reading the book. It was really hard for her to read the book, but the relationship with my mom now is like, I finally have a mom that loves me. I finally feel like I have a mom that my kids can look up to for a grandma. It’s changed my entire family,” Messer says. “The other day my mom brought a gift, which I’m not used to being given, and I realized it’s okay to love yourself and accept gifts and accept acknowledgment. That has changed my entire dynamic. For that, I’ll forever be grateful. I would do it all over again to have the family that I finally have now.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.