“I grew up in Kentucky. My parents fought a lot and my mom cheated on my dad. There was so much unhappiness in my house and I was always the compassionate, logical one. The emotional caretaker and the one to calm my mother down. Those were the easy times. I was eight when my parents split up and everything changed. My mom took her freedom too far and tried to go out and live her life. We were so poor that my Nana and Grandaddy bought us clothes, books and food. They saved us from being homeless many times and I wouldn’t be here today without them. My mom had mental health issues. I tried to learn about psychology and understand the things I was feeling and the people around me.
I needed a new start where no one knew me or my past
We moved to Leitchfield, which was not a good town for us. My mom had to work all of the time to support us and sometimes the people she left me with weren’t good people. I was exposed to sexual abuse. At nine years old, I watched someone inject heroin and overdose on the bed in front of me. We jumped from crack house to crack house, living in what my mom could afford. There were the boyfriends who just used her. I knew it wasn’t right because she taught me to listen to what she said, not what she did. That shaped me into the person I am now. She told me people can take your possessions, but they can’t take your knowledge and pride. I have lost so much, but I keep holding on to my knowledge and pride and that gets me through. I had to learn the lessons on my own.
We moved to Marshall County, Kentucky, where my family is from. We found out my mom had chronic pancreatitis and she went into the hospital for 31 days. After school, I would go to the hospital and get in the bed with her. We were always a team. After my mother got out, she started selling drugs and bad people came to our house, angry with her. The wolves were knocking at the door and I was a baby cub in the lion’s den. My older brother taught me how to fist fight because he knew the environment I was in. I was arrested twice for stealing food from Dollar General because we had nothing to eat. We didn’t have a car so I had to walk there.
My mom was having issues with her teeth. I took her to the dentist and knew she wasn’t right when she came out of the procedure. The last thing she told me was ‘Drive with both hands on the wheel. People are crazy in Bowling Green.’ I thought she was sleeping hard under anesthesia. We got to the apartment and noticed how white her lips and fingernails were. She was dead. I tried to do CPR and get neighbors to come out and help. The bus for the apartment complex pulled up with all of the kids and they saw mama on the ground. I had to call my Nana and tell her that her only daughter was gone. My mom did all she could to take care of me, but she didn’t have many good options.
At one point I was homeless and sleeping in a field during college. There were some mornings I would wake up to everything frozen over. My mom had taught me to work hard, persevere and push through it. I got back into classes and worked more shifts. I saved up enough money to get a little apartment off of campus. When I realized I was on my own and had my freedom, I made some bad decisions and made some friends who were toxic to me. They were self-enlightened druggies who pulled me into acid and other drugs with them. Psychedelics helped me see myself from a third person point of view and saw things I didn’t like about myself. I could be more honest and authentic. It also escalated into doing cocaine. I got scared of turning into the empty shell my mom became.
I called a good friend and admitted I was addicted to cocaine and wanted it to stop. I had to leave and get away. He drove from Nashville and picked me up and take me back to his house. Through the shakes and throwing up and fighting and annoyance, he was there taking care of me. He changed my life in those three days. I got clean on August 28, 2016, and moved to Fairhope Oct. 23. I needed a new start and had to get away from all of the memories and the wrong people. No one here knew me or my story. It was freedom and invigorating to not know anyone. The first day of job hunting, I got a job at Pinzone’s.
People wanted to get to know me, not the things I had done. Some of them were concerned about the piercings and hair color, but respected me as human being. Fairhope has done so much good in my life. I won’t stay here forever, but it is exactly what I need at this point. I may go to the water and cry my eyes out, and a loving, well-meaning person comes up and just gives me a hug. It is hard to be mad at anything when you meet people like that. Fairhope has been my safe haven.
I am working how to be financially responsible. I have a savings account. I work at Section Street and Ox Kitchen I was hired by both places on one day. My mom loved working in restaurants and serving people. I do too. If I am ever half the server she was, I will be doing damn good. She was a remarkable woman who made tough decisions. She was almost ready to choose a different life. I finished my degree in psychology. My mom would have been proud of that. I want to go to cosmetology school and give haircuts and shaves to homeless and help them to feel good about themselves before they go on interviews. I want to give them some support and guidance.
One of my regrets is that I don’t get to tell my mom that she was right on many things and I was dumb for not paying attention. I see the girls and guys who are hurt or touched at night or have pain like I did. I try to comfort them and give them advice. I want to help fix the mistreatment of people in this world. Maybe I can change the life of one person.”