“I married a preacher’s son when I was 16. I didn’t have a chance to experience life. It took me seven years to get pregnant, then I had my sons 11 months apart. I had a miscarriage right before that, and I think my body was completely out of whack. I didn’t know what postpartum depression was—we didn’t talk about things like that. I didn’t bond with my kids the way I should have and didn’t want anything to do with my husband.
I was young, scared, and real innocent. I didn’t know where to turn. There is so much stigma in the Pentecostal church over mental health issues. They say you need to rely on the Lord to take care of all of your needs, but sometimes you need medicine.
When I was 29, I wasn’t happy and wanted to leave my husband. His sister-in-law asked me to go to the club with her. I’d never been to a club before, but I was a friendly, social butterfly and loved it. Tequila shots turned into promiscuity and one-night stands. I didn’t do drugs and was proud of that for a long time. Then I was introduced to ecstasy. That turned into the use of meth and a full-blown drug addiction. I started getting high in 2002. We made meth until they stopped the sale of Sudafed. Ice came in and then we started getting Oxycontin from the pill mills and the black market.
I had fear and guilt at first, but it turned into a lifestyle that I enjoyed. Getting drugs became all I thought about. I got into trouble a few times, but not enough to scare me straight. It was a vicious cycle that felt good until it didn’t. Then my teeth were gone. I got older, and then I got the wrinkles and the battle scars from the lifestyle, which is not kind to you.
Heroin and fentanyl have been rough here. I have lost a lot of friends to overdoses. My brother-in-law died with the needle still in his arm. Losing all of these people is terrifying, but the ones using don’t face this. They think the person who overdoses was stupid and did too much.
The addiction is so strong that you will do anything for it, including time in jail. Metro in Mobile is rough. There were six or seven women in a cell with no time outside or in the sunshine. I was in my forties and in jail with a bunch of young ‘uns. I was like their grandma. My anxiety was through the roof. I will never forget the sound of hard bottom shoes on concrete.
I had done time, but I didn’t have a felony. I was so proud of that. Then I started robbing to get the drugs I thought I needed to survive. Now I have nine felonies and a card that says I am a felon.
The felonies came when I stole a truck and credit card from my boyfriend and spent $3,000 getting a heroin addict out of jail. We went to Mississippi and started robbing stores. We used a pair of metal bolt cutters to steal from storage units then sold the things at pawn shops.
I was saved in Jackson County, MS. My boyfriend and I were pulled over. I was put in the back of the police car, but my boyfriend said, ‘I love you. Bye.’ He ran, and there was a high speed chase. I thought the cop was going to beat me. Instead, he treated me with kindness as he helped me into the car and told me to watch out for the mud. I sat down and surrendered everything to the Lord. I made a deal with God- ‘If you don’t let them kill him, I promise I’ll love you forever.’
My grandma raised me and was thankful when I went to jail. She was determined for the court to order me into rehab. She called the Mission of Hope every day for five months making sure I had a bed. When I got out of jail, I went directly there.
Jail was my detox, so I could start immediately. Mobile doesn’t have a detox center, so a lot of people who need help can’t even get into rehab because your system has to be clean.
The Mission of Hope was strict, but I needed structure to learn how to live again in a different way. Women who are court-ordered stay for 90 days. That isn’t enough time, but most don’t stay in the program that long because the rules are hard for them. The light turns on about two weeks or a month in and they start to get it. The court order should be for a year to give brains time to clear and heal.
I have been clean for three years now. When I got to Mission of Hope, I knew I was never leaving. I became a house mom at the halfway house and I am now program manager. I try to spoil the women, because the world is mean to us. Many leave us too early, then go back out and relapse. You can see the changes in their Facebook pages as they slowly fade off. Some come back a second or third time.
I recently led a group on childhood sexual abuse. It was the hardest class I’ve ever had to teach because I was in a room full of women who were broken because of their family members. That is one reason they drink and use drugs.
I’m working on my masters in addiction and recovery so I can provide Christian counseling and help ladies on deeper levels. You need to have a higher power to help you through this. I have to keep my schedule, structure, and boundaries. If I let down any of that for a second, it’s over.
Rebuilding my life has been hard, but I am doing it. I have nine felonies, and I am still paying for the truck I stole from my boyfriend. I started with $19,000 of restitution to pay, but I am down to $9,000 on just a minister’s salary.
For a long time my sons didn’t want anything to do with me. They were embarrassed and ashamed, and I let them down so many times. My ex-husband did a great job raising them, and I am so grateful to him and for my family coming into my life again. I just had my first grandbaby. I thank God that my future looks better than my past.”
September is National Recovery Month. We have so much to learn from people in recovery or family or friends who lost a loved one to a drug overdose, so I am sharing some of these stories throughout the month.