This is probably my thousandth time trying to write this all out and in the proper order of how things actually happened. Please bear with me as I try to tell you the story of my trials and tribulations throughout this entire ordeal. Many praise and thanks to the “Great Lord” above. Without Him, I’d have not been able to survive everything that happened after this and the struggles with addiction that lead up to my incarceration. I’m going to try my very best to be as detailed as possible and try to remember things as they unfolded throughout all the years afterward. Again this is a tragic story that eventually turned out to be one of the best things that have happened to me in the end. To make me the person that I am today. Me. That I am today. I’m not perfect by no means, but I’ve come a long way, from the darkness of fighting and arguing, and came to be able to live in this beautiful thing we call “Life”. I learned how to enjoy it and finally accept the happiness that I’ve prayed for my whole life. I’ve only ever been used to fighting in my past relationships. And yes, they often got physical, on both sides. Mine included. That’s all I knew at the time. Although it took countless bad things to happen to me and for me to go through, I still have a remarkable story to tell of how I made it through it all and overcame my guilt and my grief. To accept that everything happens for a reason. That God has plans for us all. Every so often you have to walk through the fire to see through the smoke! Literally! As you’ll see when you begin to read my story, just what I meant by that last sentence.
It was March 2003. I had just found out I was pregnant with my second child. Nick was 2yrs old and would be three that coming December. I had ‘morning sickness’ any time of the day. Whenever it wanted to happen it happened. So, I did what I usually do, and I drove to McDonald’s and ordered a large fry and a large unsweetened ice tea. As I pulled up in my driveway and got out of the car, my sister, Jennifer, had pulled in right behind me. She was so messed up. It was pills that were her choice that day. Lil Jesse was going back and forth from the front seat to the back playing with his little brother Jacob. Jacob was actually in a car seat where Jesse wasn’t. Jennifer was so messed up that I wasn’t about to let her leave my house. She was literally nodding off right there while talking to me. She originally only stopped to ask me if she could trade me $80 she had on a Walmart gift card for $80 in cash. I obviously told her I didn’t have it. I was completely broke. I wasn’t, but I also wasn’t going to let her know that. I noticed a cop that was parked on the next block up on the corner of an empty lot where a business or apartment used to be. I was actually trying with everything in me to get the attention of this police officer. I was not going to let her drive away and end up being involved in a car wreck and maybe losing all three of them. When I tell you that God heard my silent pleas. Exactly that! Out of nowhere, this loud “BOOM” rang out. It scared us both to death. But you’d never guess what made the sound! The sound that kept her there in my front yard for the rest of that day well on into the evening. Her front driver-side tire blew out right there! Out of nowhere. That was “ALL God” there. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind. I sure as hell couldn’t get the cop’s attention. Likewise, I was waving at him over the roof of her car. Like, literally waving him over, so he could back me in telling her she wasn’t leaving/driving anywhere. If she did, then she’d go to jail. So, there she stayed. We had a great time that day. I got to spend time with her and Lil Jesse. Just days before the tragedy that took my nephew’s life. Only 17 days later, claiming the life of my sister. Unfortunately, she and I had gotten into an argument just a day or so after the day, we spent together. I also never received the closure I was so desperately seeking. Again this story is sad. Until the years go by, and you see how I eventually turned out. The knowledge I gained and the blessings from God that I received, will leave you speechless and hopefully bless you as you read it. Okay, so here goes…
It was just like every other night. (or so I thought) I was at home on the phone with one of my friends, outside on the porch. My friend (Ashley) had called for advice on how to get her baby girl to stop crying. Regardless of what she did for her, it wouldn’t work. She was on the verge of a full-blown panic attack, and she had no clue what to do. I told her foremost to calm down and breathe. I asked her where Layla was, and she said in her crib. I said ok, so she couldn’t hurt herself by falling out. Not only that, but I then proceeded to tell her that if she had tried everything she could possibly think of, and she was still crying, then she needed to just close the door and walk away. Make sure she had her pacifier, her blanket, and of course, a bottle. She’d already changed her diaper, so she knew she was clean. I told her if she didn’t just walk away from that all her frustration could come out and her possibly taking it out on her baby. Which is a natural reaction for a new mom after giving birth, especially when your baby is colicky. Absolutely nothing you do will make them stop crying until they finally cry themselves to sleep. She asked if that made her a bad momma. I told her absolutely not. If she didn’t just lay her down and walk away then she’d have driven herself to insanity within the first hour of crying. She was a brand-new mom and was freaking out thinking she did something wrong or wasn’t doing something right. So, I did everything in my power with words only. What started out as just a Q & A call, turned into a mini therapy session. Later we moved on to another subject, after I calmed her down, ensuring she had done no wrong by letting Layla cry. Then not long after we started talking about other things, she asked me what time it was. I pulled the phone away from my ear and looked. I told her it was 8:03pm. That time will forever be etched in my brain for years to come. Even though I had no idea of the tragedy that awaited me and my family. While I was talking to Ashley, I looked down the road at my Uncle’s house, where my sister lived with my two nephews. Everything seemed ok. The lights were on and she had no company. And for me, that was a good thing which meant to me, she was just chilling at home by herself with the babies, and she wasn’t partying or doing any hardcore drugs that night. It was just her chilling by herself with the boy’s kind of night. The nights that she cherished the most when her addiction didn’t overtake her and make her put what should have been her priorities, second to last.
I ended the call with Ashley and I had thought to myself that maybe I should call Jennifer, check in on her, and see if things were okay. Perhaps apologize to her. That was because a few days before, she and I had gotten into a massive argument because she was high on speed and wanted to wake my son up and let him spend the night with her like 3 days prior. Now mind you I just watched her snort like a half gram of some kind of dope on my entertainment center only after asking me if I wanted any. I had just found out I was pregnant not even a month before, and I couldn’t believe she’d asked me that! Of course, I said no. But I made it out like if I did it that Brad, (baby daddy) would know because I’d be up all night, and it would be a big problem. Me being pregnant didn’t deter her from asking, as if she thought it was ok. So, that’s the excuse I used instead of just saying “NO” like I should have. So, she dumped the entire contents of whatever was in the baggy on top of the entertainment center, made one big pile, and snorted it all in one sniff! No lines for her, hell no! She went hard! All the time, with anything she did. No matter what the drug was. She always took it to the extreme. Then she asked if she could take Nick with her to spend the night with her and Lil Jesse and Jacob. I told her no he’s just gone to bed and had already been asleep for like 2 hours or so. All of us were in bed ready to go to sleep when she came over. So, after I told her no, she started getting an attitude and being a smart ass to me because I denied her the privilege of having her nephew for the night. It was already after midnight. Well into 1 am when all this was taking place. Well, she got mad and was taking it personally like maybe she thought that I was thinking I didn’t trust her. Which truth be told I didn’t and wasn’t about to let her take my son. Especially after just watching her snort a pile of dope. She was so high that she thought she could handle 3 babies and there had been no telling how many days she'd already been up before she just snorted the rest of what she had. I tried to calm her down before she woke my fiancé (at the time) out of bed. I really didn’t want the two of them into it because he was the first guy my sister had actually approved of, and he wasn’t one to keep quiet and let things just get out of hand. So, naturally, he got up out of bed to see exactly what was happening. Yes, he stood up for me and with me in my decision to not let her take him. We had tried to keep her as quiet as possible so as not to wake Nick up, seeing as in how we’d just gone to bed ourselves. He’d only been asleep maybe an hour, two at the most. Well, it happened anyway. He started crying because we were all yelling by that point. No physical contact went down that night thank goodness. I just stood my ground and held firm and so did he. She said at one point during the argument that she was “more of a daddy to my son than he was or ever would be”. Back then I was like, “Hell Naw”! Somehow I ended up walking her, escorting her, whatever you’d call it, out the door. That's the first time I've stood up to my sister in all the years of us growing up together. And all the fights we've gotten into. She always scratched, punched, kicked, or hell possibly even bit you. Either way, she always wanted to get physical. She was very violent. But for some reason that night she feared me. So, I ran with it. I made sure I made my point clear while I was yelling at her while she was walking back down the street toward her house mouthing me at the same time. Some kind of feeling came over me. A feeling of triumph. Like, “FINALLY”. I stood up to her and put my foot down. Made it crystal clear that I wasn’t going to tolerate her disrespecting me or Brad. My family period. In my house at that. Her spell of fear that she had cast over me my entire childhood, all the way through my teenage years was finally broken. It was a sort of release if that makes sense. I was no longer afraid of her or what she stood for. I considered her all mouth and no action. Not only that, but I settled Nicholas back down and got him back to sleep. Then Brad and I also went back to bed.
So, it’s a new dawn on a new day and I can’t stop thinking of the night before and the things that I said to my sister who was so bad. I was mad at her, for making me mad at her. For putting me in that kind of situation where I felt I had to pick my family over my family. Trust me, I’m aware that sounds messed up. Try being the one in that situation. So, I’m thinking about her and the words that were exchanged the night before between us two. So many years living in the shadow of the infamous Jennifer Brozell. But what countless people didn’t know was just how broken on the inside she truly was. Her true friends who really knew her and truly loved her knew. However, people on the outside looking in just labeled her as the black sheep of the family. ‘Oh, she has a drug problem and didn’t raise her kids like she was supposed to.’ They all were on the outside looking in.
I had to stand firm by the choice I made the night before by not letting her take my son with her. Yes, it was hard. Because I knew the real her that was under all that apart from what she showed other people. She was a loving mother of 3 beautiful children, and me. Her only sibling growing up. We were alone in our own little world. When I say I grew up in her shadow, that’s literally what I mean. I knew everything I knew growing up by watching what she went through. Living day by day. Sneaking around behind our parent’s backs to smoke cigarettes or weed. Drinking alcohol any time we were lucky enough to get our hands-on. She had her room (hate to think she didn’t). I would wait until I thought my parents were in bed, and I’d get up and sneak to her room, and we’d hang out. And she’d let me smoke her cigarettes so in return I never tattled for things she did when we were away from parental guidance. We had an understanding. We shared a bond that no one could break. I don’t care what other people thought about her! No one knew her like I did. We only had each other.
So, I’m pregnant, and I’m sitting at home while Brad is at work. And all I can think about is the argument the night before between her and me. I try not to let it get me down. So, I ignore my feelings towards her and bury the guilt I’m wracked with, down deep inside me. So deep that I don’t let it control my thoughts and feelings all throughout the next day. You could look her in the face and see through her by looking into her big blue eyes. She had a clever way of pulling you into her soul. Letting you see her true self. Just holding that first glance almost makes you second guess the things you have said and done. Even though you know you’re right, and she’s wrong, you almost start thinking that you did wrong by her instead of the other way around. I made it through the aftermath of the following day. Dealing with all my feelings about how I should have handled the situation. If there was anything I could have done differently. Should have handled the situation. There was no other way to have handled it besides the way it had already happened. I couldn’t change anything. What was done, was done. The words I said couldn’t be taken back. All I could do was apologize and tell her how sorry I was. Truly and deeply I was unable to tell you why I felt this. This urge rose inside me, but it did. The need I had to make things right between us again. I couldn’t go without talking to her for too long. She was my sister. She used to wake up in the morning to sometimes get me ready for school. She picked out my clothes, and she would fix my hair, so I wouldn’t be made fun of. Bullying was horrible when I was growing up. I started counseling at school starting in elementary school all the way up to high school. All only because I came from a poor family. I never had name brand clothes or shoes growing up.
Jennifer tried to shelter me by giving me my freedom at the same time. I grew up looking out at the world wondering where my place would be in society as a 7-year-old little girl. I shouldn’t have had to think so grown up. I shouldn’t have had to experience a lot of the things that I went through when I was little. Jennifer should never have been put in a situation like she was to bring me up with her like she did. It was all we knew at the time, though. No one was there to speak for us. Therefore, we did what we had to do to get where we ended up in life.
I didn’t talk to her on the second day either. It was eating at me still. Two full days of not speaking to her. Except for when my mom would call us back to back trying to figure out what happened between us. Only for her to tell us both we needed to apologize and get it over with. She’d explain her side of how things happened, in her demented state she was looking at things through distorted memories. Only for me to come in behind her and tell our mom what really happened. How she came over in the middle of the night asking me if I wanted to get high. To her doing all that dope in one snort. To her being so high that she felt she was gonna be able to keep up with 3 little boys, running on no telling how few hours of sleep she’d had. My mom would then, and only then, understand why I was mad at her. It didn’t matter, though. In my mom’s opinion, we still needed to get the hell over it and tell each other we were sorry. I learned my stubbornness from someone apart from my wonderful sister. So getting us to apologize to one another was like banging 2 rocks against grass trying to create a spark. It wasn’t gonna happen. If by chance we did apologize, it happened on her time really. I was always the one who wanted to fix things if ever they were wrong. I was always the one who wanted peace and love over hatred and being mean or hateful to one another. So needless to say our apologies came to a stalemate.
That in and of itself carried over to the third day. I was actually at my breaking point that day. Later that night when I got the call from Ashley, I had been outside on the front porch looking towards my sister’s place where she had been living with our Uncle at his house. As I was explaining earlier it seemed like the living room lights were on, and it was just her and the kids type of night. Those were by far the best nights to her that she cherished the most. Especially if she was sober. That unfortunately was hardly ever. And it wasn’t the case that night either. I retreated to the shower after Ashley and I disconnected. Little did I know that 7 minutes after I went into my house and got in the shower, a call to 911 was made reporting a house fire at 8:10pm. I wasn’t aware of the tragedy that awaited me when I got out of the shower. I gathered my dirty clothes to take to my laundry room. Once I got there, I had a picture-perfect view of a house totally engulfed in flames. I could tell it had happened, and it happened fast. It was only a shell of a house by the time I made it outside. I remember my movements happening in flashes that night like kind of being separated or disconnected from my body watching the chaos all around me. I remember going from the laundry room to being in the living room and snatching up the cordless phone. Next flash, I was outside on the corner of the block by my neighbors, who saved my 1 yr old nephew from perishing in that inferno.
Standing there on the corner holding my 1-year-old nephew was Nichole Rives, the wife of the man who saved my nephew’s life. I looked past her and I saw my sister on the front porch with a paramedic who was trying to give her oxygen. He couldn’t place the mask on her face because she had burns from when she opened the front door to run out and get help. It caused a backdraft which not only gave her 2nd and 3rd-degree burns on her face, but it burnt her hair from shoulder-length down real short.
I ran past the woman holding Jacob. The only survivor of that night. Made eye contact with Jennifer. My dumb ass didn’t even ask if she were okay. All I could get out was, “Jennifer, where’s Jesse?” All she could do was look at me. Crying so hard. She slowly raised her hands up with a kind of shrug. Meaning she didn’t know. Deep inside she knew that Lil Jesse didn’t make it out of the house. She just couldn’t bring herself to admit what in her heart she knew to be true. As tragic and heartbreaking as that was. I told her Jacob survived and he was safe. He rode with her to the emergency room. The retinas in Jennifer’s eyes were burnt severely. They had to place pads of gauze over her eyes. They had to fly her all the way to Vanderbilt hospital that night because they didn’t have the resources to care for burn patients. As to where Vanderbilt had a burn unit. They flew her out fast too. She was in so much pain, and she was calling out for our momma. They wouldn’t let us stay in the room with her for long because they didn’t want her getting upset hearing our voices but not being able to see us. They wanted her to keep the patches over her eyes, so she wouldn’t cause any more damage to her eyes. She wasn’t in the E.R. for even an hour before they had her loaded up and were flying away headed to Vanderbilt Hospital!
This was the third day I had gone without talking to her or getting my chance to tell her I was sorry. I wasn’t thinking about that during all the chaos going on right at that moment. I wanted to save Jesse. That’s what was running through my head at that moment. So naturally, my adrenaline kicked in overdrive, and I took off running towards Gary’s house. It was consumed by the fire and by then it wasn’t contained to just the front of the house. It had already engulfed the entire house. I was running as fast as I could, a not-so-together plan in my head of what I intended to do. The plan was unfolding the closer I got to the inferno. It was simple. Run in with my hands tucked and dart to the left, snatch Jesse and run back out. It seemed as if it would work just fine to me. However, the firemen on the scene that night, along with a paramedic or two, had other plans for such a dramatic rescue. They didn’t see the level-headed plan I put together as such a good idea. I never got the chance to be butt hurt about it because it was hastily put together. I just know that I was down to save him regardless of what it entailed. I obviously wasn’t a part of the plan because they left me hanging and went on the rescue mission without me. I watched through terror filled eyes as they tried to shove me into the back of the ambulance to where an awaiting needle was to take me to the underworld and all the blackness it entailed. I fought, though. To their dismay. I screamed that I lived just 2 houses over, and that my 2-year-old son was asleep in the house. Alone! They had no choice but to let me go. After I was released from their hold on me. I climbed back out of the ambulance and was being escorted away from the house. My future mother-in-law, Fay, was outside with me and was the one who had called my baby daddy. She was waiting on the corner of the block that my house was on when I reached her and looked back at the house. That’s when I saw the unthinkable! Two firemen had come out of the inferno with what appeared to be a human form. Once I saw the diaper on the form they had brought out of the house, I instantly knew without a shadow of a doubt it was my 2 yr old nephew. I screamed out in agony. It was later revealed that diapers have a chemical in them that makes them fire retardant. Hence, the horrific image I saw. It was my baby nephew’s body. It rendered me speechless. I resumed walking back towards my house, albeit going very slowly, and looking over my shoulder the entire way. I heard the rumble of Brad’s v-8 motor, and I knew to follow that sound. That sound was a sign of comfort. I just knew everything would be okay. There were all kinds of smoke flowing across the street making it hard to see where the fire ended and the street began. Out of the black smoke-filled abyss, I heard his voice and I began walking towards him. I let his voice envelop me until I was where I felt I needed to be. In his arms. Then I collapsed as soon as I felt him wrap me up. It was as though nothing could penetrate the armor of his strong arms as they wrapped around me. I tried with everything in me to block out the chaos of everything going on around me. I tapped out. I was done. I wanted to avoid seeing any more or hearing anything else. It had taken its toll on me, and it was still the first night.
I remember kneeling in the chapel of the hospital, crying uncontrollably! My aunt told me that I needed to calm down. All my crying wasn’t good for the baby. I was really upset with her for telling me that. Like how could anyone in this situation be calm? I was just supposed to do what? Accept what happened and just move the fuck on? How could anyone in their right mind be able to be okay with this? Were they joking? Did they really expect me to just suck it up and not be upset over what just happened? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing people tell me. I just witnessed them bring my 2-year-old nephew’s burnt and charred body out of the house, and my sister and other nephew were carried off to be treated for their burns and injuries. Yet, they wanted me to act like nothing was happening. I wasn’t supposed to be upset or cry over the tragedy that was unfolding in front of our eyes. What was one to do when faced with such tragedy? I didn’t know what direction I should go in. If I should be up, down, move to the left, or move to the right. It didn’t matter anymore. Nothing, at that point in my life, mattered at all to me! Why couldn’t they see that? Why wouldn’t they just leave me alone? All the questions flew directly toward me from everyone. I hadn’t the slightest clue as to how all this came about. I came out of the shower and walked into hell. There was absolutely no other way to describe it. Little did I know that this night would forever be branded in my brain and would become my personal hell for many years to come. It’s now almost 20 years later that I’m coming forth to write about this tragedy. It has dwelled inside and has grown into what I would describe being a cancerous tumor. When in all actuality, what was springing forth was an incredible story of trials and tribulations, triumph, healing, endless love, and above all, “Clarity”.
I finally found myself at home in my bedroom, with Brad, faithfully at my side. Finally, I was able to cry about all that had happened. Things I had seen and heard. The phone calls I made to everyone in a span of minutes. The world is spinning around me all the while I have to accept that this is my reality. I felt the walls in my house closing in around me and felt like death itself was trying to drag me to hell. It was the worst nightmare of all time. Except it was no nightmare. I don’t think I can explain in any more detail than that of how I truly felt on that night. It was horrible that such a tragic thing as a house fire taking the life of my nephew had happened. I still felt the need to do something. To fix this! I was always going behind Jennifer trying to make things right between her and my parents or her and her friends. Saying things like, “She didn’t mean it”. To smooth things over. To try to make whoever it was that she pissed off, not mad at her anymore! It didn’t always work. She’s lost many friends throughout the years. Friends she’s known since her high school days. I hated that for her. I never had many friends growing up, so I guess I considered her friends, my friends too. Since she was 6 years older than me, I have always been around an older crowd of people. I always felt that I have grown too fast for my own good. I guess that’s the reason, hanging around an older crowd all the time. Although I knew there was nothing I could do to reverse this God-awful situation. It didn’t keep me from wishing it to be so. That’s what I did. I fixed the things that Jennifer messed up. Except this was so horribly bad there was no possible way I could undo everything that had happened. No matter how bad I wished I could fix this, I couldn’t raise the dead.
So, this is the reality of my new life. A life that no longer held the very same life, that two well-loved people are no longer a part of! How could that be? One minute, I complained that it was just an argument between 2 sisters. Now, that said “Sister”, was no longer living. Neither was that of my 2-year-old Lil Jesse. I just knew this was the end of me. What else, besides my baby boy and the baby I was carrying, was the point of my existence? I mean—how was I supposed to just HAVE to accept this? I wanted to throw a fit like a spoiled 3-year-old little girl that’s crying because someone took her candy away. I’m serious. I was coming at God like that. Crying and whining and throwing a fit because He took them from me, not only in one of the worst possible ways someone could die but because it wasn’t fair to me! What was so hard to understand about that? Plain and simple, cut and dry. Nothing else in the entire world mattered to me at the time. Then me asking God why He could allow this to happen to the one person, who was my everything, to be taken from this life by a damn fire. Why’d He allow people to suffer in such terrible ways while they are dying? Good people. Yeah, so she was an addict, but that didn’t mean she had to suffer in death, how she fought in life. I’m aware that the last sentence may pack a heavy punch if you read it on the level I wrote it on. You’d have to have been there with us growing up through all the years and known her personally, to fully understand the weight of what I said. If not, then I applaud you and your level of understanding of such depressing stuff. In all honesty, I’m serious. Some may take that as a little humor there. Trust and believe when I tell you there was none. This is just me and how I choose to express myself, but please continue. I’ll tell you that you won’t regret it.
I came at God in all kinds of crazy thinking that I’m completely sane for such an argument. I felt I also wasn’t getting an answer from Him, and I wasn’t happy about that either. Come on! Letting a 2-year-old little boy die and burn to death in a blazing house fire. He was innocent and pure! He was all that was good in the world. He didn’t ask to be born into this hate-filled world only to die such a hateful death. There was absolutely no reason for him to have died in such a tragic way. And because of his death, it’s one of the reasons I have left this cloud of guilt hanging over me all these years later. He was the biggest mama’s boy if I ever did see one. Even when Aunt TT (me) would watch him, he’d wake up every 15-20 minutes out of only light sleep, whining and looking around for his momma. Most times even call out for her. I’d get him settled back down by rocking him back to sleep while telling him it was ok that his TT had him. Boy, as soon as she’d come through the door his eyes opened as big as if he’d just smashed a coffee shot and the caffeine went straight to those big blue eyes of his. Just like his mama’s, if you stared hard enough and long enough you might just catch a glimpse of his beautiful little soul. Then you’d be entranced just like everyone was who had the privilege of having him in their life. Words aren’t always a way to describe or tell someone a little about yourself. If you genuinely care and love someone, then they don’t have to say a word to you for you to know how they truly feel or that something may be wrong with them. It’s unspoken. You’ll just know. Because you’ll feel it.
To think his life was cut short because my sister was intoxicated was never a thought in my head. She’d never do anything to intentionally put her children, or anyone else’s for that matter, in harm’s way. I placed my blame on God. It was an electrical fire, so He could have kept it from happening. This was something we would eventually work out through the years to come. We had our ups and downs, the best belief. But it was going to happen. If I lost, then I’d do what He said. If not well then; That’s where the hardheadedness came in, thinking I could change the outcome. If I had known what I knew now, I wouldn’t have had to learn the way I did. However, I am blessed it came out this way because I have an even deeper appreciation of how our God truly works, also in having a relationship with Him. Don’t think in human time, in the hopes of getting a response because you’ll probably be waiting around longer than it would if you’d just listen with your heart from the beginning. Okay, so with that being said, it took me a while to understand how the communication thing worked. I, however, wasn’t one to keep my mouth shut or to sit back and let shit happen that I knew wasn’t right without opening my mouth. It NEVER happened! I did some talking too, let me tell you. If anyone has ever had the privilege of meeting me then, they know I have an enormous and a very loud mouth. Not bragging, just saying. So, can you picture me having, what more than likely appeared, as a one-way conversation with God looked like? [Pregnant Pause] Oh, I already know. Do you have it? Okay. If anyone ever heard me during one of these intense moments I know they’d have questioned my sanity behind my back straight to Brad or my mama, one of the 2 for sure.
It looked just how it sounds as if one were to be arguing with themselves. Fantastic. And I did this mind you on the daily with Him. One day, I could be all positive and see the greener side of the grass, and the next I was back at square one. Honestly, I never moved from square one. Not for years. I lied and spoke only what others wanted to hear. It became easy to divert the topic by abruptly changing the subject. As easy as lying is to a liar. And everyone has been one of those at some point in their life. (Also, just saying). It took a while for me to separate what I wanted to be said, versus what was really meant. When I did start learning it was usually followed by me messing up along the way. It was in the lessons I learned from whatever mistake it was I made. I’m aware that seems like a demented way to learn anything, but hey what works for one doesn’t mean it works the same for the next person. So for me, it was after I messed up. But let me tell you when I did catch it my eyes lit up so bright and this feeling of “Duh” would come over me followed by a memory of maybe something that related to said punishment of said mistake. How do I explain this one? Have you ever said to God that if He did something for you, such as get you out of jail, you’d be good and never do that again? That’s how I got those messages and how that “Ah Hah” moment came to me. Because I remembered. When the outcome wasn’t what I wanted to happen, so I thought I could change it, but it didn’t work. Trust me when I say that you’ll start paying attention to repetitive behavior when you begin to understand how you’re supposed to be and what God wants you to be rather than how you think you should be. Your perspective on things that pertain to you and your loved ones will deepen. You’ll find yourself maybe over-thinking yourself in a situation whereas before you’d not study it so hard and not second guess yourself, your response, or your loved one.
So I have had that come to Jesus moment several times. You’d think I’d be a pro by now, but sadly, I’m not. You’ll never be a pro at learning lessons in life. Believe that. I had been in such turmoil because I could never get past the point of thinking of my nephew waking up in the middle of that room catching on fire and being so scared, not knowing how painful his death was going to be. Not knowing what’s going on. Where his mama was. Just screaming. Scared to death. Now, remember he couldn’t even spend the night away from her for more than just one night without crying for her. Just for me to think he woke up that scared, and she wasn’t even able to save him had me second-guessing my sanity for so many years. It held me down. There were times I felt as if I were drowning. Trapped under the water and not being able to get to the surface to get a huge breath of air into my lungs. Yeah like that. I’m so serious when I tell you it was even worse going through when it happened than it is for me to be able to talk about now. Hell, I couldn’t ever have got this detailed speaking about it. Walking through uncharted territory here just letting you know.
Me thinking of Lil Jesse suffering absolutely consumed me and my thoughts. Paralyzing my thoughts to the point of no return. I don’t know how I ever got past thinking about him, but it went a lot deeper for me because I lost my lifetime sibling. All the fights and arguments didn’t even matter. All I wanted was to have her back. In the flesh, not in the spirit. Hell, I never even got to see her more than just once while she was in the hospital. And honestly, the last fight we just had wasn’t even on the forefront the one day I did see her. She was so unrecognizable I was aware that if she somehow came out of this that she’d be in such a terrible depression. I knew I’d end up losing her to an overdose with a needle in her arm. As bad as I’m certain that sounds, I’m glad that God decided to take her home while she was in such a deep state of medicated sleep. Had He waited? I’d have been even more pissed off than I was losing her the way I did. Letting someone willingly live in their head can be punishment for many lifetimes to come. When it comes to living with something as heavy as that situation, it would be in a sense a death sentence. Hence, me took it more personally had He let her live through it. Not only would she have carried around the physical scars of that night but the mental ones as well, and she’d have succumbed to her demons much more quickly. She had a bad self-consciousness about the scars she had on her face from a dog bite when she was little. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how insecure she’d be of the physical scars from the fire, and of course, those on top of the mental scars of losing her firstborn baby boy. Man, I’d have had to be a superwoman to carry her burdens as well as mine and what I felt about what happened. There was no way I would have been able to do that without me dropping either myself or her along the way. Things would have become too heavy for me to carry alone. There were actually times I’d thought I could have done just that. But now. No way.
Once I got to the grieving stage with my sister’s death, there wasn’t a real point of return. I guess I can say that writing this story is a point. But what exactly? Lucidity? Reality? I just know I’m supposed to write this, and I’m supposed to share this. It goes to show you that regardless of what happens to you directly or to others around you indirectly, God is and always has been and will always be there for us. How do I know that? He got me past every stage that grief carries and the emotions it comes with. To be at this point in my life where I’m sharing that instead of my tragedy almost killing me, it brought me back to life instead.
I’m torn down and so upset that my sister is gone. She lived for 17 days after the fire and passed away on April 15, 2003. I don’t care what any of the doctors said or any of my family said. I’m certain that she died of a broken heart. She knew before they put her into a medically induced coma that her firstborn son perished in the fire the night it happened. She didn’t have to see his body to know. It’s called mother’s intuition. She just knew deep in her heart. Didn’t anyone have to tell her anything? Me being one of the few people that know how attached Lil Jesse was to her, my heart broke even more for the anguish I know she was putting herself through. Furthermore, I’m aware that deep down she blamed herself for what happened that night, even though it was out of her control.
It was ruled an accident. Faulty wiring because the house was just unkempt. It should have been condemned years ago. My uncle wasn’t one for upkeep. Sad but true. One reason being he worked two jobs. One at Walmart. The other at the Paducah Sun Newspaper. He was at Walmart for over 20 years and almost the same off and on at the Paducah Sun. He had to work 2 jobs because he basically took care of an entire squad. Me, Jennifer, all our kids, and close friends grow up. And my sister wasn’t the one for a cheap taste. When it came to anything pertaining to her decor. She was excellent at decorating too. She had a passion for being the little fixer-upper. She had already taken over the room Gary once called his own and made it hers. Then, when I moved in, she helped me clean out the second bedroom and make it my own. She gave me the idea of wanting Christmas lights strung around the tops of the wall. With a black light on my dresser placed in front of the mirror. So, it gave the room a deeper purple glow and made it feel more spacious as well. Whenever it was finished, I was absolutely in love with it and was soon having my friends coming over and hanging out and chilling in my own comfortable space. And that’s how we lived. Out of our rooms, always with the doors shut. No one ever stayed in any other part of the house because that’s where Gary resided. The living room, kitchen, and basically the bathroom as well were where he lived. We just kind of moved in and took over. But he loved us and enjoyed our company for the most part. Except on days he wanted to sleep after working 16 hours straight.
Man, we’d pissed him off royally sometimes too, though. This one time Jennifer, me, her husband, and my friend were up all night on some meth. My friend and I only snorted it. By now you already know how my sister and her significant other preferred to do theirs. We were all up all night without any cigarettes at all. When Gary came home that morning she got a cigar from him, and we smoked on it trying to get some nicotine in our system. But my friend and I were in the bathroom just talking our faces off. Although we were trying to whisper. However, we weren’t doing such a good job about it. Gary got pissed off and went outside to sleep in his car. Come to think of it he’d done that a few times. But I specifically remember that particular time only because I had the privilege of being made to go out to the car and wake him up to ask him for another cigar. It was not a pretty sight and literally scared the shit out of me when he popped his head up. Seeing his pale face with his hair all crazy on his head, looking tired and uncomfortable as hell. I couldn’t even bring myself to ask. Saying never mind and walked away apologizing. He laid back down and went back to sleep. Memories like that. The ones I can look back on in good humor and laugh about, are the ones I cherish the most. And there are so many of them. For that, I’ll forever be grateful. Having so many good memories of things she and I had done with each other and for each other still blesses me now. It’s almost as if I come across some random memory just hanging around up there in my brain that I haven’t thought of in a long time, and it’s like “oh, hey there little buddy. Where’d you come from?”
Remembering those random memories of things that happened when we were both young and still innocent are the best ones. It’s almost as if she knows I’m sitting here writing this all out because so far, I have been blessed by so many of those precious times throughout our lives, but only when I’m writing about her. I know she really does know what I’m doing. And she is rooting for me to finish this story so that I’m able to share it with anyone willing to read about it. In hopes of blessing them in the process.
Not even a week after she had passed I was blessed with the best dreams of her. In my dream, I was looking at myself in the mirror. I was dressed in a nice skirt with a matching blouse, and my hair and makeup had been done by her as well. Similar to when I was in elementary school, and she’d pick out my clothes and get me ready in the mornings. I have always had low self-esteem. All thanks to kids who bullied me. Kids that came from money, and had never known what it was like to want for something. So yes, I was deeply insecure. Plus I’ve always been a tall girl, and somewhat of a tomboy. I was never small or petite in the traditional girly way. I’m definitely unique. So like I said I’m looking at my reflection in the mirror and behind me stands Jenny. She has the biggest smile on her face while looking at me fully dressed in an outfit she picked out and bought for me. Just like the time she for real did it when she lived in Marshall County. I was completely amazed at how pretty I looked dressed in what she wanted me to wear. I made eye contact with her, and she looked me in the eyes and said, “You’re beautiful Boo!” I turned around to give her the biggest hug ever. Only for her not to have been there at all. Then I woke up. Crying so unbelievably hard. Heart-wrenching sobs erupted from deep inside my chest, within my very own heart bleeding for her on the inside. How could this be? How could I not have my sister in my life anymore? Telling me what to do and what clothes or shoes she liked or had bought me as a surprise. That was no longer, no more.
I was devastated. I also felt tremendously guilty for having feelings of grief more for the loss of my sister than for the loss of my nephew. I constantly asked almost everyone I knew if that made me a bad person. I was always told no, but that didn’t make me not feel bad. It almost felt cold-hearted to me on a certain level that I found myself feeling that way. He was only 2 years old, and she was 26 years old. He was a baby boy, and she was a grown woman. That’s precisely why I grieved for her more. She and I had way more time together than me and my nephew. I can only hope that makes sense to you. She and I were all each other had to depend on when we were growing up. So, naturally, I assume that I’d be more upset by her loss. We had so many years with just the 2 of us and no one else. Man, the stuff we’d think up to play when we were bored and no other game interested us, was freaking spectacular. It was always Jenn that came up with them. Then try to teach me while she made the rules up as she went. I’ll never forget this one we called “Queen’s got a headache, Go Back!” This game involved one of us as the Queen sitting at the end of the hallway. While the other had to tip-toe and sneak down the hall towards the Queen to touch her on the shoulder before the Queen got a chance to turn around. That was how the game was won. By making it to touch the Queen. Might seem pretty childish to you, but that little shit kept us entertained.
I always wondered how I was supposed to carry on with my life. Without the one person that’s always been there for me regardless of the circumstances. In everyone else’s mind, by appearance only, I was grown by the time I was 14 years old. I grew up quick I guess you could say. As I said though, by appearance only. In my mind though, it was another story. I was still very much immature and undeveloped. It was noticeable to anyone who really knew me. No, I wasn’t a virgin. Yes, I knew what sex was, where babies came from, had watched porn, kissed a girl, and knew what it felt like to feel horny for the first time. All that by the time I was 12-13 years old. All I learned from my sister and my curiosity. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing but not a good thing either. My life in those grown-up categories such as sex, porn, and protection, all learned by watching and listening to Jennifer. I mean who else was going to tell me these things? Surely, not my mom and dad! Not by any grown-up period. Not until they deemed me old enough to know about those things.
I was 7 years old the first time I saw actual pornography pictures. They were like a deck of cards. They showed men and women in various sexual positions, performing various sexual acts on each other. I told Jennifer that looking at them made my belly hurt. She said that feeling was called being “horny”. What kind of word is that? It just sounds funny. It seemed like a bad word to me, so I hardly even said it. Whenever it came to talking about anything that pertained to sex I shied away from it. It made me very uncomfortable. Especially if I was around my parents’ older male friends. They were usually Chester’s disguised. Always trying to touch me inappropriately because I was a child who craved attention. Typically, from the male species. Daddy issues, I guess. So, I always thought I had done wrong if they ever touched me. Like, what was I doing to them for them to even think a child would or even could harbor such grown tendencies? They were just sick. Later on, in my life, I would finally learn that all those times I had inappropriately been touched, it was never my fault. I never asked for it. Much less gave them any reason to even have such sick thoughts pop in their head. They were the ones with something wrong with them. There was a certain time that I could sit here and tell you I honestly let something happen. That I was being consensual about it. That was my distorted mind making me think it was okay for me to be 13 years old and sleep with my dad’s best friend who was in his mid-40’s. He and his girlfriend both made me feel like I was controlling the situation. That I could stop anytime I wanted to and neither of them would get mad. I never wanted anyone to be disappointed in me, so I let it happen. I was being fed volume like every 10-15 minutes. All that did was make me relax even more and let my guard down. Since there was another female, I was looking to her for guidance as to what to do during this unknown threesome that was happening. I felt safe and comfortable with her. I still remember her name and what she looked like until now. It impacted me that much. What I allowed to happen that night was the worst thing not even imaginable to a child like me at that age. I was on the bed with her, and we were touching one another. When he came from behind the door with his video recorder in his hands recording me and his girlfriend together on the bed. He then placed it on a stand, so he wouldn’t have to hold it. No, he wanted in on the action. That sick bastard. I thought I was the luckiest girl in the world that I had such an attractive older man wanting me the way he did. And for his girlfriend to openly invite me into their bedroom made it even better. I’ve always been bi-curious and found myself attracted to other girls at a young age. This was a score for me, I thought. However, I could never tell anyone about it. It would have sent them both to prison for no telling how long. The fact alone that he recorded it, was evidence of the most hated crime in and out of the prison system.
I did eventually tell my sister, though. Not the exact time it happened, but I just know eventually I had to tell her. The same guy who did that to me, also had it bad for my sister. She never liked him. Why? I believe she saw right through his perverted ass. She had been in the game for a minute when this man came onto her. He hated it that she never gave him the time of day. I’m certain that she also confronted him and told him that she knew about what happened, and also about the tape. That shut him up from disrespecting her. She knew she had the ball in her court. She kept that card in her back pocket, while over his head at the same time. I also believe she told my mom about it later on down the road. Out of the blue one day, I got a call from my mom. She openly asked me if this specific guy had ever done anything to me when I was younger. Then she said something about a tape. Was there a tape of it? Supposedly someone had told my dad that this man had been showing all his perv friends that tape, and they happened to stumble on it and saw him showing it off and thought that he and my mom should know. I was already a first-time mom and living on my own when all this came out. I didn’t lie to her and I finally told the truth like 15 years after it actually happened. My dad tried to act like he was going to be able to do something about it. Talking about beating him up and sending him to prison. All kinds of things. He never did shit about it. You know I have gone years without seeing this man, or even running into him in this small Podunk town. Believe me when I say that Paducah, Ky is not that big. However, that dreadful day eventually happened. I had been doing a little shopping at the Dollar Store. I was already checked out and was pushing the cart towards the door and headed out to the car. No sooner had I put my hand on the door to exit than he put his hand on the door to enter. Thinking I almost ran into an elderly gentleman, I looked up to quickly apologize when no sooner than our eyes locked, I froze in mid-step. I was literally paralyzed with fear. And the thought that it had finally happened. I had finally run into the one and only monster from my childhood that I could never forget about which had just taken place. The next thing I remember was hurrying to get in the car and leave. My husband asked me quickly what was wrong and why I was acting so weird. At the time I couldn’t exactly speak complete words. They just weren’t connecting, and my brain wasn’t firing or functioning normally at all. I was a stuttering mess. All I could get out was “Just Go”.
After we were well away I had finally calmed down enough for me to be able to tell him what had happened to make me in such a hurry to get out of there. I was angry at myself for running and not standing my ground and calling his child molesting old ass out right there in front of everyone. I caved. Coward down and ran in the opposite direction toward safety. I couldn’t get the child inside me to stand my ground as the adult I now was. I hope you’re picking up what I’m putting down because I honestly don’t think I could tell you any other way.
Whew! That day was bound to happen eventually. Hasn’t happened since, though. I can tell you that. Thank God. That was a day I really could have used my sister’s comforting arms around me in such a tight embrace she made me feel as if all the bad melted away. That’s what she did for me. She was my protector. In turn, I also protected her even if she never realized it. The last picture we took together was Christmas 2002. I lived 2 houses down on the same road as she. We were in my dining room standing in front of my Christmas tree. We were standing in an embrace, and I was holding her so tight to me. I didn’t know until the pictures were developed that she had her eyes closed. She wrote on the back of the picture, “Safe, Secure, & Happy”, “Love always your Big Lil Sis Jennifer Marie”. Those were her nicknames for us. Since I was taller than her, I was the Lil Big Sis. She was older and way smaller than me, so she was Big Lil Sis. Get it? Cute, huh?
This Is why it was pure and utter hell for me to continue living my life without her in it. I needed her always. When Brad and I would argue she was the go-to man. She made it to where I understood why Brad would be mad at me. While telling him how I had taken the whole situation, and explaining to him just how young and naive I really was. That I still had a lot to learn in our blossoming relationship. She always had a solution to a problem. No matter what I came at her with, she had her unique way of smoothing things over and helping me understand what I was or wasn’t doing right. Same with him. I was scared shitless of losing this man. I wanted to carry not only his children but his last name as well. Who better to get advice from on relationships than her. She had plenty of experience. Not in that way either. She was 6 ½ years older than me. She had seniority in that department.
I was at home cleaning the house on the 17th day after the fire. I had music playing and a song by Sarah McLachlan came on called “Angel”. I also had just finished praying to God asking Him to please not take her from me. Then my phone started ringing. I answered it. What choice did I have? I had to be updated on her condition by my parents. So, I made sure to keep the line clear. I picked it up and said hello. It was my dad. What he was about to tell me I was totally unprepared for. I said what is it? He said the machines were the only thing keeping her alive and that I needed to get down there as soon as possible because they were going to have to pull the plug. When I tell you my life ended with that phone call, that’s precisely what I mean.
I was totally losing my shit! Brad was in Mayfield working. I was home alone knowing my sister was about to be given up on, and they were just going to let it happen. It seemed so easy for him to say the words that had just come from his mouth. The machines are the only thing keeping her alive. I never knew just one freaking sentence could pack such a tremendous punch! I lost all the air in my lungs all at once. I was suffocating, and I felt I couldn’t breathe. And I knew I needed somehow to get a hold of Brad to ask him to come home, scoop us, and let’s hit the road. The time I never wanted to surrender had come. I was devastated. Heartbroken. Lost. Alone. Depressed. Felt helpless. Scared. Anxious. Mad. Angry. Venomous. Full of something not good.
My neighbor Rodney and Nichole had come over within minutes of me hanging up the phone. They had no clue and were just stopping by to check on me. I barely was able to tell them I needed Brad. They were headed to Mayfield when they left me anyway, so they also looked out for Brad. By the grace of God they passed him driving down the road. Made a U-turn, and ended up getting his attention and told him to pull over. He was home again with what seemed impossible timing. So fast. Before I knew it, Bubba, and Brad and I were on our way to say goodbye to my sister. I still couldn’t believe we were on our way to doing this.
Again, with the timing thing. We arrived at Vanderbilt Hospital in less than an hour and a half. Brad pulled up to the front of the hospital and I jumped out and ran all hysterical and yelled my sister’s name and told them my parents had called, and they were pulling the plug on her. They already knew who I was. And knew my sister’s name. They looked at me with so much sadness in their eyes and then told me my parents had already let her go and had been gone for about 20 minutes. Apparently, they decided not to wait for me and did it as soon as her daughter arrived instead. I just stood there. Not processing what the hell this nurse had just told me. They have already been gone for how long? Twenty minutes? What? Are you being for real?
I don’t even remember walking back out to the truck man. I had been knocked down completely. I was done for. To hell with every single person who was there and didn’t speak up for me or even voice their concern about her freaking sister that was on her way! Brad was so pissed off when we got to the hotel they were staying at, that he stayed outside. He knew if he saw anyone, especially my parents, he was going to go off on them and was probably going to hurt their feelings. Having us come all that way having me think I’m going to get to tell my lifelong sibling goodbye and that I was sorry and get to tell her how much I loved her. I remember asking my mama why they didn’t wait for me? They knew I was on my way. Why couldn’t they just wait on me an extra 15-20 minutes? I guess one of my other family members heard me talking to my mother and decided to add their two cents. Told me that Jennifer knew that I loved her, and I was sorry about the fight we had. I thought about that for a minute. Then I said, I’m aware that she knows. But her knowing isn’t the same as it would be if I got to tell her myself. Those are two different things. You all took away my closure.
I never got the closure I so desperately needed. I wanted to say it to her in person before they pulled the plug. Before she took that last breath and faded from this world. Before her light went out. Why was that so hard for them to understand? What did I do that was so wrong I didn’t get to say goodbye to her? I still can’t answer that question until now to tell you the truth. Maybe God didn’t want me traumatized more than I already was. I’m sure He had my best interests at heart that day, but I still didn’t think it was fair. Nor do I still. If I knew I wasn’t going to be able to say my goodbyes. I’d never even had Brad take me all that way driving like a bat out of hell to try to beat the clock on them pulling the plug on her.
So needless to say I also carried that with me all these years. Me telling God that it wasn’t fair had become a habitual thing. I’m serious when I share with you that that had me more messed up, I think then if I’d have lost her the night the fire happened. I was so hopeful that she was going to make it out of this and come back home. I was certain that she’d be facing a long road to recovery and dealing with the grief of losing her son. But she was stronger than almost anyone I knew. That if anyone could survive and pull through this it was her. We had our family from Chicago here that attended Lil Jesse’s funeral. There were family members that were recording his funeral service for her because she wasn’t able to attend due to her injuries, and being placed in a medically induced coma.
I remember bits and pieces of my mom telling me about Jennifer and the state of mind she was in before they put her in the coma. Brittany, her oldest child, had come into her room to visit her and had carried a baby doll in there with her. Apparently, my sister flipped out and told her to get the baby doll out of her room. She was also wanting to see her face in the mirror, and how bad she had been burnt. She was worried about it scarring just like I knew she would be. I just knew her well enough to know that her looks were what she was gonna worry about as far as her being okay. She could handle the burns to the other parts of her body. But when it came to her face she was very self-conscious. When my mom told me about her asking if her face was going to scar, a small, very faint smile crept across my lips. Nothing funny or anything. Just because I already knew she was going to worry about her face. The fact I knew her so well is why I had that little smile. Jennifer and her looks. She was beautiful regardless of any physical scars she had. To be honest, nobody even noticed her scars. Her face was too beautiful, and her huge blue eyes were like a swimming pool you could stay in all day. Warm and inviting you in to get a better understanding of what made her tick.
My whole life revolved around her and making sure she was safe at all times. When drank it was horrible. She’d get into fights with anyone. Male or female didn’t matter to her. If they were running their mouths about her or anything she didn’t agree with she made it apparent how she felt and what she thought. She was never the one to sit and take shit off anyone. Hell, this one time she and her ex-boyfriend had been up all night drinking. That was regularly when she went through her drinking phase. Anyway, she had wanted to leave and go buy some dog food for this dog in the backyard. Her boyfriend at the time was trying to talk her out of it because he knew she was drunk, and she didn’t need to be driving. I had no say about it. She made me get in the car with her. She was my ride. I couldn’t just stay there and be stuck. She would’ve left me in a New York minute. Her boyfriend was on my side of the car, and she was in the driver’s seat. They were arguing and yelling across and over me. When it started to get physical, and they began hitting each other over me, I got out of the car. I wasn’t about to catch a stray hand or fist to the face. So, I jumped out and went back inside to lay down.
I had just laid down on the couch and got comfortable when I heard rocks flying and then glass breaking. I was like, what the hell was that? I got up and opened the door to look out and all I could see was the neighbor’s fence bent and folded up under the back of the car. The metal pole that ran along the top part of the chain link fence had gone through the back windshield and out the passenger window where only moments before I had been sitting. If I didn’t get out of the car that pole would have gone through the back of my head causing serious injury or even death. She sobered up quick after that happened. I was tripping thinking she was for sure about to go to jail. Thankfully, it didn’t ever come to that. I think her boyfriend spoke to the neighbors and offered to fix it for them and to pay for the damages, so they wouldn’t file a police report.
The car she was driving was my dad’s old car he had given her that way she’d have reliable transportation having her daughter and all. It was his old Buick Riviera. We were supposed to go to church that morning also. Somehow I ended up back with my parents in their vehicle, driving behind Jennifer. My dad got this look of confusion on his face. Looked over at me and asked if the back windshield was missing. I said no, not that I knew of. He was like you were riding in the car with her, and you didn’t notice all the wind coming through the car. I lied my ass off and said I didn’t. I just thought the windows were down. I never even looked in the back seat is what I told him. I acted as if I had no idea how that happened. I’m sure he found out the truth later on. But Tina knew nothing and saw nothing. That’s the unspoken code of the bond between 2 sisters.
Man. I had to take a break from writing this out because it has got me really emotional, and I’m very raw. Not in a bad way. Just that I’m sober while writing this and being honest about how I probably acted a fool when all this went down. I was told by my mom that before they put her in a coma that she called out that she wanted her dad. Well, her real father was there and walked up to her bed. She said no dad, I mean Wayne. (My real dad). Same mother, different father. Probably should have mentioned that earlier, but as you know, my mind isn’t firing on all cylinders.
The fact that we had different fathers never really phased me because it was only her and me growing up. No other siblings throughout my entire childhood. Then, when it was reported in the newspaper about her death and in her obituary, is when that subject became a problem. To me anyway.
I was just skimming at first. Then I saw where it had me listed as her step-sister/half-sister. I was so pissed off. How could they say that about me? I was her ‘ONLY SISTER’ growing up. What the hell was this stepsister crap? Who permitted that this was what was to be printed? Did my mom allow it? Did her dad do it? I wanted to know very much who let this be put out there like that.
She did, in fact, have other sisters. They were her dad’s other 2 daughters. They were real BLOOD. I, however, was not. That hurt me so bad. Was I jealous? When do I actually meet them? Yes. I honestly and truly was. I tried not showing it in front of Jennifer. I had to be happy for her. Especially her first meeting. Hell, they were all grown and had families of their own, but it was still a really great moment for Jenn. I never gave her any reason to think differently. It’s okay. I got past it and ended up hanging out with them with her.
It didn’t change the fact that reading her obituary still cut me pretty deep. I didn’t dwell on that. I had bigger issues I had going on that required all my attention. The details of the funeral itself. If anyone was going to speak. What songs were going to be played? You know. All the intimate details are the most important to me. What were they going to dress her in? I never even got asked my opinion on that. It completely bypassed me. When I did see what they had chosen to dress her in it was a major disgrace. She’d never have worn what they had on her. Not in life, much less in death. I didn’t get to see what she had on until the end of the service. I was so caught off guard when the end came. My mother and her father decided I guess between the 2 of them, that they were going to open the coffin and let people come by and pay their respects.
I was mortified! How could they let people see her in the condition she was in, knowing that in life she was so self-conscious of her appearance? I was more than pissed off. Jennifer wouldn’t have wanted to be seen not only wearing what she was dressed in but because of her wounds that weren’t healed. She’d have never let someone see her in that condition. That’s why I couldn’t understand why they chose to open the damn coffin. It was no secret that she carries herself well. She hardly went anywhere without putting makeup on. However, if it was a bad day for her then it, of course, was a different story. She gave no care at all about what people decided to think of her. She held her head high regardless. That was just the way she was. That was her attitude.
It took me a while to get my composure back. Seeing her in such a state threw me. I’d never have opened the casket and let people see her looking like that. Her left hand had received a skin graft, as well as both her feet. However, she didn’t have time to heal before they pulled the plug on her. During the viewing, her left hand had been tucked under a pristine white cloth. Of course, she was my sister, so naturally, I lifted the cloth to look. They placed a rubber glove on her hand to try to hide the fact that it wasn’t healed. I mean, no one was supposed to have lifted the cloth to look at it in the first place. So, they wouldn’t have known. Honestly, they shouldn’t have opened the coffin, to begin with to let anyone see her in such a state. That decision alone had me royally pissed off.
When I told you that Jennifer was very self-conscious about the scars on her face. Believe me when I say she always asked if you could see them after she applied her makeup. She did her best to cover them. Of course, there were days that she truly didn’t care. Those were usually days of her being moderately sober. Lucid enough to function and get through the day. Furthermore, not as much as she wanted it to be. So, she typically wasn’t concerned with what she looked like much less what anyone else thought. She was still very attentive to the boys. They adapted to her moods on a daily.
It was like hours until the funeral. They already knew what songs to play. I knew I wanted to stand and speak up and speak out for her. I wasn’t going to let her or her name as a mother, sister, daughter, or as a person, be buried with shame and dirt on her shoulders. She deserved so much more in life than what she was dealt. But she also did the best she could with what she had.
I’m sitting on the couch at home trying to think of what the hell I was going to say. Then an idea popped into my head. She had written me an 8-page letter during my 30-day jail sentence a few months before. In that letter, she spoke about times I was sure she didn’t remember. So, I chose to read certain parts of the letter to our family and attendees at the funeral. To prove to them that she was still the Jennifer they all knew and loved. Things in life don’t always turn out the way we want them to. But that doesn’t mean we lose sight of where we came from. The things we had to learn about, and occasionally the hard way.
I went through the letter highlighting certain parts. I continued to do this until I had gone through all 8 pages. It was 8 pages of her reassuring me that she hadn’t forgotten those special memories. Again it shocked me that she still remembered those wonderful times. Our special bond as sisters. What I had before me was the best put-together speech. All in her words. That alone made it priceless. I also wrote a poem dedicated to her. Everything I did was in remembrance of her. I didn’t want anyone to forget her. How loving, caring, funny, witty, dramatic, and humble she actually was. It was the truth. No, she wasn’t perfect, but who in the hell is?
The preacher spoke, and then they showed the video collage they put together with all the pictures my mother and possible family members and friends provided. The song I wanted to play, I missed because I was outside. I don’t remember why. I know I had to grab the poster board I made with various pictures of Jennifer and her kids, me, and my mom. I remember my mom telling me that one of my aunts had pulled a picture off, that I had glued to the poster board. It very briefly made me mad that she would be so inconsiderate as to do so at her funeral. Without even asking me if she could have it instead. I’d have given it to her after the service, and everyone had gotten a chance to view it.
Then I remember being introduced by the preacher, to come up and speak, and read what I chose. As I approached the podium I had a wave of anxiety wash over me. Like I was picking up the bad vibes from the family members who thought bad of her. I felt they were thinking what could I possibly have to say that would make them see her as she used to be? As she had been her whole life. She just lost touch with her inner self along the way through her journey, evolving into her life.
As I began to read about all the precious moments we had during our childhood that she did, in fact, remember, I began to get emotional. One of the sentences started off by saying, “Remember with me Boo.” That was my nickname from the time I was born all throughout my teenage years into adulthood. When I had finished with my reading, I looked out at all our family, and all Jennifer’s friends, and closed by saying that she and Lil Jesse were taken far too soon and in such a tragic way. I told everybody she died of a broken heart. That they could throw out all the medical reasons as to why she didn’t survive. But I knew. I knew deep in my heart that she wouldn’t have been able to live the rest of her life without her baby boy in it with her. If Jennifer were to have survived and made it out of the hospital, she’d have died with a needle in her arm. I know for a fact she would have. Instead of letting her live such a miserable existence. God took her home to be with her son instead. The fact that God chose to take her while she was still in the hospital made me less mad at God than I would have been if He’d let her live. She’d suffer the loss of her first baby boy over and over again every day of her life.
Both her and Lil Jesse’s names are on the tombstone. He was exhumed and placed on top of her casket. They were buried together in death as they were in life. Always together, never apart!
Things with my mental health only got worse as the years went by. I was laid off from my job in 2009. The manager didn’t state the real reason for me being let go. Instead, he lied and said I broke a rule. In doing so, he also prevented me from drawing unemployment. The reason I lost my job was that I was in active addiction. I couldn’t work a full shift without popping some type of pills. One night while I was outside smoking a cigarette in my van, I reached over to the glove compartment and pulled out my pill bottle, and took 3 strong narcotic muscle relaxers called “Somas”. I was unable to hold a pen to write to do my paperwork. I was nodding at the desk in the office trying to finish the food count and enter it into the computer. I had to stop and go to the bathroom, walk-in the stall, lock the door and sit down. I leaned up against the wall and went to sleep. I had to so that I could fight off the effects before I could finish my job to the fullest of my abilities. Thank goodness I made it through that night. It was bad because I was fucked up. Not going through withdrawals. That would have been much worse.
Not long after I lost my job I also lost my fiancé. We had been together going on 10 years. He just couldn’t put up with me anymore. I had shut down on him and withdrew myself from him emotionally and physically. I was only the mother of 2 children. It was easier for me to put myself on their level instead of me having to be an adult. Dealing with adult problems. I came into the house one night, and he was sitting on the couch, and he just came out and told me that it was over. It wasn’t working anymore, and he wasn’t in love with me anymore. I was devastated. It felt as if my heart had been ripped from my chest once again, and it was trampled and stomped on. So, I grabbed what I could think to get in the heat of the moment. Told the kids to come on and called my Uncle Gary and asked him if I could come to stay with him for a while. That Brad had just left me.
So, that’s where we went, and where we stayed for the next couple of years to come. I just kept falling lower and lower into the world of depression and despair. There was a black hole in the center of my chest, and it was swallowing everything that came near it, whole. It got to the point where my kids were taking care of me instead of me tending to them. My son made my daughter something to eat when she was hungry. Usually, because I was either too inebriated to get up and do it without falling, or wallowing in self-pity so much so that I couldn’t pull myself out of the funk. I soon realized that I was in no shape to take care of my kids. Hell, I couldn’t even take care of myself. I knew Brad was getting married and seemed to have his shit together for the most part. I did what I knew was best at the time. I asked him if he would take the kids with him when he moved to Georgia. That Nick couldn’t even enjoy being a kid because he was too busy being a grown-up taking care of not just his sister but me as well. Plus I was tired of them always seeing me nod out. Cigarettes still burning in my hand, or onto my plate of food, or trying to eat a bowl of cereal only to be spilling it all over the floor. I was just tired of it and wanted them to be the kids they were and to enjoy their childhood. Something they definitely weren’t getting living with me.
Right before the kids left with Brad, is when Greg and I started seeing each other. I kept telling him that I didn’t want him to leave his wife because I didn’t want her to die of a broken heart because he chose to be with another woman. That woman being me. It was bad enough that she was going to be mad as hell when she found out it was me. See we all knew each other. Brad and I had lived across the street from them some years back. Greg used to bring over fresh eggs from the chickens he had in the backyard. Lisa and I would talk like neighborly women do, I guess. I know she was jealous of me from the jump. I never gave her no reason to even think I was interested in Greg, though. She even asked me if I wouldn’t wear spaghetti strapped shirts over. Of course, I respected her for requiring that of me. So, I didn’t wear them over here anymore after that.
Greg will tell you that he’s always known he was going to marry me. He will also inform you that he notified his late Uncle Randall that he was going to be with me. All this before he even ever met me. He saw me moving my furniture from one residence to another and that’s it. That one glimpse of seeing me outside with my long black hair blowing in the wind. That got him. The long black hair. I mean I guess I’m pretty too, but I know it was the hair.
Eventually, he did leave his wife, and we got a place of our own. It just happened to be in the same place my Uncle lived. I don’t know what I expected of him and the relationship we had started. I expected more or less the same thing I just had. Turns out that’s not at all what he wanted. It was just what I had assumed to be natural, I guess. That you couldn’t have a relationship without fighting or arguing. Either you had to have both or you had nothing at all. Plus I was even farther out there on those Xanax and other pills than I had ever been. I had started having drug-induced seizures. Those are horrible (might I say) to have absolutely no control over your own body parts because they want to twitch and jerk and throw, fling, or just drop anything you are holding or that you would like to hold. Will drive you completely insane and piss you off to the extent that you’re just cussing openly, out loud at yourself.
I had Greg lie to the doctors about how bad his anxiety was so that he’d be prescribed Xanax. It worked, and I got my boyfriend put on my favorite drug in the world. There wasn’t anything else out there that could make you feel like you feel when you take Xanax. He soon realized how much I indeed liked them and would lock them up to where I had no access to them. He’d carry the key to the lockbox around with him in his pocket. I’d stoop so low as to sneak around on his side of the bed, get the key out of his pocket, and sneak the box in the bathroom to get in and steal some of his Xanax. Either I’d try to make it unnoticeable or I wouldn’t care, and I’d take all of them. Even though I knew I was asking for a fight. I didn’t care. Even though I was the only other person that could have taken his medicine, I still denied it. He knew I was lying every time I lied. But he always forgave me. Always stood up for me and stood behind me.
There was a time when I hadn’t been hanging around the right crowd. The people I knew were addicts like me. Very much active in their addiction. It didn’t matter how sure I was that I was being careful, and said I wasn’t going to get caught and go back to jail, I always did. One day, I was headed out to take an acquaintance to the pharmacy to pick up her script for Xanax. I was only taking her, so I could get first dibs on getting some of them. Before I even left the house, but after I had already told Greg where I was going, he told me if I left the house that day that I’d end up going to jail. Of course, I was in major denial, and was all like, “No I’m not”! So, she and I were almost to her apartment building. Literally had to go through 2 stoplights and then make a right turn into the parking lot. Boom, we were there! Trip successful, jail avoided.
Not! As we were slowly accelerating through one of the lights as it had turned green, the truck in front of me applied his brakes again all of a sudden, and I hit the hitch on the back of his truck. Which in turn went through the grill of the car I was driving, and crinkled the hood. We drove to a grocery store parking lot where the cops escorted us to. Wouldn’t you know that not only was Greg right about me going to jail but that the arresting officer was one detective that had a major bone with me and wanted nothing more than to put me in jail? He didn’t care what kind of charge it was either. Just the fact that I was going to jail and had a bond was good enough for him. He made sure to get right in my face and say to me. “See! I told you I was going to get you one of these days”. And just like Greg said. I went to jail that afternoon.
It has happened on more than one occasion that he has predicted I would either go to jail or I was going to get into trouble. Wish I could say that I learned my lesson and that I should start listening to him and that he was only looking out for me because he already knew better. It seemed like, regardless of what I did I was always messing up, and somehow I always ended up breaking out in handcuffs. Especially when I was intoxicated on Benzo’s. I’m just gonna say I’m about 95% sure that if you were to ask any addict which drug made them do the most stupid shit while intoxicated, they’d say Benzo’s. I woke up thinking about getting high, and I’d go to bed wondering how I was gonna get high the next day. I didn’t know what the word sober was, much less meant. So being sober during the day, when I was enjoying my buzz, and it went with everything I chose to do, was just out of the question. I was going to take the Somas I had. The Xanax I had. The Suboxone or Methadone or Neurontin I had. I was an addict. Point-blank period.
The only times I experienced any length of sobriety was while I was incarcerated. Or in rehab. Unfortunately, rehab never worked for me. Once I got comfortable there I got up the nerve to start bringing in pills. It always led to me being kicked out. With a one-way ticket back to the county. Hell, I was on a first-name basis with most of the guards that worked there. I got shock probation to attend my first rehab in 2011. After serving a county year, I woke up to my name being called to ‘roll ’em up’. I jumped up and couldn’t leave that place quick enough. Without so much as a second glance back. Or making sure their paperwork was right either. It didn’t matter to me because I knew I was fixing to walk out the exit door into the bright sunshiny summer morning it was.
It was while I was attending this rehab that I found closure in my nephew’s death. At Ladies Living Free, you attend church every time the doors are open. Both Sunday morning and night. And every Wednesday night. It was at the Faith Center on a Wednesday night when I received that astonishing message. Pastor John Akin was the preacher there. It was during the worship service one night he got up on stage. Interrupting the praise and worship to tell the congregation to continue their praise and worship. He then proceeding to continue speaking by telling everyone he was preparing the night’s sermon when God laid it on his heart that someone in attendance that night had a fire plague their life. To pray with them in person. I guess to give them the confirmation they needed.
He asked if that person was there who specifically had a fire that plagued their life to meet him in the back of the church so that he could pray with them. All the women in the program I was there with already knew my story. They were all slack-jawed. Mouths all open. Then, all simultaneously inhaling their breaths of shock. While telling me to get up and go, so he could pray with me. So, I got up and worked my way down the aisle, so I could get to the back of the church. I’ll admit I was nervous and for real a little startled that God was responding so openly about it. That everyone got to witness this astonishing miracle of having such a prayer be answered like this.
When I got to the back of the church, I walked up and introduced myself to this remarkable man who was getting the privilege of delivering such a message. He was quite handsome and very appealing to the eye. I was somewhat blushing. I had to get on to myself for finding him uncomfortably attractive. I needed to get it into my head that I was about to hear something from him. Something I’ve long awaited the answer about. So, I walk up to him and introduce myself. I briefly told him about the fire. How my nephew died the night it happened, and my sister passed away 17 days later. I did make sure to tell him about how much a mama’s boy he actually was. That when I watching him while she had gone somewhere, how he’d wake up numerous times throughout the night until she came back.
I told him my deepest fears. Which was what if Lil Jesse had woken up in the middle of all that, and he felt everything that happened to him! I’m aware that sounds so horrible that I could even fathom such an idea. But I did, and I was truly haunted by the sheer thought alone. Even reading what I just typed sounded as bad to me as thinking it at the time. That was when the pastor reminded me of 3 of Jesus’s believers and followers. MeShaq, Shadraq, and NaBindigo. They were sentenced to be burned to death because they wouldn’t worship a golden statue and deny the God they worshiped. During the midst of the fire, the people who surrounded and watched on. Those people saw the 3 men sitting in the center of the flames having fellowship with Jesus, and they weren’t being burnt.
At that moment. That very instant. I got a vision in my head. I saw it as if it were being projected on a movie reel, of Jesus holding my 2-year-old nephew’s hand and walking him out the front door of the house. Not a hair on his head was even singed. He wasn’t hurt at all! Praise God! Amen. Hallelujah. The burden of carrying that ‘what if’ around with me for all those years. The not knowing. Hoping that God wouldn’t be so cruel but not truly knowing. It was finally over. I didn’t have to think ‘what if’ anymore because I now finally knew. Lil Jesse never woke up during the entire thing. He never felt any pain of being burnt because he was no longer there. God had seen fit to take him while he slept. Before a lick of a flame could ever even get close to him. I physically felt as if a ton of bricks had fallen off my shoulders and so much tension in my neck, that I had carried through the years, melted away. I was truly at peace that night finally knowing that Lil Jesse didn’t suffer. I have been ever since too.
I’d like to say that I completed my time at the rehab, but sadly that wasn’t the case. As I said, I didn’t learn my lesson in all the easy ways I could have. It didn’t matter how many rehabs I had been to. I still had reservations about getting high again as soon as I could upon completion of the program. God knew this too. So, each time I was kicked out of the rehab it was usually because I had taken pills while in the program. Not Xanax in itself, just pills in general. I was kicked out of Ladies Living Free because I had brought pills in with me after a visit home for the holidays. They put me out of the program so fast. Whereas they had their favorite people I’m certain. Instead of me getting a second chance it was straight to jail.
Then I’d serve my time and get back out to the streets where I’d start all over again. Only for me to end up back inside with new charges after making the promise to my kids that I’d never go back. One of those times I was sent to the WARM center in Henderson, Ky. I was there for about 3 months before I was kicked out for using. Someone had come back from the AA meeting we were just at and told the peer mentors that I had been nodding out at the meeting. Which was a bald-faced lie. I just wasn’t very verbal that night during the meeting because I had been skipped over for my room at the rehab, and I was real salty about it. I also happened to have taken a Lortab that night. So, when they came to me for a drug test after the meeting I was confused. Usually, if they were going to test you they did so as soon as we came back from the meeting. That night I had already made it through the front doors and to the phone when I was told I needed to go test.
I had to have Greg come pick me up once again. I was court-ordered to be at that specific rehab. I was ‘Shocked’ out of that facility. Shock is another term for probation in the county I live in. I was on the street for exactly a week before I got myself into another treatment facility in Hopkinsville called Trilogy. When I first got there, I was secretive about the fact I was supposed to be at another rehab and that I was kicked out. When I finally told them the truth, the program director had to call the judge who presided over my case and get permission for me to stay seeing how I was court-ordered to be at another facility. At first, the judge wasn’t going and wanted me arrested and brought back to jail. However, the fact that I had gotten myself into another treatment facility in less than 2 weeks appeared to have won the judge over in him making the decision for me to stay there.
I was only at this rehab for 8 days before I was kicked out. This time it wasn’t for pills or a dirty drug screen. This woman I knew from doing time in the county jail was the reason I was kicked out of this one. I was in the bathroom waiting on this chick to get out of the shower, so I could get in. They had more than one shower, but I wanted to wait for the nice one to be free and use that one. I was joking around, and I opened the shower curtain up on her and peeked inside. We laughed about it. She did the same to me when I got in, and she was out. Well, I continued showering, not thinking twice about opening the shower curtain on her.
The day went by very smoothly, and we had just taken our medicine for the night when I was called to the office. I jokingly peeked around the corner and said to one of the peer mentors, ‘I didn’t do it. Well, little did I know that what I was about to be talked to about was indeed no laughing matter at all. I was made to sit in the living room area and wait until I was called into another office area to speak with the program director. I was nervous as hell and couldn’t figure out what the hell I had done to be in trouble now. I wasn’t kept in the dark long. The door opened and the girl who walked out wasn’t the girl I had opened the shower curtain on, but her presumably best friend there at the rehab. So, I still had the questions looming over my head as I walked into the office and sat down.
Apparently, they didn’t take so well to people joking around like I did. They were big, no huge on the word ‘PREA’. Preventative Rape Enforcement Act. When the lady asked me what I had done that day I went through and told her. I skipped over the part of me opening the shower curtain on that chick. She asked me if I knew how serious the situation was. Of course, I didn’t, and otherwise, I’d never have joked around like that. Needless to say, the chick had told another girl thinking she was her best friend about what I had done. Her friend in turn advised her that she needed to tell a coordinator. They both knew it would call for my immediate dismissal. I, on the other hand, did not. So, after I was told how serious of an offense it was, I was also kicked out.
The phone call to Greg wasn’t one I was prepared to make. At all. When he answered his phone he didn’t know I was calling to let him know he was gonna have to come to get me. Because I yet again found myself being put out of another rehab. When I tell you he wasn’t happy with me, he wasn’t happy with me. I had to pack up all my shit again and wait for him to get there. I was pissed off because the woman who started it all came walking through the front door after a meeting and looked me dead in my face smiling at me. I looked over to the mentor and asked her if she was just going to sit there and let that happen. Of course, she acted as if she didn’t know what I was talking about. I had no problem telling her. Nothing was done about it. I had to sit there quietly, not speaking to no one. While all these fake ass females came through the door talking to me. Asking me why I was leaving, and I couldn’t say shit in response. The word ‘livid’ didn’t even come close to describing how mad I was. You don’t play with people’s lives like that. She knew as well as anyone there that when you’re kicked out of a program that it was a straight back to jail.
I can honestly say that was the longest 2-hour wait of my entire life. Waiting on Greg to get there. They wouldn’t even allow me outside to smoke a cigarette for fear of me starting a fight or something. Which I probably would have done just to spite the chick. But I didn’t. I sat there like a good little girl, waiting for my ride to show up. I was so glad when he got there. I don’t think I have ever left any place as fast as I left there. So, we throw my stuff in the back of the truck. I climb into the cab and we pull out. Then Greg proceeds to ask me what happened. I admitted it wasn’t because of pills this time. When I told him that it was actually over he was even madder about it than I was. Even though I was the one going back to jail.
I had failed yet again. I don’t think there was ever a time I wanted to be messed up more than that night there. I told Greg I wanted him to stop, so I could get myself a ‘Steel Reserve’ beer. They are strong and two of them would get you good and drunk. I only purchased one that night before we made it home. I wanted to pop the top on it and swig away as soon as I got in the truck with it, but I didn’t. I waited until we were home before I did. I sat in the living room and drank that one beer and listened to music and wallowed in self-pity. Kicking my ass over and over again inside my head. Trying to mentally prepare myself for going back to jail. I don’t care how much you prepare yourself for going to jail, you’ll never fully be prepared for that. No one can. Yeah, you can say to yourself that it’s just jail. But nothing prepares you for sitting in a cell of 26 to 30 other women, being locked down 23 hours a day. You can say it all day long, but until you experience it firsthand and know what it’s like having to hurry up, only to have to wait. Then and only then will you know what I’m talking about.
I don’t remember the amount of time I served that round. I just know that I would always follow up any period of jail time with a promise to never go back. A promise which was broken every time I made it. It got to the point where my kids didn’t believe a word that came out of my mouth. Especially if it started out with ‘I promise’. I couldn’t blame them for how they felt. I was a mess-up in my adult life. I wasn’t fully matured as a grown-up in my mind. I was in the legal sense of the word. But honestly, in my mind, I was still that 20-year-old girl who lost her sister back in 2003. Like I mentally stopped growing and was stuck in the year she passed away.
Losing her was always my go-to excuse for getting high and popping pills like crazy. I always said that I couldn’t unsee the things I witnessed that night. How anyone expected me to get through a full day of not using was beyond me. Deep down inside me though I preferred not to stop using. It’s all I have known since I lost her. It may sound funny to read this, but me popping pills like that was something I couldn’t have learned from anyone better than my sister herself. It was something that I continued to carry on because my sister loved to party, and she wouldn’t stop, so in a twisted way why did I? I was glad I knew what I knew about pills. If I ever found myself looking for any I knew no one could rip me off. I knew every number on almost every kind of narcotic pill that was on the street. Those aren’t bragging rights either. Just saying.
I had formed a bond with my addiction and I fed it every time it got hungry. Whenever my addiction was in the throes of hunger it caused me to become an entirely different person. A person who was likely to piss you off if you ever came across her. Especially if I was going through any kind of withdrawal. I wasn’t one known to be nice whenever DTs were around. Honestly, I don’t think anyone could maintain their composure feeling horrible like that. I know I couldn’t. It wasn’t on purpose either. When your body is used to you feeding a certain level of chemicals, and then you go without that level of chemicals, it makes you feel terrible. Sick. Anxious. Mentally unstable. Angry. Depending on which drug you’re withdrawing from you’ll also feel like you have little microscopic bugs crawling around inside your body, and regardless of what you do, you can’t get rid of them. I absolutely hated that feeling above all the rest that comes with going through withdrawal. It’s not pretty, and I don’t suggest or recommend putting yourself through such misery for any drug.
Now that you know about my bad luck with rehabs I’ll tell you about my bad luck driving my husband’s vehicles. No joke. Damn near every wreck I’ve been was in one of his rigs. I was majorly lucky. I skid by, by the hair of my teeth. Ain’t no hair on your teeth. That’s right. That’s why I call them miracles. I was usually high. Okay, okay! Always high. I’d hate to think I wouldn’t be. I should have been dead many times over if you want the truth. Between my drug use and the wrecks, I’ve been in.
The last wreck was by far the absolute worst of them all. There was still very much winter weather outside. The freezing temperatures mixed with the snow and ice over the snow, making for bad road conditions. I snuck out to go get weed, and I was driving Greg’s, Dodge Durango. That was the sneaking part. Driving his truck without his permission or his knowledge. It was a success, though. I made it there and scored. All I had to do was get back to the house before he woke up. I told my son to lie to him for me about why I was out driving to begin with. Well, the cell phone was in the console and I saw it light up with an incoming text. I never picked it up to even look at the damn thing and wrecked it anyway. As I said, there was ice that was frozen over the snow. I was traveling about 35-40mph. Fast enough. Too damn fast for the road conditions. Just the millisecond it took for me to look away from the road to the phone. I had missed a turn in a curve and drove straight through a guardrail clearing a big ditch. Then I landed in these people’s front yard. Damn near taking out the people’s house. The ice on top of the snow is what kept me in that one spot where I landed. I saw the windshield spider crack. Three of the four tires blew out on impact. The seatbelt was broken, and it wouldn’t catch when the brakes were applied. For some reason, that night it decided it was going to work and kept my face from eating the steering wheel. I’m not one that bruises easily at all. However, I had a bruise from where the seatbelt went across my chest where it had caught me.
The officer who arrived at the scene that night never had me searched. He was more worried that I was okay physically than anything. When I refused to be checked out by paramedics, he looked at me questioningly. I assured him I was alright. I remembered I had just gotten that weed, and I was already in the back of the squad car, so I slowly pulled it out of my pocket and put it in the pill bottle I had in my shirt. When I was taken into the jail I was never searched thoroughly and got in with the weed and my nerve pills. I eventually got caught with the pills because I was intoxicated and didn’t think the rules applied to me. Or that I’d be caught that quickly. I guess I was being cocky about it. I ate the weed and had a hell of a buzz when they put me in ‘General Population’. But I had also caught another felony which carried 1-5 years. Contraband 1st degree.
I served a week before my bond was switched from cash to cash or property. I begged for someone to let me use a few phone minutes to call Greg and tell him to come to get me out. He was so mad at me that he almost left me sitting there for another week. He loved that Dodge. Plus I had spent over $100 on Dodge things for his truck. Steering wheel cover, floor mats, gloves, and a matching hat. He was a Dodge man in every sense of the word. He loved it too. To think I took it away from him all because I wanted some weed. I was being selfish as hell. Only thinking of me and what I wanted and how I had to have it right then and there. I couldn’t wait patiently for nothing. He was mad enough to let me sit there for another week or so, to be honest. I didn’t blame him either. While I was there that week I had plenty of time to think about what I did. I did what I said I’d never do again. All the promises I made about not messing up or going back to jail were broken. Shattered. You would think I’d have been used to it by then. Messing up that is. I couldn’t think of anything apart from how I had once again ended up in jail. Always after me making a promise that I’d never go back. Ugh!
I was released on a property bond. Only upon my release did I find out they wanted me on an ankle monitor. House arrest once again. We got up the money to pay the man to come and place it on my ankle. I had to pay something like $7 a day or $70 a week. It wasn’t cheap, that’s all I know. It was monitored by GPS and kept up with all my movements. It would only trigger an alarm if I went outside the range in which I was allowed to be. If I had doctor’s appointments or needed to go to the grocery store, I had a number I was supposed to call to let them know when I was leaving.
During that one week of house arrest, I made an appointment with a dentist to get a tooth pulled. After I left the dentist office I had Greg take me to the pharmacy to fill my script of pain medicine. When I was getting out of the truck and going to close the door, I shut it on my finger. I was mad and cursing and when I walked into the pharmacy. I looked up and asked them for some paper towels. The woman who works there led me to the back of the store where they had a sink unit. She grabbed up all the bagged prescriptions they had already filled and moved them, so she could turn the faucet on. Only she didn’t get every bag. What I read on the receipt paper of the bag that was left in the sink sent chills all throughout my body. There it was as clear as day. Alprazolam. My drug of choice and my major weakness.
I glanced over my shoulder to make sure they weren’t paying me any attention, which they weren’t. I slowly reached down and grabbed the bag. Cautiously brought it up to my chest and put it on the inside of my jacket, under my arm. This rush of adrenaline coursed its way throughout my entire body. I knew I had just made a major score. I also knew I had just committed a serious crime. There wasn’t any going back after I had the bag under my arm. I couldn’t very well pull the bag out, hand it over to them and say, “No, I don’t think I want to steal these anymore”. It was a sealed deal. One I already committed to.
I got my script and paid for a drink and walked out to the truck calmly and casually. I had a paper towel wrapped around my finger when I got in and Greg asked me if I was okay. Of course, I said yes. I didn’t come out and tell him what I had just done seeing how I was already out on bond and on house arrest as well. He wouldn’t have ratted on me or anything like that, but he’d have been very disappointed in me. He’d have asked me what in the hell had I been thinking. Was I crazy? The fact that the people who worked there have known me since I was very young, would be not only disappointed in me, but they were going to be very pissed off that I had done such a stupid thing. They had no cameras, so they couldn’t prove I stole anything. I barely skated out of that one.
That very night I did the most stupid thing of all time. I was walking the dog up and down the driveway, and I was eyeing my neighbor’s house. Thinking in the inebriated state I was in, that she had been lying to me about her not having any Xanax left. So as a thought first and an idea second, I decided to find out for myself. (Not being happy with the 90 I had just scored from the pharmacy). Did I already say that this was stupid? Yeah? Okay. Just thought I’d remind you. Furthermore, to tell you that I highly recommend that you NEVER do that. Unless you think someone is being held prisoner against their will. Even then, I’d ask you to call the police as a backup. Entering into someone’s house uninvited is a FELONY. DO NOT do it.
Needless to say, that’s precisely what I decided to do. I had gotten my hands on 2 of her prescriptions. Vyvanse and her Xanax. She had her purse in the living room leaning up against the wall. Her daughter was asleep on the couch when I entered her house. Had I been a stranger the charge would have been way worse I do believe. Someone else may have attempted to harm her child. I know I’d be on the defense about my child being asleep in the room where a burglar entered my home. I’d want to draw blood from this person regardless of whether they had physically hurt her or not. Just the thought makes me mad at myself all over again.
The lady of the house ended up walking into the room before I could make a clean escape. I had no idea what to say to her. I think I made something up similar to her dog had gotten out, and I brought him back into her house for her. She opened the front door and silently thanked me and escorted me out the door before her husband came in there and saw me and then got on to her over it. I made up a lie to smooth things over that I was coming into some ‘crunch bars’ the next day. She said okay and to let her know when I got them. So out I walked with another rush of adrenaline surging through my veins.
The word Victory came to mind. But the feeling didn’t last long enough for me to call it that. For as soon as I was under the impression I was scot-free, did she come fast walking toward my house with her husband on her heels? In her hands, she hands a little slugger baseball bat. She had every intention of beating the hell out of me with it until I gave her back what I had taken from her. Hell, I don’t blame her. Not then and I wouldn’t know either. In a perverted sense of the word ‘destiny’. Me taking her meds ended up being the turning point in my whole life. I just hadn’t the slightest clue what was awaiting me.
It was the day before my husband’s birthday when all this went down. I guess the day had been going ok. We hadn’t fought for that I can remember. Which was a good thing considering I’d be in jail come nightfall. Shocking? Not really considering what I had done. It was inevitable. Breaking and entering. Although I didn’t break anything. Actually, the charge was Burglary 2nd. Class C felony. Carries 5-10 years in prison. Also remember I was out on bond, on house arrest from the DUI 2nd charge, and driving on a suspended license. I also caught a 1st-degree criminal mischief charge because I drove through a guardrail and its repair cost was over $500. A felony as well. Oh, and let’s not forget about the contraband charge either. They had me in the drunk tank upon my arrest because I was intoxicated. Where they place all inmates that are charged with a DUI or an AI. Then from there to the holding cell onto ‘General Population’. It was there on the second day of my incarceration that I was caught with the pills.
I don’t know what I was thinking by pulling them out openly. As if it were perfectly legal for me to have them. It was also a mixed script. There were my pills, which matched the label on the bottle. But there was also Xanax in it. When they pulled me out of the cell to search me, I had no idea that a number of the pills fell out the bottle and ended up loose in my bra. So many that they stained the sports bra I had on blue. During the search of the cell they found the baggy I had the marijuana in. They did a field test on it, and it came back testing positive for cocaine. I was completely dumbfounded. I knew I was messed up, but I hadn’t messed with cocaine since I caught my first drug charge back in 2007. I fought that charge until they sent it off to a state lab and the results came back negative. I wasn’t going down on some bogus trumped-up charge just because I was a criminal. So, they dropped the possession charge all together. Thank God. But hell that didn’t happen until I had already been in there for a few months. That’s how long they take to get things done. You can imagine my frustration.
When I went in that time on March 24, 2015, I didn’t know I’d be sitting down as long as I did. I served from then until my release in October 2018. Damn near 4 years. I was kicking my ass once again. I knew I was gonna be down for a minute, so I settled in and started reading my first day. I was so depressed at the start of my time. But when Greg told me to settle in and consider that place to be my home, is when I calmed down and did just that. It was rough at first, but I eventually got settled in. I got in the groove of making some ear plugs and picking what, I hoped, were good books to read. I hardly ever cleaned the cell. I didn’t care much for the TV. Whoever cleans in the mornings gets the TV for the day to watch what they want at certain time slots. I had my TV in the books I read. While I was reading, the words played through my mind like a projector playing out a movie reel. Very entertaining and way better than actual TV if you loved to read.
I was in complete denial the first year of my incarceration I know. I denied, denied, denied. I always said I was on house arrest and that there’s no way I could have done that while on house arrest. I had proof, and I was gonna fight it if I could. I even had paperwork stating I was at the dentist the day the report was filed. They threw all that out, though. Since I lived next door it was impossible to tell whether I had committed the crime or not. All they had was her complaint and her word. I was so mad at her on the outside. But inside it was eating me away because I was racked with guilt knowing I did do it and was trying to weasel my way out of it by making her look like the bad guy. Pathetic I know, but I was desperate to get up out of there. I’d tell any lie I had to about her if it was going to help me out in the process. I’m aware that is the lowest of the low, but I was that anxious and literally at rock bottom.
After being down for a little over a year the jail started having MRT, Parenting, and other classes taught there. After you completed a class 90 days were taken off your sentence. I enrolled in MRT and Parenting both. It was one class a week per course you took. I started taking the classes only to get days off my sentence. But after I had been in MRT for 2 weeks I began taking it seriously. I couldn’t very well do the work and answer questions honestly if I continued to lie to everyone about what I had done. I mean after all, if I was gonna change it had to start with me being honest. I had to come clean with myself before I could be honest with anyone else. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be either.
The woman who taught our classes also had to take them and do the work in the book before she could teach them to us. Her name is Sarah Hartery. She was a correctional officer turned teacher. She truly cared about us girls and wanted us to change not just for ourselves but for our children and family as well. The classes got deep too. The first time I had to stand and speak openly I was nervous. You wouldn’t think that of me if you knew me, though. I have always been loud and outspoken. So, when I hesitated reading the response to a very heavy question, the girls in the class were a little surprised along with the teacher. Not only did I start crying reading what I had written but so did the teacher.
At first, I didn’t think the teacher really cared much for me. Was I ever wrong about that? She cared very deeply for us girls that were incarcerated. She wanted nothing but the best for us. That’s why she chose to take on the responsibility to teach the classes to begin with. The county jail we were housed in only ever offered programs for men. Now that they were allowing classes there it was finally for the women too. So, she jumped at the chance to teach the classes to the females. I developed a newfound respect for her and what she was doing. I just still couldn’t believe that the jail itself was allowing the women some privileges like the men.
I had been in the MRT class for a few weeks. After I had come clean to myself and God. I wrote an 8-page letter, front, and back, to my neighbor. I never expected a response from her. I never expected her to accept my apology either. One day, while I was sitting in the cell doing work on my book we got a new girl came in. She looked very familiar to me so, of course, I asked her what her name was. It didn’t ring a bell, but after she talked for a while I found out that she had kids with a man I had gone to school with. Her nickname was one for the books though let me tell you. Tit’s McGee! Come to find out she happened to be my neighbor’s roommate. Yes. The one I burglarized. The one I mailed that 8-page letter to. I forgot how that even came up in my discussion with her, but it did. I’m glad too. I admitted to her what I had done, and she told me the best news I could possibly want to hear. She said that Sandra forgave me. I started crying literally so much. My heart swelled up to the size of a basketball. I had my forgiveness.
I still felt terrible in a way because her husband died within weeks of filing charges against me. He lied about almost everything that was taken. As I said, I only took her pills. This man went and accused me of stealing credit cards, jewelry, and like 5 other prescriptions. I never really paid attention to all my charges until I was served a copy at the cell door one day. I called and told my husband it was all good because what comes around, goes around. But never did I intend harm on him or anyone else when I said that. I even cried at hearing how he died. It was gruesome too. He was in a car wreck and was hit from behind and pushed up under a semi truck. He never stood a chance at coming out of that alive.
I found out he died not long after my arrest. When I wrote that letter to Sandra I had mentioned how sorry I was for her loss. I knew she cared about him, even though they argued a lot. What couple doesn’t? Right? I couldn’t stress enough how sorry I was about what I had done. Especially since her little girl was sleeping on the couch in the room I entered. What if she had woken up and gotten so scared I traumatized her for the rest of her life? I’d never have forgiven myself for that. I knew I had come a long way since being locked up just a year because I came forth and admitted to the charges I was convicted of.
When you’re in one room with several other women you tend to develop a bond with some of them. In my case, I was a permanent tenant for the time being. As we’re a lot of other girls. You learn to adapt to your environment when in that situation. It’s not fun to be in jail. Let me say that from the jump. But when I tell you that I have had some of the best sober laughter while being incarcerated, I’m not lying to you. I haven’t laughed to the point my belly hurt in so long, it felt so damn good. There’s no way to be able to describe to someone how you could have so much fun in jail. Not until they have found themselves in the same situation, will they ever truly know. My husband still asks me that to this day sometimes.
I was lucky that I developed a good repor with the teacher. Not just that but because she saw in me the determination. The depth and feeling that I put into my work. I had already been in the county jail going on 2 years. I was sentenced 7 years for the crimes I committed. McCracken County Jail is a 10 year facility. However they were overcrowded and people that had been final sentenced were being shipped off to prison. My name appeared on the shipment list several times. But because I was taking those classes, the teacher fought to keep me there so that I could finish and get my certificate of completion. She did that because she saw the fire in my eyes and heard it in my words when I spoke. The change I wanted so bad. That I was determined to get when I got out. I was finished with all the drugs and the street life. Constantly messing up and disappointing my kids, my husband, and my parents. I wanted to be better and I knew I could be better. It was within me to do so. I had the mindset. I just wanted to get out there and prove everybody wrong that said I’d never be able to do it. Once a junkie always a junkie. Or so the saying goes when it comes to judgmental people. I hated that montra. It’s so…negative.
The time came for graduation and I was super excited. Why? I started something and finished it and I felt proud. Mentally I had grown a lot. Still had so many things I needed to learn though. My husband told me the teacher called him and asked him if he thought I needed to go to prison. (I don’t know this for sure) He said yes he did. She seemingly agreed. So I was shipped to PeWee Valley Ky State Prison for Women. That was one helluva trip. The longest ride of my life and handcuffed the entire trip. No bathroom break, no food stop. It was a couple hours long drive. Louisville, KY. from Paducah,KY. Talk about being uncomfortable. You’re in cramped quarters when in the back of a squad car. Sitting within the ‘Cage’, as they call it. Legs bent at awkward angles, and metal bracelets attached to your ankles. Not exactly my idea of a road trip.
When we finally got there and the officer let me out. It felt great to stretch and bend over, and lean from side to side stretching my spine. (with the restriction of the handcuffs, chained to my waist, which was chained to my ankles) The officer had gone to the trunk to retrieve my bags of property. He then walked over to me and I had to carry 2 heavy black trash bags all the way to the Main Building for processing. It’s there where another Correctional Officer goes through everything you have with you in your bags. You’re only allowed to keep what they let you. They threw away every hygiene product I had with me even though the items weren’t opened. I didn’t bring hardly any with me as I already knew they would dispose of them. I guess so they can be sure no one gets contraband inside.
I was nervous as hell now let me tell you. Out of all the times I had been locked up I had never been to prison. This was all new to me. Since I was a newbie I was dressed in blue pants and shirt. Everyone that was new was housed on the first floor of the Main Building, called AC1. From there I was moved upstairs to AC2. I liked it better upstairs than when I was in AC1 because you were kind of off the radar of the guards so you could wear your greys and didn’t have to sit at the end of your bed in a chair for 8 hours. Which is what I was supposed to be doing every day, Monday through Friday. From 8am to 4pm and then Saturday and Sundays you were free of having to sit at the end of your bed and waking up so damn early. I loved it when Fridays rolled around and I knew I could sleep in the next morning.
Man if you ain’t on your toes and watching your surroundings and the people in it, you’ll slip up and get got. It was still my first week when someone stole my toilet paper from under my mat. I was mad as hell too. There wasn’t any sense in someone doing that. What? To show me how easy it is to get caught slipping not paying attention. Message received and lesson learned. Believe that. It didn’t ever happen again though. It made me so mad and irritated because I knew it was one of the females around me that I saw everyday and probably spoke to, that did it. If they’d have just asked I’d have given them some of it. It wasn’t like you couldn’t ask a guard also if you were out. Things way more petty than someone stealing your toilet paper happened there on the daily. These females are scheming and tag teaming other inmates like it’s a paying minimum wage job. No joke.
They also have all kinds of rules you have to abide by, but also that you break everyday. Example: No loan, lending or borrowing. First off when you’re new and you don’t have money on your books yet and you need hygiene products, they force you to break that rule right there off jump. I mean you don’t have to ask to use anyone’s shampoo or body wash. However if you choose not to then I should warn you that not only will you not feel clean, but your hair will be so dirty by the time you get your canteen that you’d wish you’d borrowed some from someone. The state provides you with a bar of soap. Thats it and that’s all. So I borrowed. Broke a rule the first day. You just can’t let the guards hear you ask or see them hand you anything. It’s almost impossible not to ask anyone for anything when you first get there. You literally have nothing but what they issue you. Which doesn’t include a hot cup of coffee, for your caffeine cravings, or a pack of noodles if you’re hungry.
My mentality didn’t change just because I was now in prison. I still kept to myself. If I made friends cool, if not so be it. As much of a friend as you can have considering the circumstances. I’ve met some of the realist people inside the fence. Even more real than any of my so called best friends from the street. You can’t get more real than a convict that’s been incarcerated for 5 years or more. I was surrounded by murderers, rapists, arsonists, and child molesters, everyday for a year. If that doesn’t wake you the hell up and make you realize you need to get your act together then I don’t know what will. See rehab didn’t make me LEARN. Prison had my fullest attention.
I was incarcerated with inmates who have been there, in that same facility, 20 years or more. They were the ones that had acquired the most knowledge about how prison worked. Not the facility itself, but the inner workings of the prison. How it was to make prison your life, and your home. They knew which guards would let you get by with what, and which ones you could test and the ones you couldn’t. Like when night time rolled around and they shut the iron door to the room you lived in you could maybe get a certain guard to let you watch tv just a little longer than what you were supposed to. Even if it was just 30 minutes one night, who knew it could be an extra hour the next time. But only if the inmates showed their gratitude by not causing any trouble for them on their shifts. You become grateful for the little things in life like that. Since you’re ostracized from the world and society as you once knew it, and your freedom is completely taken away. Yeah, you most definitely learn gratitude.
That however wasn’t a problem for me to learn because I had already had gratitude in my heart for being alive and knowing they couldn’t eat me. I knew I was gonna be able to leave there when my time was done, but that others had to stay behind only never to step foot outside that fence again. A sad thought in some cases, maybe. I learned to pay attention to certain details I don’t think I could explain. Certainly not the regular things you’d already think to look for. Different. But I learned to read someone real quick. I could see straight through any game they might have been trying to run on me. It was every man for themselves except women in this case.
Usually everyone had to have a job doing something while they were there. Except of course when you first get there. You clean obviously everyday and that’s even when you first get there. I’m talking about working in the kitchen. From cooking to being the dishwasher. They also had landscapers. Women that kept the grounds mowed and weeded. Yes they for real rode top notch mowing equipment. Nothing but the best for a state facility. I’d hate to think they wouldn’t have a budget for that area. So yeah, there’s the long 8 hours a day jobs like that. To like custodial jobs around the entire grounds. Which were women that wore bright orange vests and went around cleaning everything and anything inside each building. From bathrooms, toilets, floors, sinks, mirrors, to door handles. There was a lot of stopping and hanging out and talking. Getting a chance to see your friend on another floor that you aren’t housed with is a rarity that’s taken advantage of to the fullest.
I was eventually sent to SAP. Substance Abuse Program. I was like okay I can do this for 6 months.I mean I’m already locked up and it’s not like I can sneak drugs back from the streets so this was going to be a breeze. NOT! It came to an abrupt end over Toothpaste! Yes. I said Toothpaste! It was 2 women in a room. All rooms being side by side, in a row down a long hallway. I guess it was really a cell. Except we had a real door instead of an iron bar that slid shut. Hence why I said room. We were able to leave to use the restroom. Those were actually real also. In the county jail your toilet is connected to the sink. Not in prison.
When we brought our canteen back to our room we had to put it in one of the three drawers we had under our bunk. During the spring and summer months ants were quite the problem. So it was a prison rumor to put toothpaste down like a caulk where the floor meets the wall. That it would work to keep the ants from getting in and getting into your food. When that happened you had no choice but to toss it. That was a waste of money and that you didn’t want. So of course almost everyone had done it. Well it’s customary for your counselor to inspect your rooms on Sundays, which was a deep clean day. Once a week every week. Not that they inspected your room every week, just that it was a deep clean day every Sunday. They could just choose to do a walk through if they wanted.
My counselor was Mr. Young. I had been in the program right at three months, going on four, when he decided he wanted to do a walk through of his students’ rooms. When he entered mine and my roommates’ living space he looked around and it’s like he saw the toothpaste first thing. Once he brought it to our attention that he saw it, he asked why it was put there only to tell us to clean it up. He gave us a time that it had to be cleaned by. My roommate was the absolute best because she just went ahead and did it that night. I knew I had to get the spot under my bunk, but when I realized my big, tall ass self had to get down on all fours to get at it, I refused to do it. Well to clean it all I mean. I also didn’t know my bunk came away from the wall or else I would have cleaned it all. I wouldn’t have had to get down under it to do it. I could have pulled it away from the wall. But it didn’t budge when I tried to move it.
When he came back to our room to check if it was cleaned up, this mother pulled my bunk out from the wall without hesitation at all. My mouth fell open and I was feeling some type of way. Don’t you know he wrote me up for some toothpaste against the wall that there way before I even thought about coming to that building. You could tell by looking at it it was old as hell. Compared to what the fresh toothpaste I had put down myself looked like. So I caught a wright up for that and he put me out of the program and charged me with a 613. Causing or Creating A Health Hazard. Anything 600 and above would automatically put you out of the program. I didn’t make the rules, I was just supposed to go by them. If anything it was a health improvement, not a hazard.
A lot of people couldn’t believe that that was the reason for me getting kicked out. They were mad as hell about it too. It was completely senseless and utterly stupid to pull my program from me over that. They are supposed to want the best for you in your recovery. Yet they yank me from my rehabilitation over toothpaste. Like I said a completely and utterly stupid reason. It wasn’t meant for me to go through the SAP program anyways really. It didn’t deal with your mental disorder that led you to drug use in the first place.
After I moved out of Ridgeview, the building I was housed in during my time in SAP, I was moved back to the Main Building. It was considered the “ghetto”. Of all the buildings you could be housed in that’s the one they considered the most ratchet. I went straight to the second floor though. It wasn’t the AC2 wing. I can’t remember though to be honest because I was moved just 2 weeks after settling in there. They came at me and told me to pack up my things. That’s it, no explanation at all. Some of the females that were helping me pack my things, tried to find out where they were moving me. We went to the kiosk because when you logged in it would show where you’re housed at. It wasn’t updated or showing for me though so I was still clueless. Finally when the C.O. came back to get me, he told me I was going to MSU! That’s outside the fence. I was in a state of shock because that building was for the model inmates. The ‘Top Notch’, ‘No Trouble Causing’ inmates. Granted I was all of these. Just saying. I told you it paid off not to be trouble for anyone.That goes for inmates as well as the guards that work there.
I finally got settled in and unpacked at MSU. Some of the girls were clicked up, and acted like they were too good to associate with some of the other ladies. I really couldn’t stand people that acted that way towards other people. Especially other girls that were different from them, By that I mean, like, they may have been a book worm such as myself, but chose to read fantasy themed books that were in series instead of just reading one book to the next. Or they may have expressed themselves differently. Whatever it was that made them seem like such odd people only attracted me to want to see what their personality was like. I’ve always gotten along with people that other people deemed weird or odd. I guess because I have always thought of myself as weird and odd. Maybe because I was treated that way my whole life by other kids growing up. It hugely impacted me and how I thought of myself as a person. But I was able to become friends with other people that were treated like I was. Like an unspoken unity is what we had. Actually it was nice to be able to get other women to conversate with me when they’d not speak to anyone else that tried to strike up a conversation with them.
Remember how I said everybody had to work or do some kind of job while incarcerated? Well, I was the lucky one that slipped by without having to do back breaking labor. When I moved outside the fence to MSU though I was told by one of the guards that worked surveillance in the building that I had to have a job doing something. So I was assigned to cleaning the downstairs bathroom once a week. What can I say? It had to be done.
Living in MSU was pretty cool because they had a stove and we could really cook. Of course you had to buy the food in order to cook and usually everything that could be cooked was kind of pricey. It also housed a doublewide trailer in the back yard that was for recreational use. It’s where the tv was and shelfs containing all kinds of books. If you went down the hallway to the back room you would find a pool table complete with balls and pool sticks. It was actually very nice. I was getting used to living in that building and getting to know and become good friends with a few of the females, when I was called to the administration building one day to speak with Mr. Grimm. She had told me that the parole board wanted me to do a substance abuse program and I would then get parole upon completion. I was mad as hell because I had already given that a try and was kicked out over freaking toothpaste. The program I was going to this time though was different. It was called ‘The Willow Program’. So you know what that meant? Yep. I had to pack up my things and move all the way back across the compound to the exact building I was in during SAP.
This program was different just like she said. It dealt with your mental health issues first and your addiction second. I really took to it and the work they handed out. They didn’t overload you with copious amounts of paperwork like the SAP program did. They believed in addressing why we chose to use instead of just using in general. The Willow Program teachers and coordinators wanted women to talk openly about the things that happened and triggered us to use. In my case it was PTSD, from seeing the fire that took my nephew’s life and claimed my sister 17 days later. For other women it was the same and yet for others it was different. Maybe being sexually assaulted growing up or being raped by family friends or even their own parents. Yes it’s happened. There are just sick people out there in the world and they aren’t all men either so let me just get that out there.
It was only after I had been in the program for a couple months when I was in my room going through some paperwork and I came across my certificate of completion for the Parenting Class I took in the county. When I first got there a social worker in the Main Building told me I wasn’t to receive the 90 days off my sentence for that class because McCracken County wasn’t recognized by the parole board to teach those classes. Well lets just say the roommate I had at the time was a Godsend. She told me that they had to give me those days because I had that certificate. That I needed to write Inmate Records and tell them I have the certificate of completion and they would give me my days I was supposed to get credited. Well she knew what she was talking about because out of the blue one day when I went to put my order in at the kiosk, I noticed my money was gone.
Well needless to say I was already thinking someone had ripped me off somehow, some way. I mean I never put my order in for them to take my money. So where the hell did it go? I walked away from the kiosk telling some of the girls about it and the ones that knew the getting released procedure told me I was about to go home. I told them to shut up and stop getting my hopes up. They were dead serious though. So I went to the social workers office and spoke to a woman named Mrs. Mayfield. She also had no idea why my money was taken. But no sooner than I got the question about my money out of my mouth, than I was paged once again to the Administration Building. Yet again I found myself on my way to speak to Mrs. Grimm.
I had butterflies in my belly during the whole walk there. Could it be that I was gonna finally get another chance at freedom? To prove to my kids and my loyal husband that I could make it this time? I was honestly scared thinking about being out in the free world with the rest of society. Not that I couldn’t do it, just because I had been sheltered for so many years. I have been away from all the drugs, pills, and the bad influences that are randomly out in the world. All the people that want to see you fail. The ones that said I’d never make it when I got out, the entire time I was locked up. So many people had my husband really believing that I wouldn’t change. I’d go right back to the way I had been before I even got arrested. You’d think everybody would pray for the best in me, and that I make it this time. Sadly not everyone felt that way. Pathetic right? I know. How do you think it made me feel to know those people said that about me behind my back only to tell me how happy they were that I was out and finally home to my face?
If you ever want to test a friendship you think is solid. Get locked up and see who sticks around. I guarantee you it won’t be very many if you even have one. People I thought were my truest friends, were the ones that only wanted to see me fail. It’s pretty sad to read, I know. Try being the one on the receiving end of that so-called friendship. It hurt so bad and so deep, I had no choice but to cut those people out of my life. They no longer fit into my perspective of a healthy life. When I think back on it now, all the signs were there, I was just blinded by fake love. Fake love isn’t anything to mess with. It’ll make you want to hurt the person that fed you that fake love and fake friendship. Lets keep it real. If you’re only wanting to succeed in life, keeping people like that in your life will keep it toxic. They will keep dragging you down. They will keep you sick. I’m so glad that I finally learned my lesson. I’m even grateful to have learned it the way that I did. Why? There was no other alternative. It was to be locked up and learn, or to be dead and not learn. When one is faced with only those two options, I bet they pick being locked up and learn.
I was released in October of 2018. After serving 3 ½ years straight of incarceration. Today I am a sober, functioning member of society. I’m not perfect by no means. Yes. I have relapsed. I still take it one day at a time.Today I am thankful for jails and institutions. Without them in the world, I most definitely wouldn’t be here right now. So if you find yourself reading this book and you also happened to be incarcerated. Please take my words to heart because I only want the best that life has to offer you. I want you to seize this moment in your life and choose to learn.
Shout out to my Main Manager Mrs. Laura, and the entire morning crew. You know who you are and you know what you’ve done. I’ll forever be grateful to you and second chances.