From Prison to Professionalism *Part 1

My Journey From Crack Cocaine to College Graduate

Growing up, my mother was constantly accusing me of doing terrible things. She expected the worst, while continuously preaching that my sister Shannon Ashley and I had to be on our best behavior. After all, Jesus was watching.

Even as elementary students, my mom constantly accused us both of sexual perversions and immorality.

She once abruptly pulled me out of Ames Elementary, a school we lived directly across the street from, and stuck me in a school across town for reasons she didn’t communicate with me. Then, pulled me out two weeks later from that school, to send me back to Ames. Only this time she told me it was because my kindergarten teacher had told her that I touched another female classmate “down there” and was being kicked out of this school.

None. Of. This. Happened.

Surely if it had, a school social worker would have gotten involved. Hell, I expect I at least would have been talked to about “said incident” by “said teacher”

*raised eyebrow dumbfounded, exasperated expression*

My childhood revolved around the evils of perversion. Sexual abuse lurked in the house of every childhood friend. This was ironic because when it mattered, she didn’t protect me from sexual abuse that actually happened at the hands of a male YMCA employee. She only publicly proclaimed how she had protected me from stories she created in her own head.

She had divorced my Father, leaving him when I was a toddler and running away to “protect me” from sexual abuse she claims to have walked in on. This claim maybe allowed her to feel justified when she signed up for government assistance, I don’t know. To date, she hasn’t held a job a day in her life. Maybe she thought it would give her leverage in her pending divorce. It’s hard to understand the workings of the mind of someone with untreated mental illness.

I had sporadic visits from my dad after, although I remember him coming over many times and her not allowing him to come into the apartment building. Confusing to my four year old self as she later became pregnant by him with my sister on an attempted reconciliation visit.

Fast forward to middle/high school. I wasn’t in the popular crowd but everyone knew me and for the most part everyone was kind. I did have some popular friends, although some of my best buddies remain fellow choir and glee club type “nerds” ~ I didn’t excel at anything except Choir and English. I felt well liked by my teachers and peers. The biggest bully I encountered in high school was my own mother.

I was never “good enough” in her eyes. Never thin enough. Never smart enough. Never applied myself enough. Either too funny or too dry of a sense of humor. Not enough make-up or too much. Trying too many new things or not enough at all. The criticisms felt endless.

And the drugs. And the sex. All the drugs and sex that I wasn’t having.

Truthfully, my first sexual experience was a brutal sexual assault that happened on the closed campus of the Christian college I was attending. It resulted in a pregnancy.

My first sexual experience.

Raped and Pregnant.

Awesome…

I dropped out of college, losing my scholarship, having lost my virginity to assault, lost my religion, aborted the twins I was carrying, lost my independence and moved back home.

I began working in retail management and for the local Pepsi plant and took night classes to become a vet tech. I very much kept to myself and barely interacted with my mom or sister. The interactions I did have with my mother were rarely pleasant and always critical.

I was paying out of pocket for classes and I’m sure I wasn’t contributing much to my mother’s rent (which was $28 by the way, since she received Section 8) or household expenses. Because she received Section 8, I was staying there illegally and she let me know the sacrifice she was making every damn day, by allowing me to stay there. I tried to stay away as much as possible except to sleep/shower.

I lived on Taco Bell and fast food. The pounds packed on pretty quickly. I was weighted in more ways than one. My self-esteem, which wasn’t great before, plummeted.

During this time, my mom had hijacked my journals and found out I had had an abortion. I was ashamed but also angry. This was deeply personal and not flippantly decided. I agonized over my choice to abort. She immediately demanded to know what I did to warrant being attacked. I must have done something. She had “warned me” she’d chant, wagging her finger in one hand and waving a Bible in the other.

I was a whore.

A murderer.

I needed my own place, but had no means of truly supporting myself. My dad let me stay with him for a while, which helped but was still awkward. He was an artist who although very successful later in his career, still lived frugally.

It was then I met a man who would become my first serious boyfriend. I was 19. He was 32. Back then, in the mid 90’s I don’t think we had online dating, but we did have landline phone sites, like ‘Live Links’ ~ not a sex line, although there was plenty of that going on. We spoke for weeks before meeting. After we met, I moved in with him fairly quickly, maybe after two months of dating. Nine months after that, we got an apartment together and I officially shared the lease.

I thought I loved him but it was a love formed from a place of desperation, unhealthy boundaries and low self-worth. I didn’t know what love was or what love was supposed to look like.

The relationship with him was very unhealthy. He was never physically abusive, but was very controlling, sexually and otherwise, and verbally abusive.

The relationship lasted two years. He left me and married someone else three months later.

I dodged a huge bullet.

How huge? Like, I dated a suspected serial killer huge. Yep. That huge.

Where is he now? I recently found out he hung himself in a prison cell 6 years ago. (I’m still processing things and have begun writing a story I’ll share at a later date).

So there I was, single, working, in college, but devastatingly broken. I didn’t drink alcohol and still hadn’t experimented at all with any drugs, but I was already riding the substance abuse train and the next stop was Enable Road.

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for Part 2…

*photo credit Ye Jinghan via Unsplash