When I was 19, I started working for the California Conservation Corps. One of our responsibilities was to serve meals to the firefighters and prisoners as they fought the major fires. This is where I met “Bill” who was an inmate imprisoned up in Yreka, California. Bill and I wrote letters back and forth for months, and when he was released, we moved in together. We were later married and had 2 children.                                    

       At this time, I was drinking heavily and smoking pot. For years, I had used every drug I could get my hands on. But little did I know that Bill was using IV cocaine and speed. And it didn’t take much to convert me into an IV drug user. I would spend the next 6 ½ years with a needle in my arm. I had 4 near-death experiences when I overdosed, twice by the needle and twice when I was smoking crack. Needless to say, I lost all interest in working, taking care of my 2 kids, my husband, my apartment– and myself. We ended up living in a tent, because we had lost everything. The only important thing now was using. I ended up sharing needles with people who later died from AIDS. Over time, my veins were so scarred from injecting myself, I started shooting in my hands and feet. On several occasions, I even had another stoned addict shoot drugs into my neck veins. This could have meant sudden death with even the slightest mistake. The interesting thing is, throughout this horrible time, I wasn’t having fun at all – I was just trying to deaden my pain. Bill and I divorced after 8 ½ years of marriage. We had tried to get sober together, but by that time, we didn’t know who each other was without the drugs. After a 6-month attempt at sobriety, I left my family and headed straight for the streets so I could continue in my addiction.

       I harbored guilt for this for years afterwards, because I helped to destroy that marriage and I abandoned my children, just as I had been abandoned as a child. I wasn’t able to see them again for a very long time. I never imagined that I would end up living on the street for 2 years. I was that proverbial “bag lady” you often see on the street. I lived in a predominantly black neighborhood when I was homeless, and I would go up into the projects at night for drugs – which is something even the locals wouldn’t do because it was so dangerous. I occasionally scoured garbage cans for food, but I usually just sold my body so I could survive and keep up my drug habit.                                                                  

       I certainly had a death wish. Twice, guns were pulled on me, and once I told the guy “Shoot me and put me out of my misery”. I tried to commit suicide on several occasions, but I couldn’t even succeed at that. I was miraculously spared from death on so many occasions.  It’s funny – when you’re “out there” – you just don’t realize how “out there” you really are until you get your life back.                                           

       I had been arrested 13 times by the time I was 29. One morning, I was unlawfully on Fort Ord Army Base in Seaside, California, when 6 military police cars and the City of Seaside Police Sergeant pulled up to the front of the house I was in and came busting at the door. I didn’t know it then, but this was to be the very last time I would ever use cocaine. I’m 5’8” tall, and when I was arrested, I weighed in at 117 pounds. I didn’t even realize how sick I had become.                                              

       Because of my lengthy record, and multiple recent crimes and arrests, I was sent to prison. At the time, I thought this was the end of my life. However, I realized I was at a critical crossroad in my life. I needed to either fully choose life, or fully choose death. I just couldn’t live like this any longer. I am abundantly grateful now that I chose life.                      

       I was sent to a Southern California women’s prison. I was placed in the “receiving unit” before being released to the General Population. I knew some of the women there already; I had run on the streets with them. It’s organized so that 2 inmates are placed in a cell that’s roughly 6 feet by 10 feet. We were on lockdown 23 hours a day for 6 weeks, so there was absolutely no privacy. Very few inmates in receiving are allowed out of their cells to work.                                                                               

       But GOD had a plan for me. My cellmate worked in the kitchen, which gave me the time I needed to be alone. God was about to do another miracle in my life. While I was alone in my cell, I finished a book called “Devils Driver”. The story was about Al Capone’s chauffer, the big mafia guy in the 40’s. This man had killed many people and landed in prison. He found hope in that dark prison, and his life changed so much, he began to help other prisoners.                                                                

       I didn’t know I was at a major turning point in my life. I wasn’t even looking for God. All I knew was that I wanted to die. My whole life up to this point was useless and the pain was unbearable. I was 29 years old and had nothing but misery and a pathway of destruction to show for it.     

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