“Last time I was in jail I was completely broken. When I was eight years old, I got aseptic meningitis and became half-paralyzed. My parents would always fight and I had it in my head that it was because of me. There were always drugs around my house and different people coming in and out. I always knew what was going on, but I tried to keep my little sister sheltered from it. She is two years younger than me and had a stress related ulcer by the time she was 10. One day, my mom took my sister’s backpack and left. I grew up thinking that she left because I got sick and somehow it was all my fault. I did my best to take care of my sister, kept us fed and did everything I could to protect her.
We were put into foster care a month or two after my mom left. My mom did her best to get custody of us after she got settled and my sister and I eventually moved in with her. I was so confused, had a lot of resentment issues and was angry at the world. Things did not work out and I moved back with my dad for a while and then my grandma, where I was able to complete high school. I began experimenting with drugs and eventually became an addict. I was in and out of prison for a long time. I thought that I was going to end up dead or in jail my whole life but, one day, I got a Facebook message from my mom that said, ‘Hi my earth angel. I hope you find happiness in this world. I love you.’ I began a relationship with her again and with my little sister. That year I said, I am going to stop. I am done. When I left jail the last time, I went straight into treatment and did 70 days of rehab.
Now I live with my sister and I am really close with my mom. I have realized that mom did what she had to do when I was growing up and it wasn’t my fault. My hopes are to find work part-time and go to college. I would like to take addiction and community counselling. Before I was clean, I could be in a fully crowded room and I would feel alone. I would like to show people that they are not alone and that, no matter how horrible it feels, it can change. I recently got a tattoo. The black symbolizes the darkness that I have walked through, the dotted white parts are the emptiness that I have felt and the colorful part in the middle is the beauty that I have found in life and in myself.”