As we pass through this Christmas season I ask you to remember that this is the most difficult time of the year to be incarcerated. The following is from a young woman in our Women's Spirituality Group who had a desire to share her story & her name; from Ashley.
In 2008 I had a daughter I named Lacy. Throughout my pregnancy I struggle with addiction and became very dependent on pain pills. I was on probation and to avoid going to jail, put myself in rehab. While at this treatment facility I was put on methadone. Unaware at the time that opiate withdrawal is very dangerous to an unborn baby and can cause early labor and sometimes death, I ended up getting angry and tried to leave treatment but due to the fact that I would be putting my child in danger. My probation officer had me put in jail on a hold. I stayed in jail until my daughter was born. She was born very addicted to methadone and had to stay in the hospital for a week to be weaned off of it. So while my brand new baby was in ICU I had to go back to jail. My cousin got my daughter from the hospital when she was healthy enough to leave. I was very fortunate my probation officer offered me Alternative to Revocation to a half-way house called ARC. One of their houses is MIP, Mother and Infant Program and it is for mothers with children under the age of 1. My baby was one month old when she and I went to MIP. I did well there for about 5 ½ months and ended up self-sabotaging and left the program. Lacy was with her father and I went on a week long relapse. I got arrested, went back to jail, got revoked on my probation and ended up being in jail for another 3 months. While in jail my daughter's father took me to court and got full custody and full placement of our daughter. I was allowed visits with her after getting out of jail. I saw her a few times but I, once again, allowed my addiction to take over my life and stopped going to my visits. Lacy was 9 months old at the time.
That was over 4 years ago. This October, prior to my incarceration, Lacy turned 5 years old. I had contacted her grandmother on Facebook and was staying in contact with her via phone. She told me she was going to give me a chance and be there for me but if I messed up this time she was done with me. She told me how my daughter talked about me even though she doesn't remember me but wants her mommy. I came back to jail 2 weeks later. I thought for sure my daughter's grandma was done with me. I couldn't believe I had done it again; the demons of addiction beat me another time. I was in jail about 3 weeks and tried to get her address. I knew the town and I knew what street she lived on but I wasn't sure what the house number was. She had told me when we spoke on the phone so I had a number in mind but I was not positive. I decided to take a chance and mail a letter to the address I thought it was. I sat down and wrote her a 10 page letter. I told her about my entire life, all the way from childhood to my life as a adult. I shared things with her that very few people know and some secrets I've never shared. I told her my trials and tribulations, abuse I've suffered, pain I've endured. I was for once, 100% honest. I mailed the letter and prayed it would reach her and prayed she would give me another chance. Having been in jail a little over a month at this time and not speaking to her, I felt like she would not respond or if she did it would be a very angry letter. I prayed about it and knew no matter what ended up happening it was in God' hands.
Approximately a week after I mailed that letter I went to church service. I hadn't thought about the letter except to tell a fellow inmate that it felt good to get all that off my chest and that I was at peace with my situation and where I was. Although physically I was not in a good place, mentally I was in an amazing place so ultimately it didn't matter where my body was. So here I am sitting in church, typical Thursday night mass and sometimes I struggle with receiving the message or paying attention to what the pastor is saying. A lot of times I'm just there going through the motions. Not this time though, this particular night the service was about our Savior's mother, Mary. As the service went on, Father told all of us women how blessed we all are as women to be have the gift within us to give and carry life. How we all need to love and respect our bodies because of the amazing gift God has given us. He also said how women are natural mothers; that it is within our souls. It was a really good service and it made me think a lot about how neglectful I have been to my children and how I want to be a better mother.
The very next morning I received a response to the letter I wrote to my daughter's grandmother. I read the letter and cried so hard because she told me she would be there for me to help me through this and support me with anything I need. She had some great words of encouragement. She also told me how sad it made her to hear Lacy talk about her mom and not even know who I am. When I finished reading the letter I looked at the envelope and realized the address I put on the letter I mailed was way off. A few of the people in my cell block said the postal worker must have known the name and that's how the letter got there. I believe God made sure she received that letter, that God heard my prayers and answered them. I also believe God wanted me to hear that church service the night before so when I received that letter I wouldn't take it for granted and open my eyes to the precious gift I have been given, the ability to give life!
Spirit of God
So bright and so strong
I've longed for You so very long
To feel Your love unconditional and true
I know I can have it if I believe in You
If I trust Your Word and follow Your path
You will walk with me and forgive my past
My faith will grow strong and guide me through
Joy will come naturally into my life
For You are the one that can relieve my strife
Spirit of God
So bright and so strong
I now know You were with me all along!