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What I Know About Me

Facing Poverty in McPherson, Kansas

Back when I was a year and a half, my older brother and a couple of his friends decided to give me liquor. I guzzled it down – faster than milk. But my brother’s friend asked, “what if she gets addicted to it. What will your mom say?” My brother answered that our mom was out doing her own drug dealing. Besides, my brother thought I was mom’s favorite and that really pissed him off.

When I was ten, my mom and I were in a store and she was having me try on shoes before school started. I remember mama saying, “put these shoes on and do it quietly.” I told mama that they felt funny. Mama said “no, they’re perfect – just your size. Now don’t take those off. We are going to walk out of this store when I say it’s time. That clerk won’t notice a thing if you don’t call attention to yourself.” I kept trying to tell mama they still felt funny and that I didn’t need new shoes for school. I told mama “I love all my new Goodwill clothes. I really do.” I had heard mama crying and complaining a few days before about not being able to buy me things for school. I told mama, “I am fine, mama. Fourth grade will be great – with or without these shoes.” Mama had a lot of pride and told me that “nobody’s gonna say that I ain’t providing for you. Nobody! And I’m gonna make sure you get new shoes. Now let’s start walking toward the front door and to our bus. Go, girl, go!” Looking back at this now, I have to laugh…it was so funny. Two left shoes. That is what she made me shoplift that day. Two left shoes.

When I was eleven, I walked in on mama looking in the empty cupboards and talking to herself. There was nothing in the cupboards…nothing! We still had six more days until the welfare check came. But then, the welfare check was never enough anyway. It was $400 and $300 of it went for rent. Mama said, “how am I supposed to keep us living around here on $400 a month?” Looking in the fridge, there was nothing there, either. I asked mama, “can we go to the grocery store tonight? Can we?” Mama sighed and told me to grab the ketchup and she grabbed the spaghetti noodles and said “we are going to have the best supper ever tonight! This will be yummy.”

And I remember it was good! Mama called it her ‘Mexican Spaghetti’, just noodles, ketchup and some of her favorite spices. It actually was pretty good. Mom was pretty talented at stretching a dollar. She taught me how to survive. She taught me how to budget and pay bills although I struggle with that today. I don’t blame her for selling drugs to get us by. She loved me a lot and that was the only way she knew to get us by.

When I was 30, my brother had me prostituting myself in order to make money. Yep, I sold my body. One good thing came out of my prostitution days – my son Tom. My wonderful middle son, James, came from a bad match-up too. That was the date-rape night back in 1998. And my oldest? Carl? Well, his biological dad was and still is a total jerk. I don’t have a thing now to do with any of the three dads, but I am so glad that I gave birth to each of my three sons – Carl, James and Tom.

I am 35 years old and two and a half years ago, I called someone I heard might be able to help me. I was poor and I was so tired of being poor. But when I called Rebecca, I was asked if I was clean. Nope – I was still using. Rebecca was so kind and gentle, but she told me I would have to have six months clean time before I could start Circles. I hung up the phone and looked at Jane. “We have to quit using heroin and meth. Quit using! Quit using? How am I ever going to manage that?”

I kept asking Jane “How am I going to get clean? How?” I knew this Circles program sounded good and I was so tired of being dirt poor. Me and my mom, from way back, we were always trying to keep our head above water. You know, not be evicted – that was our main goal – and to have enough to eat. My mom was so good at making sure, in her own way, that I had what I needed. But now, “how am I going to get clean?”

Jane kept telling me I COULD GET CLEAN! You could do it for your boys. Her daughter helped her, and she said she would help me. She said, “Let’s get off this heroin first.”

A few weeks after quitting drugs, I felt terrible! I was freezing. Everything in my body was shaking. I kept saying “I don’t think I can do this.” I REALLY wanted to go back on the drugs!

Jane would hold my hair back and wiping my face as I was vomiting. She kept encouraging me, telling me “No you don’t. You CAN get free of the drugs and I will help.” Neither one of us wanted to go back to that kind of life again. I was so tired of being a slave to meth and heroin. I was so tired of not being able to pay our bills. She kept saying “You can do this; you can be free of this!”

Then two years ago, Jane and I were both finally free of the drugs. AND we had been free for six months. So I made the call back to Rebecca Lewis and told her Jane and I were ready to join the Circles Program. Rebecca asked if we were clean now and I proudly told her “Yes, we are! Yes, we are clean. No more heroin and no more crack meth.” Jane and I enrolled in the next Getting Ahead Class.

Now, we have been in Circles for two years and here is what I know about myself:

  1. I can make things happen. I am a problem-solver. I got that from my mom.
  2. My past is a mold for what I want to be. If it wasn’t for all the bad stuff, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I have forgiven myself and others. I have that forgiveness today because of my loving partner, Jane.
  3. Circles changed my mindset. The people at Circles made me trustworthy and made me employable. They also showed me that I can be more trusting of others. I am getting myself and my family out of poverty. I now have hope. Someday I want to be a drug and alcohol counselor and someday I will.

Thank you, Circles.

A Circle Leader‘s Story as told to Bev Nye

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