As an adopted baby who came from a loving home, I’ve always been somewhat of a people-pleaser trying to fit in. My family was a “clean your plate” kind of family so I grew up a heavy kid. As a teenager I was always trying to reinvent the wheel, when I wasn’t taking it apart. All of the kids in school growing up were very mean, so I got teased all of the time. My parents were foster parents for disabled children, which meant that I was taking care of kids all the time.
I grew up next to a mall where I learned to steal small things like lipstick, but I never got caught. I started drinking in high school wanting to fit in. I went straight for the hard stuff – stealing liquor out of my parent’s liquor cabinet and replacing it with water. It was during that time I saw this movie called “The Best Little Girl in the World,” about a girl with an eating disorder who lost weight and it really changed me. I dropped 45 pounds in one summer soon after seeing this movie. The people who didn’t like me or wanted nothing to do with me in the past were suddenly my friends. That’s pretty heavy stuff when you are impressionable and a teenager just trying to fit in somewhere. At 17 years old I finished high school and moved out of my parents’ house. I was now an adult. That preceded all of my really bad decisions like partying. I tried to put myself back in school and all my friends were smoking pot. Some of the kids my parents took care of were told by their doctors that the reason they had disabilities was because their parents did drugs. So I was very anti- drugs for a long time.
My friends were all smoking pot so I thought, “Well if they’re going to do it I should just sell it to them to make sure they got the right stuff.” My ‘no-drugs’ policy turned into smoking three-quarters of an ounce a day. Of course, people are really motivated when they’re high, so my school discipline just went down the toilet. This started my reckless descent – drinking heavily, smoking pot, and working stupid jobs just to support it.
By the time I was 21 years old, I had three DUI’s thanks to being grandfathered in Minnesota to the 19-year-old drinking age. I never wanted to give up my keys because that meant I would have to give up the controls to my partying. I was in and out of jail and was one of those people that didn’t listen. My friends at the party would say, “You can’t drive!” and I would say “But I have a perfectly running car.” By the time I left the state in 1989, I had been jailed over 42 times.
I knew I needed to do something different, so I decided to go back to school for something I really wanted to do — to become a motorcycle mechanic. In order to get back to school, I had to first pay back the old school loans. So I went to treatment for the first time in order to save money spent on alcohol. I worked two jobs, actually saved up enough money, and stayed sober for a while. I moved to Arizona. Six hours after moving there I started drinking to celebrate the move. I picked up right where I left off. I graduated Motorcycles Mechanics Institute as a Certified Mechanic and moved back to Minnesota. Shortly thereafter, I landed a great job at the local Harley Davidson dealership. My old drinking buddies wanted to celebrate, but I said, “No, I worked my butt off to get here, I’m not going to blow it.” Three beers later, I found myself in the back of a squad car.
When I got out of jail and went to work on Monday, I got called to my manager’s office. When I got there he was pacing back and forth and said, “Do you want to tell me what happened this weekend? I know you got busted. Want to tell me what happened?” I replied, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” After all, how would he know that I got arrested? Turns out my boss (who was a Harley Davidson dealership owner) used to be the Ramsey County Sheriff and still had buddies in the department. Because of my prior arrest and convictions the prosecuting attorney said they were going to give me two-and-a-half years for that arrest. So I left. That was how I handled things, I just left. I moved back to Arizona and started working in a 24-hour pool hall. The only people that go to a 24-hour pool hall are tweakers. Back then it was known as crank. One night, this guy asked me if I wanted to try some and that was my introduction into meth. I was instantly — instantly — hooked. Four days later, I was on the couch with earphones and a scotch playing air drums thinking this was the coolest thing ever. I didn’t need to worry about the law anymore because I never left the sofa. I didn’t need to worry about gaining weight again because I never ate. It was the coolest tool. Why aren’t more people on it?
One of the things that I did while I was high was think about 50 million ways how to make free money. I became a tornado of destruction set loose on society. I became something I swore I would never become. I cashed checks, stole people’s identity, and many other felony offenses. My conscience was gone. By the time I got arrested, I needed to be arrested. That first time I got caught with somebody’s cards, I was busted and went to jail. That was my first experience with an Arizona jail. Eleven months later when we went to court the prosecuting attorney wanted to give me five years on a first-time offense, so they gave me three-and-a-half years. I did my time and was out. The day after I was released, I hooked up with one of my friends’ boyfriends who was a meth cook. When I was released from prison I didn’t want to get high, but I didn’t have any structure or tools or a program. Six days later I was arrested again in Arizona and did another three-and-a-half years.
The first time I did three-and-a-half years I was okay with it. The second time I did time, I was really pissed off. That guy I hooked up with went back to his ex-wife. When I got out of prison in Arizona, I decided not to stay in that state. I counted 16 felonies at the time and decided to go back to Minnesota. Well, shortly after arriving, thanks to that unresolved DUI way back when, I was arrested on an illegal U-turn again and put back in jail. I got probation and decided to go back to treatment. I was thinking about the things I needed to get back, not about what I needed to do to get better. When you hang around people that buy stolen merchandise, they are probably all using drugs. I had multiple addictions at this point, not just using meth. I completed that treatment but didn’t change my behavior. It was just a matter of time before I started using again and got another DUI. That made seven, count them, seven DUIs. I didn’t want to run checks or do that kind of thing anymore, but who was going to give me a job? I knew it was just a matter of time before I was going back to prison. My best thinking, while doing shots of tequila, was to come out of retirement and work just enough to hire an attorney. Thank God they stopped me. Thank God I didn’t do any more harm. I was supposed to go in front of this tough judge who had access to all of my prior arrest and convictions in my file. She had just had her purse stolen and someone was running her checks. She was not happy with me. She said I was going back to prison today and sentenced me to 18 months. When you do this kind of time, the people around you, like your family, also do the time.
I completed my sentence and knew that if I didn’t change people, places, and things I’d wind up back at the dealers again which is exactly what happened. It was at this time I noticed I was getting anemic, really tired and feeling sicker and sicker. I was taking so many drugs to stay awake, but found myself sleeping all the time. I couldn’t stay awake. By the time I got arrested with two stolen vehicles in my driveway, my physical health was so bad I just needed a break from using. While in jail I fell asleep on a soft mattress. It was the first time that I had actually fallen asleep laying down in a very long time. I felt this huge bump between my hip bones and I thought that I was pregnant. I had to sign on for another 15 months to get out of prison. At intake I told the nurse that I might possibly be pregnant. It turned out to be an 11 centimeter tumor and they scheduled surgery. Because I was so anemic, in order to have surgery I needed to have blood. I always thought that my biker friends would be there when I needed them the most. My hemoglobin levels were at 4 (11- 12 is normal). I have rare blood. I asked my family if they could donate. I was adopted so I would have to call my friends. I called all of them to see if any would be a match, but none came. It was one of the lowest realizations in my life that I was really alone. Thank God they found the rare blood, and I was able to have the surgery. Soon after surgery I returned back to prison and was feeling better.
When I went back to get my post-surgery hemoglobin checkup, my doctor said that when they removed the tumor, they found cancer and that I would need chemotherapy. That was a harsh and scary realization. Here I am with the loss of privileges, back in my cell for 23 hours a day with nothing to do but to think about this. Now in all of the time I have ever done which was nine-and-a-half years, I was never one of the bible thumpers or religious kind of people. For the first time I was really scared and thought I was going to die. I thought about all of the damage I had done, and all of society, and the people I had hurt. Why would I be given a second chance? It was the one time that I went back to my room and got on my knees and said I can’t do this by myself. I said my first prayer. I said, “God, if you get me through this, I will do everything in my power to stay sober and to keep my word to you.” The day I went to my surgery, I got my TV in my room which was expensive – it was like $200.00. I got back to my room after surgery for one day, and they told me to pack up, that I was going to treatment.
I had to be open to the signals that were passing me, so I went to treatment. Cognitive thinking behavioral treatment, that’s what I got signed up for. This type of treatment focuses not only on alcohol and drugs, but it also focuses on behavioral problems. I got my head in the books and tried to be honest with my counselor. I asked one of my counselors, “Why do I keep doing this over and over again? Why do I keep making the decisions that I make? I have a fairly high IQ. Why do I keep going back to jail?” She said, “Because you don’t honor yourself as a person, and don’t give yourself a chance at life.” I said, “No, that’s not it.”
The test results came back as I listened to “Jesus Take The Wheel.” That song helped me get through a lot. They got all of the uterine cancer, 50% of my uterus had cancer, they got all of it. I got to keep my hair. I was terrified, very very grateful, but terrified because I had just made a deal with God . . . and he came through. I didn’t have any idea of how to be sober or do anything. I had been stealing and bending rules and breaking rules of society for so long it became second nature. I didn’t know how to be sober. I had been given a second chance. I don’t know why, but I was given a second chance. I decided to have an open mind, so I listened. I shut my mouth and listened.
When you go to treatment in prison, and if you have contact lenses, you can keep them. But they are kind of expensive so you can get these lovely Sally Jesse Raphael glasses. However, there is a rule that, when you get your glasses, you have to turn in your contact lenses. I mention this because this was one of the most important lessons I had to learn. I didn’t do it. I kept my contacts and thought it was a stupid rule. Why would anyone care how I see? I’m trying to pay attention to their treatment, however they are trying to help me change my life. Someone told on me, that I still had my contact lenses. When one of the counselors came up and asked me if I had contact lenses, I said “Yes I do”. He said, “Ok, I need those.” This is how my life worked. I heard him say I need those, not the ones that were still back in my room. So now I am wearing the contact lenses and the stupid glasses looking for the person who ratted me out. I’m not even high and this was how I was acting. It got to the point that they had 3 officers bring me to medical and look with a flashlight for my own contact lenses. I finally said, “Fine.” I was then put in solitary for 15 days for destroying evidence. So this is how my track record goes. Who does 15 days in “seg” and 30 days extended incarceration for possessing their own contacts? There is a point to this story. The point is that I thought it was a pretty insignificant rule so why bother? But when you are working an honesty program, and you are trying to recover from this disease, you need to be honest in every aspect of your life no matter how small or insignificant you think the rule is. If I was going to change my life and do something different, I had to follow every rule.
So even though I thought it was a stupid rule, it was a really big turning point for me because I got kicked out of treatment for breaking it. I had to go back to treatment again after I got out. While in treatment I was introduced to CMA. I heard that people who did 90 meetings in 90 days made it. I heard that I had to change people, places, and things, so I got rid of every phone number in my phone. I heard that if you don’t drive illegally you won’t go to jail. God I hated that one! I was living in a sober house and got a bicycle and was peddling my butt to every meeting I had to go to. I was willing to go to any length. I wanted to meet as many sober people as I could meet, so I went to every CMA meeting I could go to. I was on parole and had never successfully completed parole or probation. Never! My parole officer was right down the street from my sober house, and I would just drop in to see if they needed me to drop a urine sample or anything. It got to the point where one of the parole officers had to say, “We will call you when it’s time to come in.”
I entwined my life with CMA and went to meetings all of the time. After a year sober, I met my husband. The cool thing about having a positive sober network in CMA is being able to talk about everything I needed to talk about in these meetings to stay sober. I needed to be around people that were going to call me on my shit, to be able to talk about issues like stealing and how to change my habit and create a budget, about alcohol, about meth, and about how to live an honesty program one day at a time.
When I went to CMA, I started giving back, cleaning up and emptying ashtrays and being of service. Someone told me that they needed an H&I person at the Intergroup level. They were like, “We don’t know how to do that.” I told them that I didn’t know how to do that either. It was easy to get in! Once I got things worked out, I organized some volunteers and we got CMA meetings into four prisons. Eventually I got my little badge and was able bring a meeting in myself.
I went to a wedding one time, and the judge whose purse got stolen and sentenced me years before, took one look at me and said, “Oh my God, you look great! What are you doing?” I told her what I was doing. She has me in her Rolodex now. Weird! Today I sponsor women. Weird! I am a business owner today. Weird! The cool thing is that the promises do come true if I work for them. It wasn’t easy. There are days living life on life’s terms is hard. I am blessed and honored to meet other people in CMA who do their best to give back.
In June of 2018, I had 15 years sober. If anyone is in doubt, they can do this. If I can do this, somebody who had nine years in prison, 16 felonies and seven DUIs, if I can completely turn my life around and be a business owner, a productive member of society, so can you.