“Mama had met and married a good man, a Marine, by this time, so I went home to live with them, but crack cocaine got me right back out on the streets. I met another pimp and even had a son with him. My son stayed with Mama until he was six years old and she got so sick with cancer. I was scared to death of what might happen to him on the dope track if he was with me, so I called the Salvation Army and got into their Renewal Program.
“Then I found out Mama was dying, so I went home to be with her. My younger brother and sister didn’t want me there, but Mama told them: ‘I need her.’ For the next two weeks, until she died, I took care of my mama. I bathed her, I stayed with her, I did everything for her. And I told her, ‘I know I’ve been horrible. I’ve been on drugs forever. I know they don’t like me, Mama, but I’m gonna be there when they graduate college, I’m gonna be there when they have their first children. They don’t know it yet, but they’re gonna love me.’ She looked at me and she smiled so big. I ain’t never seen my mama smile so big. I stayed on in my mama’s house for a year after she died, and I’ve been clean going on six years.
“That same little brother and sister that didn’t want me around when Mama was dying? My little sister loaned me her car when mine wasn’t running. My little brother went into the Navy and could only have four people at graduation. My name was the first one on the list. They love me now, just like I told Mama they would. I’ve worked in the recovery field since the one-year anniversary of my sobriety, and I'm now volunteering with Lives Worth Saving. One addict helping another. This year I’m the Tennessee Area Cocaine Anonymous Convention Chair. I got married last October to a good man, and my mama’s Marine husband came all the way from Virginia to give me away.”
Sheila: “A predatory man will look for a girl who goes to the store in the neighborhood by herself, and he’ll ask about her. Is her mama a single parent? Is Mama at work? Mamas, don’t leave your babies at home by themselves. There are free after-school programs. Arm your child with knowledge about predators and what they’re looking for. Instill in her some values. Continue to tell her that she’s loved, that she’s beautiful. Make things happen in her life, because if you don’t, he will. Most girls want excitement, and he’ll tell her this life is exciting. It is. It is exciting. But it’s dangerous. Yes, there’s the guy who’s going to give you money. But he doesn’t tell you somebody’s riding around just to rape you, somebody’s riding around to rob you, somebody’s riding around to arrest you. And there’s that person who’s out to kill you in the name of Jesus. Some guys believe they’re doing God’s will when they get rid of prostitutes. You’re not going to be missed, they say; they’re just cleaning up the streets."
CM: "If a child has been molested, how can a parent help?"
Sheila: “Most women who get caught up in this have been sexually molested as children and they didn’t go to counseling. Don’t let anybody tell you that a child who has been touched doesn’t need deep counseling. She needs counseling. She needs somebody to talk to her. When I was molested, we didn’t think I needed counseling, but I had that shame, that guilt. I felt like I was nasty, so it was ok for me to do other stuff because I’d already been there. Instead of somebody telling me, ‘That ain’t nothing you did, baby. It ain’t got nothing to do with you. That’s a sick man. I’m sorry that he put you in that situation, but it didn’t bother you. You gonna be all right. It doesn’t make you bad because he’s sick.’ You need somebody to continue to tell you that. That’s why addicts have to continue to go to meetings all the time. You have to be reminded that you are blessed and you are ok. You can make it; you are worth something."
CM: "What would you say to fathers?"
Sheila: “Do right by the woman you’re with. Don’t talk crazy to her. Lead by example. Daughters learn from fathers how women should be treated. When you go out with your wife, open her door. Do things for her that men are supposed to do for women. Stand on this: Ain’t nobody good enough for my baby. Stand on it. That way, your daughter will continue to bring people who are good enough into her life. That’ll make her work for it. You have to accept who she chooses though. You have to accept him. If he’s not what you had in mind, Tell him, ‘You better prove to me that I’m wrong about you, that you ARE good for her.’”
Website: Lives Worth Saving (Restore Corps)
- Rachel Sumner, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Madge Deacon, email@example.com