Free since September 2014
While incarcerated, DJ participated in Truth Be Told’s Talk to Me Movement program. Using the improvisational, body-centered practice of authentic movement, Talk to Me Movement invites women to write and embody the story of what they believe put them on a path to prison.
Describe a typical day in your life these days.
A typical day in my life consists of morning meditation, going to work (I love my job), bettering myself through my education, and providing myself with much-needed self-care and love. When the opportunity arises, I spend time with my children and grandchildren, which I was unable to do during my active addiction. I am an outgoing individual, and I love anything that has to do with nature and the outdoors. Today, I just enjoy living life, knowing who I am, loving that individual, and respecting myself and others.
You have said that your history of addiction and incarceration work to your advantage in your professional role today. Could you elaborate on this?
After my second release from prison, I put myself through school and received associate degrees in sociology, psychology and substance abuse counseling. Who would have thought that my addiction and incarceration would benefit me in bettering myself and helping others? I am a licensed chemical dependency counselor (LCDC) at a residential treatment program and am truly blessed to have the opportunity to help others on their journey through recovery. The ability to relate to my clients as a recovering addict builds a stronger bond, helps guide them on their journey, and better assists me to provide the necessary tools and resources. Seeing people continue to work toward change for the better continues to be powerful.
You mentioned that in the past you struggled with codependency, and you cited this as part of what kept you in a cycle of addiction and incarceration. Will you share more about what codependency looked like in your life, and what helped you break free from that cycle?
I remained in a continuous life of toxic relationships due to my low self-worth and feelings of inadequacy. My past was a brutal life of addiction and abusive relationships. I had completely lost my identity, hated myself, and would do almost anything to find love and acceptance. My identity came from how others viewed me and what they wanted me to be and do. I attempted to use men and controlled substances to make me feel better about myself; however, my addiction spiraled out of control, and I found myself incarcerated for the first time. Between both of my prison terms, I have spent approximately six years incarcerated.
In December this year, I will finally be eight years free from alcohol and drugs, and I continue to make drastic changes in my lifestyle. Truth Be Told was an integral part of my recovery process, which catapulted me to explore my identity, make positive changes, express myself appropriately, love myself, and follow through with my journey of self-discovery. For this, I am profoundly grateful for the founders, as well as the staff and volunteers who continue to take the time to work with these ladies as they did with me during my incarceration. This program helped me to see my worth and value.
This year, you earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology. What did you have to face and/or go through to achieve this goal, and what advice do you have for others who want to pursue higher education at any point in their lives?
I earned my bachelor’s degree at the age of 53, so there was some fear of continuing with my education so late in life, but I have learned that I am worth the effort. My biggest obstacle was time management, due to balancing employment, family time and the necessary self-care that is crucial to success. However, scheduling, applying the appropriate tools, a great support network, and stepping out of my comfort zone made this new journey a successful endeavor. I am continuing my education by working on my master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling, and my ultimate goal is to specialize in addiction/offender counseling, so I may help those that are in the same situation I was in not so long ago.
To my Truth Be Told community, especially those who are still incarcerated, I want every woman to know that you can break free from this cycle. You can love yourself, respect yourself, and follow your dreams. This is TRUTH! Do not let anyone tell you that you cannot succeed at anything. Discover who you are, speak your truth, and take everything you gain from Truth Be Told with you when you are released, because your journey will begin and you will flourish.
Live your dream!
Honor DJ by helping Truth Be Told raise $40,000 in 7 Days between September 21-27. All gifts made during this 7-day campaign will DOUBLE in size, thanks to a dollar-for-dollar matching pledge of up to $40,000! Your gift will ensure that Truth Be Told continues to disrupt the cycle of trauma, abuse and incarceration among generations of women. Click on $40,000 in 7 Days to make your gift today!
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