My mom never liked my dad, but I think she sought after him for protection, and that’s how I came into the world with my three sisters and one brother. I can remember as a young kid being dropped off at Grandma’s. I attended church and Sunday school with her, but that didn’t help my self-esteem. I pursued the wrong things to try and feel good about myself.
I trace this back to an experience I had when I was five years old and in kindergarten. The class was right across the room from the bathroom. Kids weren’t allowed to go by themselves. We had to go to the bathroom in pairs and this particular time, I went with Tammy. We were in separate stalls, and I told her not to leave. I heard a door shut and called her name, thinking she had left. “Tammy? Tammy?”
There was no response. When I came out of the stall, I was shocked to see this big, tall guy. I remember that he had large hands. He put his hands up, and said, “Don’t say a word.” Tears started forming in my eyes. He picked me up and put me on a radiator. Then he covered my mouth with his hand while he raped me.
The man threatened me and left. I felt ashamed, afraid, and—dirty. Because of this event, when I became an adult, I became involved in the school system or in the Parent Teacher Association because I wanted to protect my kids and others from predators.
My mom also contributed to how I saw myself. From the time I was seven until I was ten, she told me and my siblings that she wanted to flush us down the toilet. She didn’t know how powerful that statement was— she didn’t say it just once, she said it many times! Other than crying, I didn’t dwell on her words, but I know this type of abuse continued to compel me to seek out unhealthy people and things that weren’t safe for a young woman.
My mom wasn’t what you may be imagining. She was a pretty woman and athletic, too. She was in the Army Reserve, served in the federal government, and retired after 35 years. She’d also been on the Washington Redskins cheer squad, but none of that meant she was a good mom. When I was about ten years old, I can remember guys coming over to our house to party and smoke weed while I pretended to be asleep in bed. Mom even let my sixteen-year old brother smoke with them! She wasn’t the best role model for us. When I look back at what I experienced when I was five and how my Mom treated me when as a child, it makes sense that I turned to a group who seemed to care about and accept me—the drug community. I didn’t get love or acceptance from my mom and my dad was never around, so why not?
When I was sixteen and in high school, I remember going to a friend’s house and trying Angel Dust for the first time. Though I didn’t like it at first, a year later I was hooked on drugs and selling them, too. It was quick money, and I continued to sell until I was twenty six. I sold Angel Dust, weed, and a drug called “Love Boat.” This drug is associated with three different street drugs: marijuana soaked with embalming fluid or formaldehyde, marijuana soaked the dissociative hallucinogen in PCP, or marijuana soaked in both formaldehyde and PCP. The last type of drug I sold was crack cocaine.
As I got older, I learned more about my family. My Uncle was a “big timer.” Everyone knew him. He operated Uptown Northwest, and I saw all of the drugs, money and money counters firsthand. My Dad was on the streets as a user and sold drugs. Because I was a part of using and selling myself, I could look at a person and tell if they were a user—just like a coach can tell who the athletes are. I saw my dad at a pool hall when I was eighteen. I looked at his swollen hands and feet and could see the dark lines on his arms. This was how most heroin users looked.
I grew up with a shapely figure, but didn’t want to call attention to myself, so I wore skirts to try to hide it. That still didn’t keep men from trying to touch me in an unwanted way. They’d try touching my leg, and I would get so angry and defensive, too. This all traces back to what happened to me when I was five.
It was 1996 and a friend (my neighbor’s boyfriend) heard I was running to the grocery store and needed a ride. After he got in, I started driving down an alley, and I remember seeing a black Jeep Cherokee moving really slowly. The next thing I knew, I saw the back window open and my car was sprayed with eighteen rounds of bullets. The car took off immediately. I finally got my manual car into gear and sped straight to the fire station, because the guy next to me was shot. I could hear this man breathing as his head laid on my shoulder and then he took his last breath. I saw death flash before my eyes and was lucky I didn’t get hit myself. I spent from daylight to 1:00 a.m. at the police station. As horrible as that incident was, I continued dibbling and dabbling in drugs. I kept selling and smoking even after all of that. The man’s family was also threatening me about the drive by, like I had something to do with it.
I didn’t have a role model to encourage me at the time. Church was my go-to. I believed, but I didn’t take it seriously. I knew there was a God. Looking back, I know God shielded me. I give God the glory when people tell me I’ve been through a lot.
Two years after this incident is when my life changed. I was tired and sick of my lifestyle and cried out to God. I already believed in Him, but this time I really cried out. I was crying with sounds I didn’t even recognize, and I even got down on my knees. I was humble and talked to God in a way I hadn’t before. I had a table full of heroin in front me, but I fell down on my knees and cried out to God to take the desire away from me. This glass table had dope all over it, but I didn’t want to do it anymore. I heard in my spirit that I was killing others. I just wanted everything to go away, and I told God that I would die if He didn’t take the desires away from me. I knew that if I got high anymore, I was going to die. I would spiral down and self-destruct.
Twenty-four hours later, the DEA knocked down my door and searched my house. They found scales, bullets, and coke. My two youngest kids were there, but a neighbor was able to take them as I left in handcuffs. I was processed at the police station, where they took my mug shot and I stayed there for two days. At first, I was in jail by myself and had this unbearable headache, but then I heard, “You know how to fish?” A woman sitting across from me in another cell spoke these words as she watched and listened to me. She knew what was going on and said she could send something over to me. I never thought of rolling up toilet paper in a certain way in order to transport Tylenol!
After that experience I was more scared than anything. I thought to myself, “I’m really in jail.” I slept on a quilted blanket mattress on the concrete floor. I eventually moved into the population. I remember sitting there waiting to make a call when I saw a lady I knew. She said, “What’s your goody two shoes a&# in here for, Girl?” She knew from high school that even though I had started selling, I was always into my studies.
I used the phone, got a shower, and went back to my cell. This time, I wasn’t alone. I remembered watching movies with jail scenes and wondering if the stuff in the movies really happened. My jail mate said, “The top or the bottom?” I took the top because of the jail movies. I got up there and the lights eventually went out. I was on the bed praying in my mind and not even ten minutes later they called my last name and opened the door.
God heard my prayer, and I believe He heard my cry three days earlier when I was on the floor. I could not do it on my own and was helpless. I knew God covered me, heard my cry, and answered it. I was still scared—very scared—but after I got out of jail, I went back to church. I never went back to the drug scene. I was on the straight and narrow. To completely distance myself from the past, I purged and got rid of everything: phone, contacts, and even my clothes.
I started all over from scratch. I also found a wonderful role model in the late Elder Piper, who took me under her wing at Church. I laid at her bosom, and she told me how much potential I had. She served me and my needs, and because she used a walker—I was also able to serve her for many years going grocery shopping, washing clothes, and fixing her food. I did these things all while she was teaching me the Word of God! I’m thankful for her to this day!
As I was sharing my story with Gary from Check Your Game over a Zoom call, we both became emotional as I was reliving some of this, but that’s okay. I need to tell my story because it’s freeing to share it and let it go. Though my childhood experience was traumatic, every time I’m able to share what happened and how God restored me, I find myself more and more freed from the past. I’m grateful to God that He stood with me through that trauma and that I didn’t catch HIV or any other disease. I want to tell the world about it to let others know that it is possible to walk forward through suffering and that God cares about each of us. Edited by Peggy Bodde
Click on book below to purchase.
Dr. Sharlene’s dog she calls Journey
Dr. Sharlene has Nominated (N) or Introduced (I) the following:
Involve yourself around positive people. Being curious we pick up stuff, but I believe in school for instance, these people are good for you, but then they’re doing other stuff (smoking or other stuff) that you have to be able to see the signs and red flags. Most of the time, we know when stuff isn’t right! Pay attention to your surroundings. I can use my own children as an example. Once I surrendered and gave myself to Christ, I started to break a cycle that I picked up at an early age. My son would tell you that I didn’t talk at my children but to my children. We would have dialogue and I’d listen and would respect them. Recently, he came to me and cried like a baby when he told me how much he appreciated me supporting his decisions. You have to make a choice to stop what you might have been taught or what you’ve experienced growing up and with God’s help in my own life, I was able to make those changes. With God, all things are possible. You can talk to people who are doing drugs but they’re foggy. They don’t want to talk about God. I just simply drop a seed and continue to talk and share with others and try not to be a burden to others because I knew what it was like in their position. Some people push back and others are receptive. God gave me a gift to talk to individuals and to show that love is most important. If your actions don’t align with what you’re saying, you’ll be rejected. You need to earn someone’s trust. I’ve been blessed that God allows me to do that.
My business card
Unity 4 US Community Outreach
Health and Human Services
We work with people up to 18 months to stay in housing.
My typical customer
We provide emergency housing and necessary services to women veteran and less fortunate individuals to return to a productive and meaning for life.
Visit my website: https://www.unity4us.org/