The first of seven children, I was born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, a village high up in the mountains with no running water, electricity, or cars. I have fond memories of a simple, fun life but I also remember waking up from nightmares because of the beatings my mother would receive from her father, a drunk.
When I was 12, we left Mexico and came to the United States, settling in Logan Heights. Three years later I was pregnant and at 16, gave birth to twin girls. My boyfriend, Henry, was 20. During that time, I still went to and graduated from high school – my mother or Henry’s mother would watch the girls. But Henry was intimidating and mentally abusive – he would come on campus during lunch with the babies to let other boys know I was his. He didn’t like that I went to school – he thought my place was in the home. At 18, my mother insisted Henry and I marry, which for me, meant I must abide by his rules and submit to him whenever he wanted. Four years later, we divorced and I moved back in with my mother. That was no sanctuary either.
My mother constantly shamed and blamed me for a failed marriage. To cope with the abuse, I turned to drugs; they made me numb and that’s how I survived. But that led to beatings by my brother at the encouragement of my mother. The police came to the house several times but instead of helping me, my mother would sit on the porch and tell the police there was nothing wrong and send them away.
Not long after high school, I found a good job, got clean and was able to move into my own condo. For six years, my girls and I thrived. Then I met someone – a man who had a good job and who I thought I could trust. On the surface, it seemed to be a happy relationship; the reality, however, turned out much different. My boyfriend got me in to cocaine and methamphetamines. At first I was a casual user but eventually I became an addict. I lost my job and so I turned to burglary, forgery and stealing cars to purchase more drugs. I became a criminal. By now, my girls were in high school, very independent and often stayed with Henry who was back in their lives.
The next six years were a disaster and sometimes a blur. I was in and out of prison and off and on drugs. My saving grace from this nightmare was that I got picked up for a warrant and was sent to Las Colinas Detention Facility. Inside, I received counseling and finally opened up about what I was going through and the years of abuse I had endured. During this time both my girls joined the Air Force – I knew they were safe and out of reach from the dark forces I was involved with. Because of this, I was now free to get the help I needed.
During my stay at Las Colinas, I met Second Chance President Robert Coleman, who was speaking at a job resource fair. His words resonated with me, I felt like he was speaking directly to me. A second chance to get things right, a safe and supportive environment with no judgment, a doorway back to self-sufficiency. After his presentation, I went up to him and introduced myself. I was nervous and excited! I promised him that as soon as I got out, I’d come to Second Chance.
And that’s what I did. The day I was released, I came to the Second Chance and signed up for the Job Readiness Training workshop. I was ready for a new start. Four weeks later, I graduated. I got much more than job search skills from the class; I gained self-confidence and I knew that I could do whatever my I set my sights on.
Today, at 39, I’m grateful for the smallest of mercies. I’m clean and am forging friendships with people who don’t want to control or use me. I’ve lived my nightmare and now it is time to heal. With my girls both grown and serving the country, it’s now time for me to go after that bright future I know is mine.
There’s no better gift than a second chance. And at Second Chance, opportunities abound for those willing to put forth the effort. I hope you will consider helping Second Chance end the cycles of incarceration and poverty by making your tax-deductible gift today. Happy Holidays!
With humility and appreciation,