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Castanita’s Journey

Dec 10th, 2019 | Category: Peer Voices

Along the highway I was picked up by a state trooper who put out a search to find my mom. Once she was found, she told them “That’s not my child, you can do what you want with her.” My mother was an addict.

That lifestyle became a long dark road for me. Over the years of just wandering from city to city and state to state, I came to Dallas Texas where my life took a turn which I never thought would happen.  I was homeless, on drugs had no hope or purpose in life, I guess you can say I just existed in life. My nights on the streets was home, and drugs was what I need to survive, and prostitution was the source that fed all of it. I escaped every day the reality of my life as I lived under bridges, dumpster dove, slept with men just to have a place to sleep.

Once in Dallas, I started getting arrested for prostitution. I could remember back to my first arrest when I was a little girl and they placed me in a detention center as a runaway. I didn’t think for a minute that this would be the first of many arrests.

The more I was out there on the streets the more the cops got used to me and who I was. I was getting arrested more and more, until finally I got that third strike. They say “don’t get that third strike,” but I didn’t understand what that meant. Going to jail was hard for someone like me, I didn’t have any family to put money on my books, or write me, or even visit. I survived jail being one of the indigent inmates by washing people’s clothes, or drawing, just to get something sweet. Jail itself gives indigent inmates 3 envelopes and paper, a very small pencil to write with. When you go to jail and you don’t have family the indigent hygiene kit is a small tooth brush, a trial size tube of toothpaste that has been sitting up in a storage area for years in a box. The food they feed you is the worst, green bologna and hard bread. Breakfast was eggs that was green sometimes, and black beans was always a tray lunch or dinner. For me though I didn’t complain because even though the food wasn’t good it was for me.

When I got to jail after being arrested so many times, I didn’t ever see that I could get out of the mess I was in. I didn’t know how to live. I never had anyone to believe in me until, in the court system I had judges that believed in me. Then, I didn’t see what they were doing. I didn’t realize the seeds that were being planted. All I knew then is I didn’t want to go to TDCJ. I ended up going to SAFP [a state-run substance abuse program] where one of my counselors helped me with the forgiveness part of my journey.

She asked me to write a letter to my mother with my left hand, and finally the little girl inside of me that was hurt, lost, abandoned, and rejected had a voice, and forgiving my mother took root.  But I went back to the streets, the abuse, rapes, and arrest became more frequent. On August 6, 2010 my disease of addiction and the life I was living ended—I got arrested and was rescued. Judge Lena Lavario told me, “Castanita if you stop living in the past you would have a future.” I then went to Phoenix House where Mr. Wheeler told me I had to be the executioner, not understanding what he meant. I went and looked up the word execute; it means to bring out. He wanted me to bring out what’s been inside of me. I did just that. God brought me to the STACS court and I was given a probation officer and court family that believed in me, along with the many people and services that has helped me with this transition. Judge Mays hugged me, Ms. Johnson told me “I believe in you,” and the encouragement took me to a whole different level of accepting myself, loving myself, and most of all forgiving myself.  I would like other women to know that they too can achieve whatever they want. I would like someday to be an advocate for women. I have walked a mile in their shoes, I just didn’t have their feet.

Finally, after all I had to go through to get where I am today, I can say it was well worth it, because I love me today. I am becoming my best me I can be. Within the last nine years I have accomplished the following:

  • After 31 years of separation and not knowing where my family was, today they are back in my life. My mom and I have reunited, I told her I understood she didn’t know how to love me, and I forgive her. If there were anything I did, I wanted her to forgive me. She is one of my biggest supporters. She is doing the mommy thing long distance. She teaches me how to cook, asking “am I going to my meetings and meeting with my sponsor?” I had the blessing of knowing her for four and half years until she was called home November 13, 2017
  • I have a 97-year grandpa whom I have the pleasure of spending 3 years with before he went to home in October of 2015
  • Graduating the STACS drug court
  • Getting off probation 3 years early
  • Becoming self-sufficient; I pay bills and taxes today.
  • Got my Driver’s License and got my first car.
  • I am in college with a GPA of 3.27 honor society PHI THETA KAPPA studying to get my Associates in Social Work
  • Peer Recovery Support Specialist Certification
  • Obtained a full-time job at Amazon
  • I volunteer at Attitudes and Attire (which has helped me become a lady)
  • Graduated High School: I didn’t want a GED–I wanted to walk across the stage and get my diploma and on April 20, 2019, I was blessed to do so.
  • I have been clean and sober nine years–since August 6, 2010.
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Briana

Thank you for sharing your story. I admire your bravery and honesty. Congratulations on your years sober. You are an inspiration.