“You don’t know my mind. Who are you to tell me what to do?” That’s what Anna Monroe said to people trying to get her to stop doing drugs. I heard Anna talk at the Alternative School in Clarksville to a large group of high school students. “I was just like you,” she says to the audience as she rests the side of her head on her hand, frowns, hair in face. “I used to hear motivational speakers in my school too. I was thinking, why don’t they just shut-up so I can leave?” Anna was one of three guest speakers to talk as part of the Character Education Program.
“You want to know cool? I was cool,” says Anna. In the days when they didn’t have white-out she took another piece of paper, wet it, and glued it over the ink on report cards to forge it. Instead of going to school Anna was going to Disco Fever, the place where rap started in the Bronx. She was the first girlfriend of Grand Master Flash. She hung with school mates the Furious Five and the Sugar Hill Gang. She enjoyed making rap rhymes. She was in a group called the B Girls, B for Break dancing. She stayed out dancing at night and was too tired to go to school. When she was old enough, she dropped out of school.
She did every drug there was. Heroin. Weed. Crack. Alcohol. “I had the hair and the clothes. I had a phone. I stayed in the best hotels and got back stage passes to rap shows. You weren’t nobody if you didn’t keep your cocaine inside a $50 bill. We bought drinks that were $50 a bottle. Bling, bling; I had it.”
How did she afford this? Not going to school; not working at McDonalds. Prostitution, selling drugs, pimping out men and women. She could hustle the hustlers. She once went to Bermuda on an all expense paid 7 day trip. It was a delivery run. Cocaine was inside a boom box. She had to exchange it for $30,000. She was praying to God that she didn’t get caught in a foreign country with the drugs or money. She didn’t get caught on that trip but did get caught on a bus trip. The cocaine in the boom box was in the bus storage compartment-not on her person, which is the only reason they couldn’t put her away for a long time; but in fact each state she had entered could have put her away. She served only 30 days.
She was high 24-7 by 2003. She stayed out all day and night long. Didn’t want to look stupid; she wanted to know everything that was going on. “I was sick, throwing up blood; but I just kept smoking.” On Chapel Street, taking a last hit she started shaking and passed out. She had a seizure. In the ambulance she went flat line, legally died, on the way to the hospital. “I remember being outside of my body looking down. I felt so alive.”
Her ovaries had burst. There was only one pint of blood in her. Her intestines had been eaten by bacteria. Her kidneys had shut down. “When kidneys die, you die,” she said. They cut her open the same as if she was being embalmed. They used two pumps in her stomach to pump out the poison and kept her alive on a breathing tube and IV.
Two months later she woke up from her coma. They told her they didn’t expect her to walk or talk again but to be a vegetable. But miraculously her kidneys worked. Miraculously she relearned how to walk and talk. And now she talks about how she died and was reborn. She needs to tell people her story. She felt proud when she stood on the street corners selling but that was not a proud accomplishment of her spirit.
“It is easy to do drugs, easy to sell. What’s not easy is to follow your dreams. It’s easy to let people talk you out of them. It’s easy to look cool, not easy to walk your own path and make things happen”.
Even after recovering from her coma she smoked crack again. Her rap sheet is a mile long. Busted again, Judge Grimes of Clarksville does not let her get away with excuses, he demands compliance from her. It has been just two years that she has been clean.
Now she feels stupid standing in front of kids telling them that her cool was stupid. But she does it in hopes that she will save a life. “I regret there’s not a lot more ME telling you not to be like me.” Her body is not in good health. She cannot climb steps without getting winded. She has high blood pressure and COPD (her smaller airways are obstructed). She works at a job that is hard labor. It’s all she can do because she doesn’t have the schooling and experience. She feels limited and frustrated that she cannot grasp how a computer works. She is angry at her own lack of skill.
“Go to school,” she says. “It’s not about what you learn but what you teach them. Everyone is born with something inside them, a special talent.”
Anna goes to recovery meetings and classes and she thanks God for finding a way to wake her up because she knows that’s what happened. She prayed for God to help her for so long; it just took God awhile to find a way to get her to stop. Some members of our audience were anxious to hear more about her rapping knowledge and relationships.
Alea White’s father died when she was 9 years old. Before that he was a violent alcoholic, beating her mother to a point where the children would plead, “don’t kill her, kill us”. He once beat all of them and then urinated on them. When he died Alea’s mother worked so hard to take care of them. They lived in a house with no bathroom but an outhouse and no electricity. They had to tote water from the stream. Sometimes they had to share a box of Mac and cheese between all of them.
As a young adult Alea got a break and started doing work as a model. That took her away to other cities and into lots of money. The first time she was given rock crack she felt nothing and said, “You mean that you all spend that much money on that little bit of stuff and you don’t feel it! You will never catch me buying any!” That marked the beginning of her 17 year drug addiction.
She came back to Clarksville as an addict and her rap sheet grew to the size of a Webster’s dictionary she said. She went to jail many times. Each time she would pray that God help her get away from drugs. Each time she would feel like she would be able to stop. Each time she got back out, she went right back to her dealer. Her five children were taken away from her because she was incompetent to care for them. She made front page news in the Leaf Chronicle when she was abducted and raped in Clarksville. Sometimes Alea carried a machete or guns or num chucks tucked in her pants . Her sister came to her rescue so many times. Alea said she would steal from her sister. Then she stole from someone else to pay her sister back. There were weeks that she only went home twice to sleep. She always had warrants out for her arrest. Her mother didn’t want to visit Clarksville because she was afraid to watch her youngest daughter be arrested.
“Don’t think that dealers who get you to sell are your friend. They will never show up when you get busted because they don’t want to get busted. They use you to service their addiction.” She said that men who used her for prostitution cared nothing about her; some said, “You ain’t nothing but a little ho; you can go on about your business.” Alea felt so alone and depressed and so bad about her five beautiful children, she didn’t know where they were, they didn’t know where she was and she didn’t know if they knew that she loved them. She felt sick that she caused her mother so much pain; her mother who sustained beatings to raise them. To deal with her depression, she kept on doing drugs. She smoked so much crack cocaine that she tasted blood in the back of her throat and was very dizzy.
“Lord I’ve got to change” she thought so many times. She was standing outside a place called the Pool Room one night thinking about how she would get her next hit of crack cocaine and she looked up to see a young man looking at her. She thought he looked familiar but could not place him. He walked up and said, “It’s been a long time. Don’t I look familiar to you, don’t you know who I am. Mama, I’m your son”. That broke her heart. Her addiction and life was so bad she knew she would either die or go to prison.
Certain people helped her rekindle her trust in God, like Pastor Terry, who would pray for her every time she asked. Harry Northington helped her. In June of 2002 she declared that she was delivered from that druggie life. Now she is part of the group, Take It by Force, and is a motivational speaker in this cause. She feels that there is no addiction that God cannot heal. Her mother had told her that if she got down she should read Psalm 23, which Alea recited to our audience by heart. Now 44 years old, she sees her mother often and is in touch with her children. One of them generally goes with her on speaking tours to talk about being the child of an addicted parent. Though she is recovered and doing well, she cannot find good work because of her rap sheet. She emphasized what a horrible ordeal that is.
Regina Moore couldn’t stand to see the hurt on her parents faces when they knew she was on drugs. She says that her trouble started when she no longer honored her father and mother. Her rap sheet is as long as her arm she said.
Offered jail or rehab she chose rehab and went five times. It didn’t work because she was not going for herself. When she’d get busted, her husband always bailed her out of jail until the bail got too high and she had to stay. She was facing 3 years but then the prosecutor spoke up in her behalf saying that she had been doing good, staying clean for awhile. That generosity of human kindness impressed her. She got lucky, got a miracle and is now off of drugs and going to APSU studying to be a social worker. She looks forward to getting things for herself in an honest way.
“Drugs, alcohol and trouble are a package deal.”
All three women are brave to bare their souls in order to perhaps help someone else not to make the same mistakes. They suggested that each of us have a unique soul that God deems worthy of his love; don’t listen to people who put us down. All three are beautiful people inside and out; crack makes beautiful people ugly and completely self-centered, only thinking about themselves and their next hit. That they are all here today involves many miracles that they acknowledge. All three women expressed deep regret about hurting their parents and families. None of them blamed their addictions on anyone or any thing though there are constant pressures around all of us every day. Said Alea,
“Don’t get so angry you want to destroy yourself.”
Debbie and her family moved to Clarksville slightly after the tornado of 1999. Debbie founded the group, Clarksville Freethinkers for Peace and Civil Liberties, in 2004. She participated in Gathering to Save Our Democracy, a group dedicated to obtaining free and verifiable elections in Tennessee. She has supported groups including the NAACP, Nashville Peace Coalition, PFLAG, Friends of Dunbar Cave and the Mountain Top Removal Series of Films and speakers. She participated as an artist in the ARTZ gallery group in Clarksville and won Best of Show, First and 2 Second Place awards for four of her sculptures. She won a voter’s choice award for a performance at the Roxy Regional Theatre. She is a wife, mother and cancer survivor. She is always amazed at the capabilities of the human spirit, and the wisdom to find humor when there is none.
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