Magdalene House

I had the pleasure of spending some time with the women at the Magdalene House in Nashville, TN, a two-year residential community for women with a history of prostitution and drug addiction. The women are some of the most incredibly strong people I have ever listened to as they told their stories and the paths that they took to find solace in their recovery. These are their stories.

My name is Penny. I’ve been homeless since 1995. I got into some abusive relationships, got into drugs and alcohol, mostly alcohol. I ended up living here and there and yonder the best I could. Then I went into treatment, and luckily I got accepted to the program here.

I been drinking since I was maybe 11. You see, my mom and daddy owned beer joints when I was a child, and they took me to beer joints. I remember drinking every now and then but I wasn’t an alcoholic then. When the bar closed and they were cleaning up they’d say “You want a beer?” and we’d say “Yeah,” we just thought we were big.

When I was [prostituting], I had my regulars that would pick me up. I didn’t walk the streets all that much. I got a few women into prostitution, like I’d get paid to get them tricks. It was just a hard life. Chaos. Never know if you’re going to turn a corner and get shot or robbed, anything.

I’m glad it’s behind me, but they say “Never forget where you come from because you can always end up back there.” We think about that last miserable moment and that keeps us from wanting to go back out there.

When I first got [to the Magdalene House] it was like I was part of a family. We try to stick together and help one another.

My name is Niki. I grew up in what seemed to be a normal middle class family. My stepmother suffered from mental illness that went untreated and I was at the hands of her abuse. … I went to school with welts and bruises. It was kind of a secret where everything seemed perfect on the outside in that we went to church and my family was respected in the community but inside, in the house, it was hell.

When I started using crack cocaine I was actually married and had a little boy who just turned five. I lost everything within, probably a six month period. My marriage fell apart, we lost our house, I lost my job, and eventually I couldn’t take care of myself. Fortunately my dad was able to take care of my son. I tried to get clean at that time when I confessed to my family about what was going on with me, but I stayed clean for about 30 days and then I relapsed.

I’d gotten to a point where I was so sick of what I was doing. I was sick of prostituting, sick of using drugs, I had this deep shame and guilt and still do because I basically left my child for drugs. Finally one day it was like, “I can’t do this anymore, I’ve got to be a mother to my son. I can’t not be in his life.” My mother wasn’t in my life and I didn’t want that same cycle.

One of my stays in jail I had been given a list of different recovery programs. Magdalene was actually the last number on the list. I called and the house manager answered the phone. She asked me where I was at, and she came and got me. When I came everyone was real open. Everyone was loving like they accepted me just like they had known me forever. They were people like me. They were people that had issues that I had and I just felt comfortable. It was the perfect place for me. I probably couldn’t have gone anywhere else.

My name is Shelby. I was on the streets since November of ’07. I’ve been in active addiction for 23 years now. My parents began using with me and introduced me to drugs. I left home at 13, and got pregnant when I was 17 with my first child. I was still using. I got pregnant with my second child when I was 21 and used all through that pregnancy, although these were prescription drugs. I was pretty much doctor shopping, getting doctors to agree with my physical needs during that time. My addiction has just progressed. For awhile I functioned. I had a home, I had a car, I had a family. I’ve prostituted, I’ve sold drugs, you know, I’ve done a lot of that. It did get to the point when I was living out of my car, I lost everything, I lost my children, and became incarcerated. I just didn’t have anything left, not even the will to live.

I heard about Magdalene and I kind of believed that they would give me a chance to get a life, show me how to live. No one has ever taught me how to live. My parents didn’t really show me how to live. [Magdalene] is incredible. Every woman in here is like my family. Magdalene is nothing but a blessing for me.

Magdalene House

Matthew Williams

No comments:

Post a Comment