“It felt like most of the foster parents just kept us around for money. In grade school I wanted to hang around other girls in the neighborhood but they didn’t want to because I was brown and in foster care.
I was a good student. I was on the honor roll in Grade 7. I was really smart and determined but I was also searching for acceptance. I’d been in seven different foster homes and never really got to have a truly stable life where I knew my surroundings weren’t going to change. I rarely got to see my seven siblings and searched for family in my friends. I wanted to fit in so I let my focus on school drift for something I found to be more important for myself. Which led me to experimenting with drugs and alcohol.
At the time, I didn’t realize that I was drinking to numb the pain inside because of the sexual trauma I dealt with as a child. I think that’s why I had a lot of anger growing up. I had blocked the memories out and remembering it made it harder to cope with.
I ran away when I was 15. Again I experienced trauma when I was on the streets, to the point that I was brainwashed to believe that I deserved this kind of lifestyle. I’ve been told that I give a tough exterior but, because I was so strong, a lot of people didn’t realize I needed help.
When I was in the pen, I got help through therapists and programming. It helped me a lot to have people acknowledge my trauma and what I’ve been through. I always laugh at my pain. I know it’s not funny, but the laughter turns to tears and then I can deal with it. I always try to look on the positive side — one thing I did like about foster homes was that I got to see how different people lived, how one way wasn’t always the right away. I think it made me wiser.
I graduated high school in the pen. I knew I was smart enough to do it, I just didn’t know if I could persevere, so I’m really proud of that. But I’m most proud of my accomplishments in the past year — getting a job at a coffee shop and continuing to work there, and that I’m sober. I’ve been sober for 14 months now. I never thought I could get sober. When you get so deep into your drug use, you become a different person — you become desperate. I have a lot of remorse for that. But working helps me stay sober.
When I look back at pieces of my life, I feel like they’re different lifetimes. I almost can’t relate because I’m not that person anymore. I like the fact that I’m shedding the image of who I once was.”