“I am not my sentence”

25 to life. That’s what they told me I was facing for the 2 counts of involuntary manslaughter, 18 counts of trafficking narcotics and 1 count of conspiracy. At 15 years old, I managed to gain all of that in one. single. night. The worst night of my life. The night that I decided that it would be cool to steal some methadone pills, sell them at the Homecoming football game and I gave into peer pressure. Everyone was telling me how cool it was. I felt powerful. I felt needed. I felt sick, because I knew that it was wrong, very wrong, yet I did it anyway. That night forever changed my life.

I should have listened to that voice inside of my head that was screaming to stop. Instead, I ignored it. Two of my friends, young boys whom I loved and cared for, who were 15 and 17 years old, died that night from overdosing. Dead. Lives GONE, families TORN. I was arrested a few days later and then sentenced to 12 years. By the grace of God, I served only 4 in a youth prison down in Southern California, and at 19, I was released. Free. Which is a funny thought, because it doesn’t feel that way. But instead of allowing this to destroy me, I realized that change needed to happen in order to truly live a life worth living. That change did not come easy. You always think that this type of thing would NEVER happen to you. There’s no way, because ‘everyone’ does it. Whether it’s handing someone a pill, joint, bottle- it’s all the same and how many people really die from something like that, right? So very wrong. You never know. This was my VERY FIRST TIME ever selling drugs or taking those pills! I had to take a very broken life and turn it into a life that proves I am not a monster. I am NOT my sentence. I am NOT my charges. I am NOT my past. What I am is sorry. Forever sorry. I am strong. I am loving. I care. I am brave. I am a daughter, sister, wife and friend. I have the most loving people in my life, who have blessed me by staying by my side when I didn’t deserve anyone. I am much wiser.

My hope is that my story can bring hope to the lost soul, bring change to someone going down that same road that I was once on, or that it may save a life. I owe those two boys my voice. Every day I think about them, their families and the guilt . The guilt is something that I’m not sure will ever go away; but it will serve as a reminder to continue to change, to be better, live fuller and love endlessly. I need to remember to never be ashamed of who I am based on something I had done. Love made me stronger, my faith made me feel alive again. I am forever grateful for my second chance.