Book Preview: Miss Brenda & The Loveladies

Miss Brenda & the Loveladies: A Story of Grace, God & Gumption

I have a gazillion books lying around that need to still be read.  I won this book on Goodreads months ago and it has, like many books I have bought, lain around while I picked up my usual comfort books "Chick-Lit". It was only just now, going through my bedroom and checking out my "unread" books that I picked this up and was convicted.  How could I have started a blog, won this book and this NOT been the first book I reviewed?

A Little Background on Me: The Ugly Side
Most of the people whom actually read this blog are folks I've never encountered personally. They are other book reviewers/ bloggers I have had he privilege to meet through Twitter and the blogging community. It's not always comfortable laying all our dirty laundry out for the world to take a gander at and be publicly criticized. But, sometimes it takes someone else's pain and misgivings to help others on their own journeys. 

To understand my journey, you need a little peek of my history.  I was born to a mom who had been abandoned by her husband during her pregnancy.  She would go on to marry three more men after I was born.  I was raised being told that my "Real dad" had abandoned me for his addiction. When I was around 11 my mom divorced my "adopted dad" and we moved very briefly to Florida. These were her wild times. Which, was a bit of a shock to my young system, because whilst married to my adopted dad we had lead a very stable life.  He was an eye doctor and we had a very normal and faith filled life. I was raised with a super strong foundation in church and God. Thank goodness for those early years, no telling where I would be now.

Me in 8th grade, perhaps?  Maybe 9th??

 
When we moved back to Alabama, she met and married my step-dad.  This was a huge change in my life.  Where I once had been raised in a very happy and uplifting family,mew now had a family in which the norm was cutting remarks and ways in which to bring each other down, not build you up.  It was also during these years and because if bad choices on my moms part that I was sexually abused by two separate family members. 

My Senior Pic

 
I truly believe that it was those things happening to me that caused a switch to be flipped inside my mom, because she lived in denial.  Even trying to blame me for the events. It was, needless to say, not an easy time. But, I was raised learning we should forgive, and so I did.  It wouldn't be until much later the effects of he trauma would start to seep through.

I hadn't really been raised with super right boundaries, it was my own morale code that prevented me from going out and partying with all the other kids.  I honestly preferred to spend my weekends at home watching movies with my family. I wasn't a nerd, just didn't feel the need to be out and getting plastered.  Pretty much judged the ones who did. 

Fast Forward a Few Years
I had made some not so great choices along the way.  However, it was after having my son (I was an unwed mother at 20), that I started "clubbing". I met my daughters father in a club shortly after a break-up.  I had seen a ton of documentaries of the drug "ecstasy" or "Rolling". It was during one of my nights out that Infirst tried "ecstasy". It then became an every weekend thing. I loved how it made me feel EVERYTHING. I had tried weed or marijuana in e past and was maybe a social drug user.
Me Pregnant the first time...


 
Then,I found myself pregnant once again, unlike the first time, I was terrified.  During my eighth month of pregnancy, my daughters father decided maybe he didn't want to be a dad after all.  So me and my son were left alone. I had no job, and no way of supporting myself. I had my daughter and shortly after have her, me and her father decided to give it another go.  We didn't move back in together, but he would come most weekends. 

During this time, I was introduced to lortabs as a recreational drug (had been prescribed them during my children's births or afterwards - I even requested a lower dosage after My son had been born that was how ignorant I was to the pain pill drug). I had no clue I as even using a drug. After all, cocaine was a drug. Lortab was a medicine since the doctor prescribed it. I guess looking back, I had been pretty sheltered to hose sorts of things. 

It still didn't get out of control until later.  When my daughter was about 18 months old I began dating Shaun (the man I am still with today).  My mother,many time I have ever started having a relationship always kicked me out, telling me if I was going to be with them, let them take care of me. A month after we started dating DHR (kinda like Child Protective Services) showed up at the house. They said they had received a report that Inwas stealing my moms meds and that my boyfriend was spending weekends with us at our home. 

Long story short, DHR left and was satisfied and weren't going to pursue it further. However, my mom had other plans. She kicked me out, along with my children. When I had nowhere to go, buy a friends shed, I decided I needed them to have a stable environment. I called my mom begging to come home (which let me tell you was not in anyway easy). She refused, I asked for her to at least let the kids come back. It was one thing for me to be living like that, but it was no way for a kid to manage.   She called DHR two days later and reported that I had abandoned them. 

I won't go all into every detail, I honestly didn't intend for this to get this long.  So, instead of waking me up.  It threw me into a depression and I relied on pain pills to get me through.  I got my children back within 7 months of losing them, despite not having a stable income (they had received a report against my mother- she ALSO had custody of my step-sisters child). I wasn't anywhere near ready for them, but we managed. I had custody for a year and a half. 

During this time, I still continued to use pain pills. But, it had gotten worse. Where I had once taken a few lortabs it became OxyContin. For those unfamiliar, OxyContin is a pain pail drug used to help those with cancer with their major pain.  It became an addiction I "managed" to a full blown out of control problem. Within two weeks I was pawning everything I owned to buy a $70 pill!  I was out of control. I went to my mom, who was giving me my lortabs, and told her never to give me another that I was done. I was tired or relying on a pain pill or anything to be able to make it through the day.  I asked for help. 

Instead of helping me through it, like with a rehab program, etc. she insisted that I could call DHR and they would assist me find an outpatient program.  That didn't happen, within two weeks I lost custody of my children once again. Despite the fact that I had already gone through the withdrawals and begun my clean time. I remained clean for three months,until entering a short term rehab program in which I met new addicts with more connections. So, my clean time was scrapped. 

The depression and guilt made me withdraw further into myself and my addiction. A year later, a psychiatrist (my sons dr) told me about a new program, suboxone,me hitch helped people like me who struggled I staying clean. I got on he program and started being able to manage my life. However, the damage had been done and I was still spinning majorly out of control. Although my drug problems were managed, my life problems were not.  During my addiction, I stole some checks from my father on law and managed to get a felony under my belt. I had to spend months in and out of jail because of it.
Me at a low point before entering Lovelady

I had once again managed to not go to probation and was looking at prison. I was scared. Rehab had been on my mind a lot. One day I woke up and realized my son was 12, my daughter was 9 and I was running out of time. I knew hat I needed somewhere to go to help me get my life back.  I was tired of basically being homeless, my husband and I couldn't afford to have our own place, so we lived in a car.  We slept outside a truck stop where we would shower,meat,watch tv etc. it was bad. I had definitely hit rock bottom. 

I had heard of Lovelady, a rehabilitation center where people actually had their children with them. It gave me hope that I could one day get custody back.  I turned myself in, after contacting the director (Melinda McGehee) and submitted myself to Gods will. I knew the power was out of my hands and could only hope I would be given a third chance. I was given that chance. 

In October of 2011 (I think it was 2011), I entered Lovelady center.  I had been consumed with "Getting my kids back". However, once I was there, I let go. I didn't know if that was my journey. I just wanted whatever it was God wanted for my life. I knew that I hadn't gone through all of this pain for nothing. I wanted my testimony and journey to be able to help others, even if it was just one person.
Me at church at Lovelady

 
The love and acceptance the program had, helped to rebuild my confidence. In my own social circles, I was the enigma. I was he weird one who was a drug addict and a felon.  No one could relate to not havig their children.  At Lovelady, I had an automatic sisterhood with these other hurting women. Most addicts you meet,mid you get to know them are some of the kindest hearted individuals. We feel deeply and most times have been terribly abused by those who were supposed to be our protectors. We escaped through drugs,MIT was the only way we could deal with the pain, by numbing ourselves.
Me at my graduation...  And a friend...

 
Upon graduating the program,quite honestly I wasn't in any hurry to leave.  I had a job making decent money, and was settled and in a comfort zone. However, God had other plans. The job I had, caused me to spend most of my time away from the comfort of the center. We had two mobile homes in a whole other city. We helped worked with adults and teens who couldn't take care of themselves. I loved that job. I was really good too. 

I had a friend who was having a sexual relationship with a supervisor.  I knew of this relationship and even assisted in covering it up, and warning her,when I  knew they were headed to check her messages. Well, she managed to erase all her messages, except my warning message. I was pretty much fired on the spot. While, I wasn't kicked out, I had lost my only source of income and the program cost $150 a week. I was angry and bitter.

In stepped my estranged aunt, with whom we had no contact for many years.  Within two weeks of moving in with my aunt, my daughter (whom was NOT under DHR care, nor was there an open case) was in my aunts custody and I was allowed to live there as well.  It was a miracle. It would have cost a ton of money and been extremely hard to have my child removed from her stable environment after so many years.  That was in July. In Septemeber, I received unsupervised visits with both of my children. Cody was staying a boys home and had his own program he had to complete before we could be reunified. 
Me & My kids shortly after receiving custody. 

 
December that years was the first Christmas we ever spent alone, as a family. January 2013, I received a phone call from my attorney, without stepping inside a court room, I had received full custody of both of my children.  It was a scary, but exciting time.  

Things definitely haven't been all sunshine and roses.  I struggled for months with a depression, that pretty much isolated me from my family and made me unable to get out of bed.  I also have struggled with an illness that has ravished my body as well as my mind.  It helped, I believe to exacerbate the depression.  I still struggle with this illness and as such have been unable to regain my weight or my energy.  I still have really bad days. It isn't easy getting custody back when your kids are so grown. It's hard to rebuild trust and to establish boundaries,as well as morales. It's almost like adopting kids at 14 and 12. It's not easy.  We take it one day at a time. 

The blogs I write, as well as my little online business have helped to give me a purpose, as well as a sense of identity. We still face major financial struggles, my husband recently discovered that he will lose his job come September and that's a scary thing. But, we have faith that God will prepare a place for him. I know God will provide our needs. It's another reason, that I try really hard to find ways in which to provide for our family. Because of my past, an outside job, isn't an easy thing to find. I also have a child that has extreme behavioral issues that makes it necessary to be available at any time, I never know when a phone call might come. 
Me today.

 
There are long term consequences to my addiction, that will be hard to overcome, but I am ok with that. It makes it a little more difficult for me, but I'm a survivor. I accept the consequences for my actions. Besides a job. It has affected my physical appearance. You won't ever see a big open mouth smile. But those are just little things. God truly restored this chick and my family. I've had to make some major changes, and cut some unhealthy people out of my life, but it was all worth it to get myself back. 

None of this could have happened without the work of Brenda Lovelady Spahn and the work being done by her at Lovelady Center.  I am forever in their debt and will always look to the Lovelady Center as a home away from home.  Amazing things have come from this place. What began as just a handful of women out of her own home (the hardest of cases on release straight from Prison) has grown into a program that houses at any one time over 400 women and children.

It's an incredible story and the only program I believe in the US of it's kind. It's for certain, the largest. I hope that you will take the time to read the story of Miss Brenda & The Loveladies. It's definitely a heart warming story. 

This was a post, that was more about my background.  But, I am a testament to this program. A true life example of the miracles at have transpired through the work behind one by Miss Brenda. The book is available in Kindle format as well as hardcover. I will soon be doing a book review as well.

It isn't easy to put all the not so lovely things about yourself out there for the world to judge.  I am quite aware of the mistakes I have made, and I still make mistakes everyday. For some reason, I haven't managed to attain perfection. While, I definitely have regrets, I also realize that I had to go through this for a reason. God sees the big picture. I hope that my story can go in some small way, to helping others with similar struggles. 
 
Miss Brenda and the Loveladies: A Heartwarming True Story of Grace, God, and Gumption

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