I was raised by my mother in a single parent home. My father had other children than those with my mother: a total of seven girls. Being the oldest of them all I had many responsibilities. I can remember as early as seven years old I had to iron, wash dishes and help dress my younger sisters. My mother’s expectations were really high…. She yelled and cursed at me, hit me and made me feel like I did nothing right, I wasn’t good enough.
My cousins were older and I always thought they were cool because they had name brand clothes. My male cousin sold drugs right out of his mother’s house. I watched everything. It looked like he was having fun, making money. My cousin went to parties on the weekends, so I would stay at home with his mom and our uncle, who would be passed out drunk. My cousin would have me call him if someone came by for him. He would come home, sell them crack then go back out to the streets. Soon he gave me the drugs and “schooled” me on how much each piece was worth. I would sell it for him at the age of twelve or thirteen.
Long story short, I was indicted on federal drug conspiracy charges in 2007. My oldest child was 8 years old and my baby girl was 8 weeks when I started my ten year federal prison sentence.
In prison, T.I. earned her GED and the few college credits available to her. She also applied to Changed Choices. She wrote, “I have big dreams for my family, but I’ve never known how to make them a reality. In prison I lost everything and it felt like I lost everybody too. So I’m asking for help, something I have not done before. I pray you receive my information and lead me to first help fix me and get me ready to return to society and help me gain the knowledge to break this cycle so that I can be there for my children.
The staff at Changed Choices encouraged her to actively engage in RDAP, an intensive 9 month substance abuse treatment program available in some federal prisons. T.I. received a sentence reduction and is now free! She worked in food service initially while she looked for a better job. Her persistence paid off, and now she’s employed in customer service. Today she’s living in Changed Choice’s transitional home while she saves for the future, undergoes counseling and prepares to be the full-time caregiver of her children again. She says, “My genuine desires are to be a role model for my two daughters. I would like for them to receive a good education and not become dependent on unhealthy ways of living. I want them to be proud of me as I will be proud of myself.”