The Women Of Block 12: Voices From A Jail Ministry by Linda Pischke

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            My name is Robyn and I am one of the women of Block 12. I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to a family that moved approximately every three years. My father was a plant manager for large manufacturing companies and he was either transferred or he chose to change jobs frequently.       

As a child, uncertainty became a way of life for me. Moving meant having the rug pulled out from under my feet and losing my whole life. Painful as that was, it was a familiar feeling. It was what I knew. Relocation was a given. It was just a matter of when. It should not surprise you that I have trouble maintaining long-term relationships.

Moving to a different part of the country meant everything the other kids were wearing, the slang they used, the music they listened to, were all new to me. Assimilation became my way of life, a survival skill that insured companionship. But I remember the move when I no longer wanted to make this connection, to have friends that I was going to lose anyway. That’s when it became easier and made more sense to be alone. That is when my addiction really took hold.

The first time I was offered drugs, I was in Junior High. I was hanging around with a group of girls that had known each other since kindergarten. I was the new girl…again. When they lit up a marijuana pipe and offered it to me, I remembered something my father said to me.

“If someone can’t give you a good reason for doing something, don’t do it.”

I asked the girls why I should have some pot and they didn’t have an answer so I said ‘no.” I never did feel like anything but an outsider in that group.

A year or two later, just before my freshman year in high school, we moved from the Midwest to Massachusetts. I was fourteen years old and I couldn’t have been more terrified. We shopped for clothes, but didn’t really know the east coast styles. The first day of school was devastating. I didn’t fit in. In addition, I was a whole year younger than my peers, (I was given a test and skipped kindergarten when we moved from Alabama to Tennessee). Now, one year might not seem like a big difference, but I was living in a culture of fifteen-year-olds with the maturity of a fourteen-year-old and I believe it strongly affected the choices I made.

In my family, we knew how to act in public and were always kind and considerate to outsiders. We were not kind to each other. I often wonder if we just took each other for granted figuring didn’t matter how we treated family members. Talking about our feelings was strictly taboo. My parents overreacted to any sign of emotion, so we knew better than to let our thoughts and feelings show. I believe this is the way my parents were taught growing up and it was all they knew.

While in Massachusetts, the first group of kids I made friends with, were good kids. They were experimenting with alcohol at that time and I did too. I remember that I couldn’t come up with any reason not to try drinking. The days of saying ‘no’ were over for me. Wow!  How my perspective changed.

I met a boy I liked and migrated to another group of kids. They did drugs. I   remember the first time I was high on marijuana. I don’t know the where or when or with who of that first time. But I do remember that after school (where I must have gotten high), I cleaned my parents’ house and did all the chores. When my mom got home, she scolded me for leaving a plate in the sink. I could never do anything right or good enough for her. But this time it didn’t hurt so much. As I write these words about my mom it brings a sick feeling to my stomach, even after all these years. But not that day.  When I was high it just didn’t feel like anything. Bingo! From that point forward I knew what my goal was.

I smoked a quarter ounce of Colombian a week¾that’s twenty-five joints. I drank on weekends and tried any and all drugs that crossed my path, acid, mushrooms and cocaine. Alcohol and marijuana were the regulars, with the rest being recreational. Acid was my favorite recreational drug. It created an altered state of reality that required at least five hours of time away from my parent’s house. I believe that’s what made it so appealing. The drugs and alcohol became my coping skills. They worked, so I continued to use them.

We lived in Massachusetts for two years then moved back to the Midwest.  I was 1,100 miles away from my first love. We had been dating and using drugs together for over a year. I was sixteen, beginning my junior year in high school, and I knew no one. But this move was different. I brought my new coping skills with me.

Drugs were not as easy to find in the Midwest and they were much more expensive, so alcohol played a bigger part in my life. My first semester at the new school, I earned a 3.75 grade point average. By the end of second semester I had a 1.5. At the new, school grades were determined by how many classes you skipped and who you hung around with. I had college prep classes and did ‘A’ work but that didn’t fly because of the rest of my behaviors.

I graduated and started college at seventeen. Except for a few fleeting moments, drugs did not fit in here. Alcohol was the ticket and lots of it. I earned only three credits the first year of college.

I was kicked out of college, moved home and worked various jobs. I am fairly intelligent and have good social skills, so I was able to obtain livable wages in the working world. Of course, I chose to work in bars and restaurants and was managing after one year. This was perfect for my addictive nature. I got to spend all my time with people that partied like me, even while I was working.

I met the father of my son when I was still in high school. He was five years older and much further along in his alcoholism. We began dating after I came home from college. This man was drop-dead gorgeous and a lot of fun. He was everything I was looking for at eighteen.

A year later, I was pregnant. He wanted to get married. This was not a planned pregnancy and I did not want to compound the problem by getting married. I thought I could take care of myself and the baby but I didn’t think I could take care of all three of us. I broke up with him. My boyfriend was devastated. Every six months he would ask if we could get back together. This was also how often he inquired about his son.

When Jamie was five, his father died in a one-car, alcohol-related accident. Until that time, my son knew his dad as ‘the guy from the farm.’ I told him who he was. This disease of alcoholism hurts the best of people.

Jamie is the love of my life. I have never known or felt love like this. During my pregnancy, my doctor, who was also an infertility specialist, asked if I would like to give my child up for adoption to one of the couples he was working with. Both of my sisters also offered to raise my unborn child, but I could not give him up. I knew that I did not have the financial means or the stability that a child deserves, but I had love. He would have my love.

Unfortunately, I also had a pretty serious addiction that had not really reared its ugly head in the way of consequences. I guess you could say I was a functioning alcoholic and addict until Jamie was about five years old. Jamie and I had an apartment. I worked full-time and waitressed one night a week.

One day my dad came to see me. He asked where I wanted to be in five years. I had never asked myself that question or set any goals. Ever. So, I moved home to my parent’s house and went back to school at a local technical college. This was the perfect scenario for my addiction. My parents loved Jamie very much and with live-in babysitters, I could come and go as I pleased. College lasted one year.

I worked full-time as a bookkeeper and tended bar on Sundays. I began dating the owner of the bar. We snorted a lot of cocaine after hours. Then, late one night, he introduced me to a better way. He said it was healthier for you. He mixed the cocaine with baking soda and cooked the impurities out of it. You could do an eighth of and ounce and go right to sleep afterward as opposed to laying around for eight hours waiting for your body to slow down. I believed him. After all, I hadn’t said ‘no’ to a drug since the ninth grade.

This is when all hell broke loose in my life. The addiction to what I later learned was crack cocaine, is like no other. For the next year, my boyfriend and I would do crack for three-day stretches. We only left his house to get more. Then we would sleep for a day, eat for a day and start smoking again. I am five feet six inches tall, and I only weighed 102 pounds with boots on. I missed an entire year of Jamie’s life getting high at a house just a half-mile from his school. Even now, many years later, I cannot write this without bawling. It feels like my heart is breaking all over again.

One morning I had a heart attack. We had been smoking for about four days and my left arm went numb. At first I didn’t say anything to my boyfriend. I had a pretty good idea what was wrong and that I would probably die if I kept smoking. I kept smoking. By the grace of God, we were almost out of drugs and I went to the hospital in time. Addiction is evil. It took precedence over my life. Did I mention I hate this disease?

At the writing of this story, I am 39 years old. I have been through countless treatments prior to and after getting into legal trouble for writing bad checks and stealing money to support my cocaine addiction. Block Twelve is where my addiction took me, but not where my story ends.

Jamie has a ‘B’ average at one of the top colleges in the country and I am developing a life – a healthy life. I am doing it sober by the grace of God and a twelve-step group. I am doing it one day at a time.