03 May GRACE STORIES
There have been quite a few stories passed around in the City of Faith bullpen. We tell stories of lessons we have learned, stories of victories or losses, and even the stories that just make us feel good. When my husband Sam came to work with us, he took full advantage of a new class of fresh ears, so we all began to hear his catalogue of stories of his life as a police officer in Little Rock and Maumelle. In return, we at City of Faith have found ourselves telling Sam about the former residents who made us laugh, cry, roll our eyes, or any of the other things that can make our jobs so memorable.
In the midst of all this storytelling, we found something beyond the statistics, policies, and regulations defining our bounds. City of Faith is made up of stories—stories of real people who have impacted not only our lives, but the lives of countless others. Most of these people are still out there impacting their families and communities to this day.
It is important to me that our new website should feature a segment dedicated to the “realness” of these people. When I reached out to these former City of Faith residents for a chance to tell their story, I was met with a resounded “Yes!” Their pride in how far they have come is apparent as they lay bare their lives, all for the sake of others. Such honesty is readily apparent in our first story.
Please, meet Grayson.
TW: Thank you so much for agreeing to meet with me! I’m excited to help you get your story told. Let’s start with how you got involved in the criminal justice system. Tell me how that began.
G: You know? There was a time after I had been clean for 11 years. I had not had any meth in 11 years. None. Then there was just one day. One day. I had gotten super drunk and I knew I was going to have to go to work so I just thought, “I’ll just get a little meth to help me wake up.” So I got some and I stayed awake a week. I started asking my parents to pick my little girl up from school which was a number one red flag.
TW: This started the whole spiral? Just that one time?
G: Yes. Just that one time. I used intravenously so it only took that one time. Then I started hanging out with people who already had that process going. They already had the people who sold to them, they had buyers. So yeah, I just entered into their world.
TW: Were you living in Maumelle at that time?
G: Yeah. I had an apartment in Maumelle, I had everything set up for me and I was doing really good but I began staying at trap houses, motels and with other people.
TW: So then you find yourself in federal prison. Can you tell me a little about that?
G: Yes. It was a crazy situation because I knew the feds were after me. I knew what they were doing. It became a game. I remember a marshal calling me and telling me to come meet him and I told him he’d have to catch me if he could find me. That didn’t go over very well. But I actually got pulled over by the marshals in the parking lot of Taco Bell and at that very moment, my dad drove by with my kids in the car and they saw it all. Handcuffs, these men with guns and my kids saw it all. That is always in the back of my mind.
Then I went to pre-trial where I was out for a year. I was actually pregnant in jail and ended up having to give that little girl up for adoption. After I pled guilty I was sentenced to a year and a day and ended up in Federal Prison in West Virginia.
TW: I believe if you’re sentence to a year and a day, you’re eligible for good conduct time, right?
G: Yes. I did about 10 months but you know, I just couldn’t look at time. I was there. Dealing with the consequences.
TW: Tell me how you felt that first day. When you walked into prison was going on in your mind?
G: I was very overwhelmed.
TW: I had another resident tell me once that when he finally got to prison he could relax. The waiting was the worst. Did you find that to be true for you?
G: Yeah because when you’re in transport, you have no idea where you’re going. You can’t call anyone, you have no idea where you are but then you finally just plant your feet. You can’t get bonded out. You are here. I had watched so many criminal shows that I was convinced I was going to be cut or attacked but that was not my experience. Do I want to go back? NO. I DO NOT. Once you realize the wrong you’ve done you just have to except the consequences.
TW: Did you participate in any aftercare programs in prison?
G: No I really wasn’t there long enough. I was what they called a “short timer” but it was an ethical thing to not talk about your time. There are people there who are doing life and it’s just not cool to talk about your time. They don’t want to hear it. There was nothing to do but try to be a part of a community which I tried to do, you know, stay away from the bad crowd. But honestly, I was not being great in prison. I was just trying to get my time to pass.
TW: Ten months later you find yourself on your way to City of Faith. Tell me about that.
G: City of Faith was another experience that I actually enjoyed. I don’t know if it was the staff or the people I was here with but it turned out to be great. Now don’t get me wrong. When I first got here I was defiant. You weren’t going to tell me what to clean or when to go to sleep but I changed my attitude real quick. I was able to get a job while I was here working for an attorney. I walked in there with my ankle monitor and all and got hired to be her secretary. The resources were available. I never had a problem going to look for a job, spend time with my family. I came here with nothing and City of Faith was really good about letting my family bring me what I needed.
TW: Well. I look at you now and I don’t see that defiant young lady I met on that first day.
G: No. I was a train wreck.
TW: You’ve grown by leaps and bounds but it has not all been pleasant, has it? It’s been pretty rough?
G: Yeah it’s been pretty rough. In fact, after I left City of Faith I got so overwhelmed with society. I wouldn’t take advantage of any of the resources given to me, I was trying to do it on my own. When you do it on your own and you set your feet on the ground, you are destined to fail. You have to have the resources. And I started drinking. My “relapse” as I like to call it, ended very quickly. I got drunk, ran my car into a ditch and got high one more time. It wasn’t anybody’s fault but my own because I was just so overwhelmed. I thought, “I’m better in this lifestyle of running and gunning and trying to manipulate the law than I am at doing the right thing.” It was at that time I called my federal probation officer and told on myself. I said, “I can’t do this. I’m high, I’m drunk, I’ve wrecked my car and my life is over.” Instead of sending the marshals, which I was afraid was going to happen, she just said, “Let’s figure out what is going on that you feel you have to do this.” She wasn’t mean or anything. She set some papers in front of me and I just said, “I don’t want to color on these papers. I want real help.” That’s when I went to rehab and I’ve been clean since January 12, 2017.
TW: Oh that’s awesome! Congratulations!
G: Anytime I wanted to get clean…. Well, let me say, I never wanted to get clean. Other people wanted me to get clean. You can’t force someone to get clean. They have to want it.
TW: So was there an epiphany? A kind of “aha” moment for you?
G: Yes. When my son was 14, he was sitting on the step next to me and he said, “mom. You’re high aren’t you?” I said, “Yeah.” And he said, “Why?” It was that moment. Now I have a great relationship with my kids. I ended up getting married and my husband passed away from an overdose. That was a huge turning point in my recovery. I just can’t go back out there. I’m not made to steal from 18 wheelers or pull copper out of trucks. I’m made to be a mom and a contributing member of society. Prison and City of Faith was definitely an anchor of my punishment that helped make my future, if that makes sense.
TW: Grayson that is huge.
G: It’s true! Even when I violated and I thought I was going back to prison, I said to myself, “I don’t want to do this. I just don’t want to do this.” It was just the pressure of society and not utilizing any resources. I was pushed back into a place where, “you’re back. You’re a mom. Go to work.” All I knew was how to teach people to shoot up on the streets. But you know? Even now. Life is good. Despite my husband passing away, my life is good.
TW: You were able to stay clean through that event?
G: I stayed clean. I even had meth and heroin in my hands. Not that I went and got it but it was in his belongings. I called the DEA. That was all I knew to do. They will be glad to take it off your hands. I was able to work through it. I was able to utilize the resources that were available to me. I was able to work and function. Now I’m in nursing school.
TW: THAT IS SO COOL. THAT IS JUST SO COOL.
G: That’s the thing you know. I thought my past was going to hinder me and I just went and talked to some people. There are so many loopholes now so when people say, “I can’t because I have a felony or I can’t because I’ve been to prison,” I just say, “you’re full of crap.”
TW: Yeah we see that everyday here at City of Faith. People like you take away everyone’s excuses.
G: I just don’t take no for an answer.
TW: Tell me about your relationship with Jesus.
G: My relationship with God has literally transformed into one of the best relationships I’ve ever had. For a while I was mad at Him. I was like, “why would you put me through the things I’ve been through?” But He’s not put me through it, I put myself through it. He carried me through it. My relationship with God didn’t flourish until my husband passed away and I had to sit in that hospital and hold his hand and smell his skin and just be mad at the disease of addiction. I became very angry with God but I flipped it. I recognized who made Tanner do this. My God took him and protected him by taking him. I then became determined to show people there is life after addiction. There is life after prison. There is life after overdose. I didn’t know if I could be a mom again but my husband gave me a child that no one could take from me. And I’m clean. I am not a victim.
TW: Final words?
G: Just that, in my life now, if I were to get high, it’s just not about me anymore. It’s about my kids, it’s about relationships I’ve established. If I ever used again I would be signing my death wish. I would never be able to come back from it. That keeps me clean. I’m terrified of drugs. I think once you get to the point where you’re scared of drugs, your addiction career is over. I don’t think I’ll ever see a day where life is so bad I’ll have to get high again.
Thank you for you time in reading Grayson’s story. If you have a story to share, please reach out to me at email@example.com.