At Riverside House, we like to share stories about how our clients have found hope and faith in God to help them pursue a more positive life path. One of our clients shares her story about how greed had taken over her life until she ended up in prison, but through God, she found a much better way to feel rich in her soul.
Here is her story in her words:
I was raised in a two-parent home with the extraordinary help of my maternal grandmother. As a child, I learned how manipulating people was a successful method of getting the things that I wanted. The manipulative behavior started with games I would play with my parents, but as I got older, it manifested into something out of control. Around the same time, my addiction to money also began. I had to have the best of everything, and my parents and family gave it to me. All I had to do was do well in school to get what I wanted, which was easy I because was smart!
As a teenager, health problems began to cause issues in my life. I started having seizures that eventually led to me dying for about 47 seconds. In those dark days, while I thought I was asleep, I used to hear my mother’s voice but couldn’t see or speak to her. I cried a lot because it was just dark where I was, and I could hear everything going on around me, but I could not fully wake up.
Three months later I woke up to find out that I had brain surgery and was in an induced coma. I couldn’t walk, talk, or read. However, I was determined to be normal again, and after only eight months, I was back to some level of normalcy. Unfortunately, this experience increased my desire to be manipulative, and to some extent, I even felt invincible.
As a young adult, I began my quest to conquer anything and anyone I encountered, and I did have much success. I realized that if I set out to gain knowledge, it would only help my manipulative ways. Therefore, I became obsessed with learning and going to school. At some point in my young adulthood, I was introduced to my two tangible dependents, alcohol and marijuana. My money addiction also increased, and I began to do whatever it took to get money. I stripped, slept with men, and put myself in perilous situations for financial gain. I felt as though I could never have enough, and my obsession turned into greed.
Eventually, through all of this, I was blessed with twin boys and later a daughter. Having my children made me realize that being a mother meant that I could no longer openly live the lifestyle I had become accustomed to living. Luckily, I received an amazing opportunity from my sister’s employer and began to work with her. I became a career woman by day, and did whatever the wind blew my way by night. I grew within the company in a five-year span, becoming the first African American female executive making more money than I could ever imagine at my age. It was a relief that I had made it.
I started going to church and paying tithes, and I felt accomplished. Money had become the most important thing in my life. I paid my kids, parents, family, and friends enough to let me live my life and be in control of everything. I felt that as long as they had what they wanted, they didn’t need me, and I could pay for anything they did need. I believed that everything I was doing was OK if I asked God for forgiveness, participated in fellowship, and tithed at church, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I was playing both sides by wallowing in the devil’s playground and then paying God and family off, a manipulation I learned as a child. The greed overtook anything God had given me at the time, and in my mind, God was too slow, and I had to work much harder to get what I wanted.
During this time, I was given another opportunity to make more money on the side. I knew that it would be wrong, but I didn’t care. More money meant more material things that I idolized. Once I realized what my new “boss” was getting compared to what I was getting, I chose to do something else that led me to a 45-month prison sentence. I felt as though my life was over, and I hated and blamed everyone but myself. In my mind, I could not do prison. I was ashamed and concerned about how everyone saw me and what would they say. I didn’t care if my life ended at this point, except that I loved my kids. I thought my world as I knew it was over, and the truth is that it was. My first six months in prison was just as I thought. My kids didn’t care to speak with me, and my mother didn’t do anything I needed her to do to help me. I felt alone and lost.
Later on in my sentence, I started the Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP). In this program, I found out how messed up I had been and understood why I was alone. I was a horrible person who was grandiose, greedy, manipulative, dishonest, selfish, self-centered, entitled, and controlling. These are the behaviors I displayed to the people I loved. Afterwards, realizing change was needed, I began to seek to understand God, who is the spiritual being I should love, admire, and put before anything. I knew God, but I only knew what I was taught and told. I had never tried to understand for myself.
At first, I began to read spiritual books to understand God. I learned how to pray, but I was still not totally buying it. I didn’t give up though, because I felt lost, vulnerable, and my way hadn’t been working. I knew there was something about God that I needed to find out for myself. I continued to read books about spirituality and how to get closer to God. In truth, I was avoiding reading the only book that could tell me everything I needed to know about God, The Bible. I had not read the Bible before prison because I didn’t care to read it. My excuse was that I didn’t understand it. I went to church and got the message, but a pastor once told me that the best word you can get is the one you get from reading it yourself. I started reading the Bible six months before being released from prison, because I knew I needed to know, trust, and love him to become richer in spirituality. I prayed for understanding, and that is what God gave me. I began to read the Bible from the beginning before going to bed every night, but I struggled daily with gratitude.
Unfortunately, I still faced several adversities upon being released from prison. I’m currently reading the Bible and writing in my gratitude journal before going to bed, which has helped me get through all that I’ve encountered. I now understand the Bible far more than I ever have before. I know that God is with me and will not place anymore on me than I can handle. I talk to Him, and He answers, which increases my faith, focus, and confirms to me that He is there. I don’t always like the answer, but I know He knows what I need and will provide it. I’m not perfect, although, before all of this, I believed you had to be in order to be spiritual. I can only be who I am, but I seek to be what He wants me to be. Therefore, I’m continuously asking God for guidance and to remove anyone or anything that isn’t good for me or that keeps me away from my purpose. I also acknowledge who is right for me, and I thank God daily for those people. These are the ways that I had to discipline myself to know God and get closer to Him. I now understand why knowing Him is more important than the air I breathe. I’m still a work in progress, and occasionally I veer off course. But once I recognize it and identify where I went wrong, I take the time to pray and stay positive and keep moving forward in my faith.
Thank you, Riverside House, for your support in my journey!