My name is Clarissa and I began this journey on a farm in Cheatham County, located in Ashland City, TN. I graduated from high school in 1981 and went to work for the Nashville Banner and Tennessean in 1982. I was promoted to solo cashier for Nashville Offset/USA Today, and was on my way to a successful career.
In 1988, I lost my job while being a functional addict. I decided then it was time to get away. So I went on vacation to Jacksonville Beach, Florida where I was introduced to crack cocaine. I returned to Tennessee and became a regular user of crack. Within one year, I got married, pregnant, my mother and grandmother passed away, and I delivered my first child. But I wasn't slowing down any on drug use. I was living day to day.
I relocated to Clarksville TN and became a Certified Nursing Assistance. This is when I had my second child, but continued to be a user. We were raising two children and I was still using. My husband could no longer stand the pressure or the pain so he left.
My children were young and very impressionable when the Department of Human Services came and interviewed them. The case worker was told I was holding a glass pipe to my mouth and lighting it with a lighter. I lost custody of my two oldest children. I remember when I asked my child why? She simply responded "Momma you told me to always tell the truth.
My third child born out of wedlock was immediately taken by the hospital, I tried to regain custody but the desire to have and use was too strong. With TyChe, my fourth child, yes I lost custody of her as well but was able to regain it, through what Judge Ray Grimes described as "Professional Con. and manipulation.
I remember one time my electricity was turned off and I called my uncle, who was always there for me. He told me to grab another blanket I would be OK until the morning. My first taste of "Tough Love
I knew I needed to quit but I could not. In 1999 I had my fifth and final child I was able to bring him home, but eventually lost custody of him to his grandmother. She wanted more and better for her grandchild than a crack mom.
In early 2000, I was sentenced to 26 weekends in jail for theft of property and contraband in a criminal institution. Judge Ray Grimes, one of the angels in my life warned me that I was going to lose custody of TyChe if I continued on the path I was on.
I knew I needed help. But help was hard to find. You can't fix something in 30 days that you've been doing for 20 years.
This is when I knew I had to leave Montgomery County. I was tired. I was homeless. And there was only one thing that I could do, help myself. I went to the hospital and told them I needed help. They gave me a list of phone numbers to call and I said "no mam, you do not understand I need some help, and I need it now, they found me some help.
The Montgomery County Sheriff's Department then drove me to Tennessee Christian Medical Center and where I detoxed for 5 days. I then took the list and began calling facilities that accepted mother and children. I called the Renewal House, but they had a waiting list. TCMC agreed to let me stay an additional 5 days waiting on Renewal House. At the end of those 10 days my name was still not at the top of the list.
I went to Columbia, TN to a safe house for a month. And then in July of 2004, I was notified, Renewal House had an opening. My daughter and I moved into Renewal House and were in the Family Residential Program until March of 2005.
I moved into long-term recovery housing and found a job a short walk from Renewal House. I walked to that job every day for a couple of months until I saved enough money to buy a truck. I also began mending my relationships with my children. Then, in 2007, I bought a home for me and my children. And in 2009, I went back to school and graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Health Information Management. But I wasn't finished. This year, I received my Masters of Science in Business Leadership.
My journey has been a long one, and my daughters are here with me tonight. I keep them close as part of my support system. I have 3 sons and 7 grandchildren. They are all supportive of me.
I love Renewal House and I love the people there. They helped me get my life back and mend my relationships with my children. I am truly blessed.
Thank You for allowing me to share my journey.
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