On December 1st, 2010, LaShelle, a resident of Bonaventure House, spoke at a World AIDS Day prayer service hosted by St Joseph’s Parish in partnership with Alexian Brothers Bonaventure House.
Hello, my name is LaShelle. I grew up on the west side of Chicago. I am one of many addicts in my family. I have been an addict for 28 years of my life. I am now a recovering addict with 23 months of continuous sobriety. I was in and out of jail for a majority of my adult life. I did not raise my kids because I was more interested in chasing the dragon. The dragon, for those folks not familiar with addiction and recovery, is the feeling you get the first time you get high and all the pain goes away – my life was devoted to chasing the dragon.
The reason I was more interested in getting high and staying high was because of the pain and mental anguish of being raped. My kids saw me high all the time, but I kept telling them, “I’ll stop one day” but my kids grew up and their momma was still getting high. The last time that I went to jail, I said “that’s it, I’m not doing this anymore” because I was looking at some big time in jail. It was during this last time when I went to jail that I found out I was HIV positive. I knew then and continue to believe that I cannot return to the life of using drugs. So I went into treatment and did what was asked of me to stay sober. After completing treatment I applied and was accepted to Bonaventure House. Since I’ve been there, one year this month, I have grown in many ways I never could have imagined. They have helped me a lot – they showed me how to be honest, respectful, and independent. They helped me to enroll in school so that I can get my GED. They helped me do all the things I wouldn’t do for myself if I was still on the street.
When my kids saw that I was real, my little girl wrote a paper during drug awareness week and the paper is about drugs and me. I would like to close by reading that letter.
Drug awareness week means a lot to me because I can personally relate to drug abuse. I mean not speaking of myself and using drugs, but a very close friend and relative of mine – my mother, LaShelle. My mother was a drug addict for many years and I thought this thing would never stop. Day after day I cried to myself, “When will my mother stop doing this to me and my brothers?” I would ask myself why she would do this to us. As I am her only daughter, I missed out on having a mother teach me to be a woman or do mother-daughter things with me. When she was using, I just saw her when I saw her. Through all of this though, there was never a day that I did not love my mom. I still defended her honor when people teased me about my mom being a “crack head,” I still told myself repeatedly “she’ll get clean.”
Then as I got older, my mom was still living her life and she had been through so much, moving from house to house (if not staying on the street), going to jail for months at a time, then the last time she went, she told herself and her kids no more of this lifestyle. Then she told us something that really hurt me because of the way she put it. She said, “Would y’all turn yo back on your mother?” The answer was of course, no. So she finally got herself clean and sober and it was then that she told us she had been diagnosed with HIV. I cried a lot of nights thinking about this. How and why did it have to happen to my mama? But she told us, “Don’t worry, I’m gonna be just fine.” I didn’t believe it when she proved it to me. She has been sober now for over a year. She takes care of herself. She keeps active and she could care less what other people say about her.
I am so proud of my mom! I never thought she would come through for us but she did and I hope she continues the good work!