Laditra 4One of the projects I did earlier this year (April 4th) was putting on an art exhibit.  I wanted to post some of the stories.  Laditra is one of the board members of A New Way of Life.   The full Telling Our Stories gallery can be seen here

I haven’t been in Haughville since 2009 except to drive through on my way to somewhere else.  Washington and Tibbs all the way down to Washington and Harding, there wasn’t a thing of beauty there for me.  I was born and raised in Haughville.  When I was 15, my family moved to the east side.  When I started using, around 19 or 20, I found my way back to the west side.  I was there for several years, ended up back on the east side, between 10th and New York, my other set of stomping grounds.  But my hardest times were on Washington.  Out east I wasn’t prostituting or getting locked up.  Out west, the game was deeper, the crowd rougher, and I was full throttle with it.

A typical day for me was drinking and making money the best way I knew how to support my habit.  Not sleeping, not eating, just constantly using:  I woke up using, went to bed using, and in between, I looked forward to using. I was having survival sex, that is, sex to support my basic needs:  support my habit, put a roof over my head, having sex to get by.  I never saw this community center reach out to anyone in the community.  It looked abandoned, a community center with a sealed door when it’s supposed to be a safe haven.

Laditra 5The house I used to live in is still ugly. It’s dead.  No life to it.  The house looks like it’s crying.  There was nothing of beauty for me in Haughville.  It was always sad.  I was always depressed here. I thought this whole area was dead.  There was no escape route.  Every alley had something to catch you.  Everyone was a dealer, a prostitute, an addict, a thief, or someone trying to hurt you.  There was no good, unless I just wasn’t seeing the good.  Every other night I was locked up on this street.

I saw a lot of people get killed.  I’ve seen people use knives on people just for a hit.  I didn’t want to bust someone’s head open just to get high.  The more you use, the greater your tolerance and I knew I’d get to the point where I’d have to hurt someone to support my habit.

It came to a head after I’d been up for a few days.  It was cold outside and I was on a bend, hadn’t eaten, hadn’t slept.  I was a wreck.  The people I knew were avoiding me acting like they didn’t want me around.  So I called the police, told them I had a warrant out on me, and asked them to lock me up.  They said they had no reason to.  I told them I was a crack addict and that if they didn’t lock me up, I was going to die that night.  I caused a scene, the people started coming outside.  The cop suggested that I go inside with them, but I told him it was a crack house which was my problem.  The people told him that I had a home and came from a Christian family, so the cop asked if I wanted him to take me to them.  But I didn’t want to disturb my family, nor have them see me like that.  So I started crying and said “I will die tonight if you don’t help me.”  The cop felt sorry for me and took me to the processing center.  They didn’t book me, just put me in a cell to let me sleep it off.  The next morning, they released me.

Laditra 1That was February 8, 2008.  I was walking down the street, a man approached me and I asked him for a cigarette.  That’s how I met Floyd.  He gave me a cigarette and then asked me I was just coming out of this building, the processing center, and if I was okay.  I said yeah and we exchanged numbers.  He said he’d seen pain in my eyes as well as potential and hope.  I called him, told him my problems.  He shared his experience and recovery.  I’d never even heard of an AA meeting.  He introduced me to a few places.

I had cases pending.  I stayed in contact with him through Feb 13th 2008.  I was detained and got out Sept 2008.  Floyd stayed in contact with me the whole time, sent me a bible, kept my spirits up.  When they released me, he took me to a recovery house and stuck with me through a couple of relapses.  The first was a fear relapse.  Fear of change and even failing.  Everything was so new to me and about to be very different.  I’d been on the streets for 8 years straight.  In 2009, I was back with my family, went to meetings, and was in contact with Floyd.  By May of 2009, I was the house manager at Place of Power, when he was putting together ANWOL.  I wanted to give back to ANWOL, to repay some of what Floyd had done for me.  In May 2011, he asked me to be on his board.

There have been times when things have happened and I literally hear God’s voice saying  “Laditra, be still and know that I am God.”  He’s showing me “I got this.  You’re trying to do this and that, but you’re just one person.  You can do all this at one time.  Just be still.”  You can’t keep repeating the same pattern and expect a different result.  You have to do something different.
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The Telling Our Stories Exhibit was presented at Fletcher Place Arts and Books in April 2013.  The full gallery can be seen here.  The stories presented include:

Maurice Broaddus

Laditra Lee

Popcorn

Floyd Wimbush, Founder and Executive Director of A New Way of Life