*Excerpts*, VOLUME 7

Inside this Place, Not of It [Book Excerpt]

[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”1936365502″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41sdSInRUwL._SL160_.jpg” width=”102″]Page 3: Inside this Place, Not of It [Excerpt] Irma Rodriquez’s Story

Excerpted from Inside this Place, Not of It edited by Ayelet Waldman and Robin Levi. Published by Voice of Witness Books.


You’re Constantly Living on the Edge


It’s two o’clock in the morning, how did this door get open? Even now, when things are supposed to be better, cos routinely come into our rooms and take our things. A lot of us have arts and crafts supplies to make cards with, like cardstock and markers. We might also have books or other small things. Routinely the Cos will come with their gloves and bags, and they take everything. You’ve got three blankets? Trust me, they will take them away. You have a homemade pillow sewn up, they’ll take that. You’re constantly living on edge. Sometimes I feel like they set some women up. They know who’s going to blow her stack about having her things taken, and they purposely target her, just so that she will lose it and they can bust her.



I Went In for Angel Dust,
But I Came Out Using Heroin


There is an abundance of drugs in prison, more than on the streets. It’s the currency of the place. You buy it, get it for free, do whatever. You become a runner, do a favor for an inmate, she’ll give you half of the drugs. Even your tray of food—hamburger night, pork chop night—you take the pork chop back, you get dope in return. I went in for angel dust, but I came out actively using heroin. I had tried heroin in the free world, but I wasn’t an active heroin addict because of my mother. I knew I didn’t want to follow her example, so instead I’d used PCP. But when I got to prison I started using heroin, and by the time I got out I was hooked.


After that I was just in and out of jail and prison. Out for sixty days, back in again. In for four years, out again, violate parole, back in again. It was the same thing over and over again, for years. The only thing that changed was that in the early 1990’s I switched from heroin to crack cocaine. Every time I went into prison, I came out with a worse addiction. Crack cocaine is just overpowering, I can’t even express what it’s like. I’m clean and sober now, and I look back and say to myself, “God! What the hell was I thinking?” I look at my arms, at the scars and tattoos, and I see how girls without them can wear pretty shirts and stuff, and it just makes me so sad. I just had no sense of worth. It just didn’t matter.


It took me a long time to get clean. I’ve been in and out of programs. I’ve worked with sponsors, I’ve gotten therapy, I’ve done outpatient, I’ve had intensive family therapy counseling. It seems that when I did the intensive family therapy, that’s what caused me to reuse drugs even more. A lot of the help I got was court ordered; it was nothing that I ever chose to get. I wasn’t ready for it, and I was scared. Fear turns into anger and anger turns into resentment and resentment causes you to use, because if you don’t know how to deal with the resentment in a healthy way, you have to numb it. So I’d use more. It was only when I was really ready to face all that stuff, when I came to it on my own, that I got clean.

The first time I got clean was for nine months. It was in 2004, and I had just been paroled. Rehab worked that time because I was ready, and because I had extensive care and a structured program. Through the program, I got a maintenance job, and so I went from rehab straight into work. They helped me get financial aid, I picked a college, got into it. They helped me all the way through. But I relapsed and ended up back in prison. I went back in in 2006, and I’m due to be released very soon. This last time I went in, I got clean again, and I’ve stayed clean for two and a half years.


But I used for a long time, and my body is a mess. I bruise easily; I just tap myself and I end up with a raised, painful lump. I’ve wrecked my body so much that even just having a menstrual period, I’m doubled over in pain. I haven’t been able to get pregnant since I had my daughter. My periods are so bad that the prison doctors are monitoring them now. But that doesn’t mean anything. They’re not trying to fix the problem, or even diagnose it.



CLICK HERE to continue reading on Page 4


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