A Survivor’s Story: 243 Days

Cassandra Cooke Stories of Healing in Action

In our last blog post, a Healing Action member and survivor wrote about her experiences to illustrate the difference between trauma and complex trauma. In this post, she continues to share her journey of resilience and recovery. Read below for her story of belly laughs at “the big house”.

243 Days

Where to go from there, right? When I first started writing for Healing Action’s blog, I thought I would write about a topic and leave it at that. What I have learned is that sometimes plans change and that it’s okay when they do. So, I’ll now be writing about whatever comes to mind. All I hope to accomplish through sharing is to bring some hope to anyone out there who is suffering and thinking it will never change and shed some light on addiction, sexual exploitation, the judicial system, and living with trauma. So, without further ado 

I finally ended up in prison, only for a total of eight months. I say only eight months because the other women around me were serving sentences of several years or even life. I had known for years that it was just a matter of time before I ended up at “the big house,” but something changed inside of me the day I went there. After a 5-hour ride in the back of a smelly, gross, tiny, extremely uncomfortable metal box with shackles on my hands and feet, we had arrived at what would be my “home” for the next 243 days. As I mentioned in my previous writing, I had been to county jail more times than I care to count. But something was disturbing to me about going to state prison. I’ll never forget the moment we got there; even though it looked like these huge red barns that reminded me of Bob Evan’s and not like a prison at all, I knew where I was, and it did something to me. Before that point, I didn’t care about my life and what I was doing with it. Suddenly, I had this feeling of deep sadness come over me, that there HAD to be more to life than this. I mean, try to imagine being a grown adult and having someone tell you when you eat, when you bathe, when you use the bathroom. Do not get me wrong, I know I made mistakes, and this is the way our judicial system has people “pay their debt to society,” and it saved my lifeLooking back, I now see I had reached one of my two “rock bottoms.” (Keep reading my blogs to find out what the other one was.) And for the first time ever, I wanted to do something to change the way life was going.  

While serving my sentence, I tried to do everything in my power to better myself and figure out where I would go when I left. This was the first time since age 15 that I had not been on hard drugs. The only way I can describe it is that it felt like there had been a dense fog on my brain up until these clean months. I felt good and was happy for once in my life. It may sound sad, but I had some of the best laughs in my entire life while there. You know those laughs where your stomach and cheeks hurt so bad, but you can’t quit! I didn’t know those types of laughs until going to prison. Because for once in my life, I was able to be myself. My goofy, silly, funny self. Growing up, I couldn’t be myself. My mother would say things like, “Why are you acting like that? You’re too loud.” Or “Why are you so quiet? What’s wrong with you?” I was never in the right mood, and I couldn’t do anything right in her eyes 

I was scared to leave. I remember crying about a week before my out date because I was terrified to leave the safety of those walls. Deep down, I knew I wasn’t done using and living that life even though I felt better than I ever had, and I was happier than I’d ever been. I felt once I got out, I was going to run right back to the thing that had torn my life apart and made every day a living hell. That’s the nature of the beast of addiction. However, as I did eventually, people recover, and if an addict is breathing, there is hope for them 

So yes, long story short, I made the best of being in prison, and it was life-changing for many reasons. Come back in a couple of weeks to find out if I ran right to it or found a way to stay clean and out of the life.