I watched the fireworks from my lawn chair with friends from church all around me. My children were playing nearby and Derek was at work, working a tough 24 hour shift putting out the usual fireworks fires. As the booms and fizzes surrounded us and assaulted our senses, I prayed. “Dear Lord, please don’t let this be the last time I spend this holiday with my children. Oh please don’t let this be the last time that I gaze into the sky and see the colors flash. Please dear God, send a miracle”. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I quickly brushed them away so that I could reassure the kids that I was fine – words that I had used often, every time that they had seen me cry over the mess that my life had become.
The miracle that I was praying for didn’t happen and ten months after that 4th of July, I signed a plea deal that would change my life forever. After days of being on the brink of completely losing my mind with worry that I was going away to prison for at least five years and possibly fifteen years, I made the only decision that I could make. A 50/50 chance at freedom was just not enough to convince me that I should walk into that courtroom and roll the dice. Derek wanted me to fight … oh how he wanted me to fight. I wanted to fight too, but I had no more fight left in me. After spending 18 months waiting for some miracle that would give me my life back, I had lost all hope. I had lost hope in my lawyers, lost hope in the so called justice system, and lost hope in the community that I expected to support me, but turned against me instead. We were scheduled to go to trial on a Tuesday, but the Friday before I couldn’t think of anything other than not seeing my children grow up. I spent the night lying on the bathroom floor; crying, dry heaving, sometimes screaming, but trying to not let the children know how upset I was. By the time Derek came home the next morning, my eyes were swollen shut and I could barely talk. I was almost too weak to stand. I made the phone call. I gave in. I surrendered … and a feeling of peace came over me. It was over.
Independence Day means so much more to me than it ever did before that day in April when I signed that piece of paper. I have a different kind of freedom now – freedom from the prescription drug addiction that numbed my life for nine years, freedom from the alcohol that I thought I needed just to get through the day, freedom from the craziness that nearly cost me my family, but most of all – the freedom to sit in the dark, in a lawn chair, surrounded by the people who love me the most and stare up into an inky night sky watching little bursts of hope and celebrating everything that is my life today.
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