Linda HeadshotLinda’s success story, in her own words:

I was born in Brooklyn; I have two sisters and two brothers. My parents are deceased. My family, we have a good bond. My little sister, she’s a police officer. My older sister isn’t working; she has triplets. I’m the black sheep.

My mother brought me up pretty good; she made sure I went to school, was raised up in church. But I wanted to be down with the negative stuff up the block, so I started hanging out with the guys, selling drugs, and one day, I was home with this guy, and he was smoking a joint. And I wasn’t using at that point; my job was selling. And I was like, “Give me some joint.” And he gave it to me, and it was crack, and I was like, “What is this?” I didn’t know what I was smoking. He was like, “You don’t wanna know.”

When I was using, I was never a prostitute or anything like that. I was like: I have to walk up and down? In the cold? No way. And I never was homeless. I mean, I ran away from home and lived with my partner ‘cuz they was getting on my nerves, but I never slept in a train station, never lived in a shelter. What I can truly say is, the people in the area I was living in used to say, “Oh, you look so nice.” I was always nice dressed, my hair, my nails, but I was still harming myself. Dressed up on the outside, and messed up on the inside.

When I bagged it up to sell it, I used to sneak off the crumbs, sneaking it off and smoking it. I went to a correction facility in 1993, came out in 1994, and stayed clean for ten years.

When I was incarcerated, it was mandatory that they give you a drug program; but they just do it for the board. We just read out of the book. Now, the book is the truth, but if you let people with experience share their experience, and their hopes and their dreams, it’s more firm. But the information they gave me wasn’t the information that I have today. The information I have now—what your triggers are, what led you to use—I’m so educated now, I refuse to ever use again. If they were to offer me this program 14 years ago, I would be going on 15 years clean today.

I didn’t have any tools then. I just worked and prayed for ten years. No tools, no sponsor, no support groups. And now I got all of that. I’m all armed up.

I was tired then, I didn’t know how to stop; the courts were telling me that I was gonna get a year in jail, and I said, “I cant get a program?” They referred me to Green Hope; they accepted me and I just did my thing.

And now I’ve been clean 7 months.

I was truly jeopardizing my life. Whatever the guys used to do, I was down with it. I give myself credit for this, ‘cuz I thought I was invincible.

I had to really get open and say, “I know after this, it’ll be something better than this, so I’m just stickin’ it out.” I like to just do stuff. I’m only picky when it comes to food. What I don’t know, I’m willing to learn.

Here, they care, no matter where you came from, what you did, where you’ve been, they’re willing to give you a chance to get back to society.

I’ve worked maintenance, but that was just temporary because I was coming out of being incarcerated. They’d pay you $50 a day to clean the courthouse, but after your time is up, you gotta go. But Project Comeback, they have a lot of things to offer you. If you’re willing to do it, you can take your world and do a 360; anything is possible. If you’re willing to change, you will.

What more can you ask for, than to have a sober life and a main focus of what you want to do? I was thinking about being a KSAC counselor. I went to this women’s prison association that I’m affiliated with; we were advocating for the people that are incarcerated to try to have the medical department oversee them. Girls come in with HIV and they don’t get the help that they need. Then they go out in society and spread it because they’re ashamed.

Women suffer more than men. Say I’m beaten by my boyfriend, I’m serving 3-10, he’s only serving a year. A lot of women have harmed their husband, and it’s in self-defense after being harmed for 15 years. “I never told nobody, and I freaked out, and now he’s dead.” I gotta do all my time, until I get out, and then I’m on life parole.

I’m trying to advocate for people who don’t have a voice for themselves. If you’re incarcerated and not connected with certain people, how can your voice be heard?

We spoke to five senators; it was pretty cool. That was a good experience for me.

When I was younger, I was thinking I wanted to be a nurse, but I made a whole lot of bad decisions in life. I’m 41 years old, so it’s like, where do I go from here? I’m willing to just stay clean and find somewhere appropriate to work, no matter what it is. I’m willing to just be a productive woman of society.

First things first: if I’m not clean, nothing is possible; if I’m clean, anything is possible.

I’ll just take it, and reach for the stars. It’s just me and God.