There are moments when we arrive at a pinnacle in our lives, where we can not miss the essence of what we are experiencing, witnessing or what is unfolding around us or what is being revealed with in us individually. There is a deep recognition that the experience could be something very important. It feels sizable. It has a sense of anticipation, of something beyond the daily mundane way of being. There are also times where we encounter people who we know will change our lives forever. It can be a positive change, a negative change or something completely unexpected, in the realm known as the odd in-between. Yet, as time passes we see that the experiences being shared, are that which are and will be, connected to a long line of historic continuation . These events begin to reveal themselves in other areas of our lives as well. Eventually, all coming back to the nucleus of this single expression and engagement of a specifically chosen and extremely personal communion.
A muse can be many things. The more obvious role is that it can inspire great art, transcendent music, poetry, revolutions... or even a counterpoint of a culture when the rest of the world is on fire. The muse can be a feeling evoked by an experience or something we witness. This is a vibration which can not be forced or faked, it cant be chased down like a runaway kite, nor can it be pinned down like an unruly receipt racing across a parking lot. Muse shows up when it is time, and not a moment to soon, and certainly never too late. The muse may not play when you want, something fitting an obvious schedule, when it is convenient, or when you sit to contemplate or confront your art. Muse shows up when the soul needs to speak and to listen in the ways that will form the life into something even more powerful than what is existing in present time.
There is a purpose and point to all of this describing.
The purpose of this Series called Somebody's Daughter has been inspired by such a powerful connection in my own life, so much so, that I have been driven over many years to be ready to codify such a transformative experience. The connection and the influence of this woman In my life, for me, is so deep and meaningful that it is a part of a huge foundation of what I have grown into, created from and personally expanded because of. All simply built by this connection. The source of this inspiration has found themselves transformed as well.
To be clear, after this initial offering here in the first volume of Somebody's Daughter, the future focus and writing, will be solely redirected to the females of all ages who have exceptional and inspiring stories to tell. The commitment is to be of service to these stories and how rich they are in what they hold. The core of this initial practice however, has to start with the inception. The reasons which have inspired a lengthy series of actions and creations on my own behalf, and ultimately, how it all for us both, has come about in the first place, is why I want to present such an empowering tale.
This is a hell of a story I am about to share, and in it will contain a pivotal part of my personal experience too, as it is foundational to the whole of truly shared inspiration. A powerful expression experienced so personally between two unsuspecting women, and how so much growth and transformation has come to unfold in this relationship. Only pure involvement and a core powerful emotional exchange, can make an account, such as this, as potent as I hope is conveyed to you. This has been a lofty goal and my hope is that it is served well.
WHAT'S A NICE GIRL LIKE YOU DOING IN A PLACE LIKE THIS?
This could be said about us both actually, and yet the learning we have evenly shared and experienced singularly as well, has shown me one of the most powerful lessons of my life, "presume nothing, you asked to learn, and here is the vehicle."
Morgan and I met at the county jail in March of 2014. I was there in service for well over a year, bringing a weekly meditation and 12 step program to the female inmate population. My decision to step into this service was a means to challenge myself in my own recovery process. This was an act of stepping consciously and fully out of my safety zone. There is always a potential of complacency, familiarity and spiritual laziness that tends to appear after long term recovery for some. After all of the hard inner work and personal change I had worked toward in my own life, I didn't want to become that terrifying statistic. I remember my mindset vividly when I chose to offer up as a meeting leader, thinking it would be easy to lead a meeting, adhere to principles and follow the script, in and out, and good stuff all around...after all its doing GOOD, I thought.
Service is a positive thing and everyone wins, right? I must tell you, it was anything BUT that. And what unfolded for me from day one, was a means of blowing all preconceived notions about the idea of troubled women, humanity as a whole, psychology, NLP, organized recovery, the jail/rehabilitation system AND spirituality out of the water. I laugh as I type this because I had an idealized image which was so far from being met, I couldn't even believe it. All of my fantastic ideals were ripped from thought and sanitized interpretation, and turned on end, eventually up-righting into something I never dreamed I would be present to.
I had zero clue I would learn such potent and extraordinary lessons demanding a level of spiritual growth, to that point I didn't even know existed. Believe me, there were plenty of heart wrenching stories of chronic addiction devastating generations of families, codependent choices catching those in traps of shared dependency and addiction with deep and long term impact that would never be repaired. There were also brutal over doses and deaths of girls, whom I had literally worked with days before, custody loss of children, minor children being removed from the home and grandparents taking on the role of sole care giver, as the daughters faced long term prison or for some, actual death from overdoses. The level of agony of the heart broken addicts, with no answers, non-existent tools and no way out of the systemic patterns and choices, was a stunning reality check to choose to be present to. Constantly being faced with the deep despondency and belief of these women, that there were no answers and no trust of resolution, and there was not a possibility that there every would be for them. I had no choice but to learn on the fly every week and for days after, processing the content, not wanting to judge them, but instead to consciously choose understanding of the unconscionable.
Over and over, the act of service became less about my personal experience and more about something much greater than I could have guessed. I was being challenged to grow and stretch in unimaginable ways. No fantasy ideal could have prepared me for all of this. The only way to emotionally survive what I was witnessing, was to face it all, square on, with compassion and simply listen. I could offer what skills I had, which was nothing compared to what they needed. Huge powerful emotional demands were calling me, and I found that I couldn't resist returning to, over and over again. I felt compelled to use all of my tools to do what I could to bring as much information as possible, no matter how futile it seemed. I had to cram it into that 90 minute session every single week. But the process still felt separate. It still wasn't intimate tho, just a lot of 'holy cow-ing' from the witness standpoint. I became a direct witness to trauma over and over, and in that, forcing my hand at keeping up to date with my own inner work so I could continue to serve. It was not easy. Not one bit.
And then, in walked Morgan.
Let me preface that there is so much intention in this writing, to share my view of her with love and deep understanding. To premise the deep core of soul connection shared here, as two women finding a deep bond in the most unusual circumstances. As the story progresses, I am certain this will be conveyed, however, It didn't start that way.
Morgan came to her first meeting on fire and pissed off, raw, ragged and overwhelmed at the size of the terrifying future she was facing by her own hand. She didn't want to share or talk at first, glaring at me and the other women with an intensity seen by few. But once she did start to connect, my initial thought was, how on earth is this smart young woman here. She didn't fit the typical inmate, she was educated, from a good home, loving family and even in light of her extreme circumstance, smart as a whip. It isn't that the other women I was working with didn't have a lot of potential, but there is a term known as systemic institutionalization, and that was the norm of what I was engaged in working with. It is a terrible truth to even state out loud. But nobody is served by not presenting it. This is about the truth of a process, the process of true and full recovery and what it really takes. It isn't pretty. There is no perfect way it will ever be accomplished either.
Please know too, Here I am, consciously nurturing my own recovery by intentionally serving in a jail setting, BY CHOICE. For my own recovery stability and inner growth as well. I also risked being triggered tremendously in this intense environment. And I ultimately knew that no matter what, I had to commit to my own congruent behavior if I wished to continue this specific type of service.
Morgan has an extraordinary story and example of growth, inspiration, healing, and potent transformation. We need her story, as it will set the fire of inspiration in us all.
Depending on the circles where you travel, you may not know that such experiences exist, or they are just distant enough that you are safe in knowing, that shit isn't going to impact your own world. You may have faced such things close range. Maybe there is curiosity borne from wanting to see that transformation is actually really possible, from absolute rock bottom, or that we all have a chance in life, we just have to find out how to bring that opportunity to action and dreams to fruition. This is EXACTLY that opportunity.
In a world where there is so much that doesn't seem to be working, there are so many examples pointing to a great darkness, fear and a growing inertia, our cultural self hatred and disdain for others continues to expand and deepen. The essence of hope is seemingly leaving in giant waves. Let me say this tho, many years of experience has shown me, that it actually depends on where you look. And if you courageously leap from the comfort zone long enough, there is a world which can show you many remarkable things. Where ever your feet are planted, is an opportunity. For literally everything. Ground zero is a very interesting place to start.
This interview was a series of discussions and email exchanges between Morgan and myself during the summer of 2020. Those discussions, which were recorded, have been translated and presented as they unfolded, hence their extemporaneous nature.
May I introduce MORGAN
WHAT IS YOUR STORY ABOUT?
"I am thinking this is about redemption.....and finding myself. It is about wanting something SO badly and not getting it. Ultimately it is about prison being the worst mistake of my life, yet I got to find out who Morgan really is."
"In the beginning of everything, was abandonment....of not feeling good enough, no place for me in my family or my step family. The emotions around my parents split, losing my father, getting him back and then him throwing me out. I couldn't understand why I was being rejected...not good enough. This led to bad relationships,...I always wanted something I could not get from my father or family of origin. My step dad treats me like a daughter...and I am so grateful for that.... but the emotional love from my birth father was just not there."
"This had a big impact on my self esteem and my relationships. I feel like that is a big part of it. I wasn't missing my dad... But I was daddy's little girl.... and it was gone. I had low self esteem and i wanted to be wanted. I wanted to keep a man. And every time I tried to fill the void... it created that void more. When I was in high school, I threatened to kill myself because of my first love and also got caught with a gun under my bed, that wasn't mine. I was willing to go the psych ward and rehab just to protect him..... These unhealthy patterns were even bigger than addiction for me."
"I had very low self esteem even as a little kid....and it got worse as I became a teenager. I began sleeping around, wanting to be wanted....I wanted to keep a man. Every time i tried to fill that void, it created that void in me."
"All of My relationships were like this and it just got worse over time.... Fast forward to when i was older, I was in a relationship with my fiance and I had about 3.5 years of clean time when he got into an accident. I was sober and I went from being so focused on a good program of recovery, but I didn't have the resources of a recovery network, a sponsor, regular meetings...so when he got into an accident because of him using again .... there was a lot of fear that kicked in.... but because I was an addict, I had thoughts of using."
"Thinking of all of the stuff [drugs] he was going to have available... at the same time, trying to convince myself and everyone i was going to be OK. I knew that I had my family to reach out to, and could tell them i was concerned about using... but I was too embarrassed to reach out and ask anyone for help."
"Other people were showing concern that I was going to use...it was insulting and I felt like I had to show them I was this strong person... my whole life.... every time I have relapsed, everyone still thought i was sober. I wasn't high around my family and wasn't acting like I didn't give a shit. Every time I have been sober, I am always trying to put off like I am OK, that I didn't need help, I was fine."
"At that time, I was in control of my ex's medication and I thought it was showing everyone I had control of myself. I was able to control getting high and not let anyone know. He was only home from the hospital like 10 days and I started using his medication."
"I wasn't doing the typical stuff... I didn't hang out with people who were using, I didn't go to bars and i didn't go to clubs. At that point i wasn't able to say no to it.....and there was a lot of fear there. It shows how strong the addiction is... it was constantly eating at me. I wanted to get high and wanted to take the medication. I didn't want to do it but didn't have anyone to tell I was tempted to use it. I didn't have a sponsor who I trusted to share it with. Once I started using, there was the hiding of it and not saying anything, until I had to tell him because his pill count for medication was off, so he was going to know. Once I told him that I used, we ended up using together. All respect for myself and how he saw me changed and everything changed. That's when things became a disaster. I was still trying to uphold that I am the nurse and everyone in his family thought what a wonderful girlfriend I am....doing all these great things and yet, I was lying about being sober."
"The whole time after using I felt like shit and this time.... this relapse... it was never fun.... it was always this huge guilty feeling because I never had that much time sober before..... It kept me getting high and it was the 'fuck its', and at the same time...I was trying to uphold our place, our apartment and all that.... and a there was a huge weight on my shoulders because he couldn't work. I had to pick up another job. I was working 2 jobs plus taking care of him. He had to learn to walk all over again.....I was sleeping at the hospital... and then having to get up and go to work..... It was so much. Once I started using it was even harder to keep up with everything.... Then basically this led into not having enough money....So then, like another emotion that kept me using was that I was able to have my own business the entire time and never once thought about taking anything...until now."
"But once i started using, i began to take advantage of my position with the business.There was a customer who I had cleaned for almost three years,who not only had drugs in their house but also paraphernalia and large sums of money..... Now being in active addiction..I became desperate and took things I had no business taking...I was desperate and longing for the next high.....Eventually they questioned me....and I found an excuse to not work there any longer."
"I was looking to get out of that work environment at that house because I knew I was pushing it already and quit the job and that is when they questioned me about the money. I denied it and that was that. There was still craziness with the drugs.....and then I met my drug dealer because my fiance was running out of medication too quickly and couldn't see his doctor for it anymore. They found out he was doing more than the pills, so he lost his pain management doctor. That is how I was connected to the person who got me into the next huge situation."
"Because I was the one reaching out to my dealer and talking to him and getting the drugs. It created a lot of issues with us. There were a lot of disagreements around the relationship 'if you wanna call it that' my dealer and I were building...it made my ex very uncomfortable....rightfully so...which created a lot of paranoia in him."
"How I was conducting myself in this relationship with my dealer created a lot of feelings of disrespect with myself, and at the same time, I don't know if it was the drugs or the self esteem ...or feeling like shit about myself....or even a mix of everything....that I was allowing this to happen. I know that I felt like complete shit about myself and my life at the time...but I also know who I am when I am in addiction to drugs. This is the desperation part of it....The wanting of it all or myself...getting so many things for myself that my fiance didn't know about..I was completely desperate and wanted it all for myself....and would do anything to get it."
"A few days after that, he came home completely wasted....and just crazy....I never saw him like this. He had this look in his eyes..and I was so scared. He took a huge knife out of our kitchen and he called my parents and had an emotional break down on the phone with them. He told my family I had relapsed. He also called his own family. He held me at knife point...because of the phone call with my parents..they were on their way to our house and called the cops. He was abusing me physically while on the phone with my family. He was taken away by the cops.....his family also arrived shortly after and I sat in my living room and told them all everything....why he got into an accident in the first place and how that led to my relapse....and how we had been using together secretly for the past several months. Everything was on the table and I had nothing left to lose. I was blamed by my ex fiance's mother for putting her son in this situation...and it wasn't true...he had this problem too....as bad as it was..I was still so scared to lose him...he was my fiance and all the things in life I thought I wanted...plus the behavior of clinging onto something/someone so toxic..but not wanting to be alone because of how I felt about myself....I wasn't aware that I deserved better..'we both did'...eventually due to a restraining order..my ex moved out and I moved my dealer in 'again fear of being alone'...wanting to feel wanted...but within a couple of weeks....he was now starting to exercise control and abuse as well...me being as vulnerable as I was...the situation just went from bad...to worse."
FROM THE FRYING PAN TO THE FIRE
“I met my dealer and he was a big shot I thought. Everyone knew him, and so I guess, because I had felt like I did about my ex at that point... that this dealer was my protector in a way. I thought he wouldn’t let anyone else mess with me, but then it became very unhealthy and painful very quickly with him, too."
"For example, if we were driving and he didn’t get the immediate response he wanted, if he asked me a question. he would grab me by the hair and push my head down to control me when he was mad....... it was so random and violent"
"We were at his cousins house one time, and he left me alone when he went some where to get food for us.....and came back with some girl.... and then kissed her right in front of me! .....And he was so mad because I challenged him about doing it. He didn’t understand why I was so mad, because he went to Burger King for us. I thought it was so disrespectful and I was very upset, so then he poured all the food and a giant soda on top of me and made me drive around like that for 3 hours and wouldn’t let me stop or and go to the bathroom or anything. It was so humiliating and a really really bad time for me."
"Other little things like, he would make me drive in a horrible snow storm and promised to give me gas money and then didn’t, and I couldn't turn my truck on because I barely had any gas, and it was snowing so bad...He wouldn't let me come inside to his place...out of desperation and fear of running out of gas, I let myself inside the apartment building and in front of his friends he said "hold on I’m about to go dump this bitch in the river” and walked out behind me and grabbed me by my pony tail..drug me down the hallway... and threw me down the stairs telling me to get out....I sat out in my truck in the cold until the next morning, when he was ready to give me gas money so I could get home. It was all about control...and me 'behaving."
"So many things happened with him. He was a compulsive gambler and every single day we would go to the casino... and he would always lose all his money, including the gas money to get home. He would be calling people to give him money and we would sit in the casino parking lot because we didn’t have money to get home. He was selling drugs but he was also using drugs, so he never was making any money. He was just as broke as I was at that point. We would get to the casino and he would give me money so we would have a way to get home, then he would call me to go inside and demand the money he gave me... and if I didn’t give it to him he would make a huge public scene. To this day, that whole situation still affects me so much. I literally can not handle humiliation like that. I feel like I have grown and so much over time, but this shows me how much that still affects me. "
"I didn't believe I could have gotten out of this...but I look at this like a blessing. If I wound not have gotten out of this by eventually going to prison, he would have murdered me, or I would have died from an overdose. I don’t know if I would have survived if I didn’t eventually get arrested. It got me out of this situation..... out of the drugs and obviously I was able to completely change my life."
"When I first met him I wanted to impress him. The way I thought he was living was this big shot life. So I told him how my ex fiancé and I were able to get the drugs he had been getting for us, I had stolen from that house I was cleaning. I only told him to try and impress him 'because I thought I had to, that's how lost I was, searching for approval in the wrong places'..I honestly didn't want steal anything else from them, it wasn't my intention. The conversation just happened between him and I, and the first thing he said was that he 'wanted to get into that house'. So for the next couple of months it was him trying to convince me that it was possible to do it and get away with it...promising me the world...and saying that he had never gotten caught before doing stuff like this. Little did I know he was also planning to break in with his friends. I do want to make it known that I take full responsibility in the crime that I committed. I made this decision on my own. I am trying to reflect that my drug addiction and this abusive relationship with my dealer played a huge part in my decision making. Obviously I am not the monster that made the decision that changed my entire life. Drugs change me....DRASTICALLY."
Due to the highly sensitive nature of the crime and of the victims involved, there is the need to protect them in the storytelling, therefore, details at this point will be limited. Eventually the dealer and several others set up the plan to break into the point of the crime. And in this process, there were many issues which unfolded that eventually became a first degree felony, armed robbery and violent crime.
AFTER THE BREAK IN
"I was packing up my house after losing absolutely everything, my fiancé, home, my own business. And as I was packing up everything I had worked so hard for in those 3.5 years of sobriety was gone....I lay sobbing on top of garbage bags in the house we had made a home, absolutely devastated. Seeing it all come crashing down around me. The dealer was now out of contact with me and everything crumbled. And I became more and more aware it was all done, everything I had worked for was over. This was a potent part of my “bottom”. I was completely alone and had to face my family. My former fiancé was trying to help me by providing food for me. In my absolute desperation I sold everything in my life, anything that had value, I had to sell..... It was the worst feeling ever to realize it was all gone”
"After losing everything, I moved back home with my family. I knew I was going to be arrested...it was only a matter of time. The cops had begun their investigation and the now had my phone records. I was still chasing that high and my parents knew it. They told me shortly after moving in that if I chose to do that then I couldn't stay there....and so I left. I lived out of my truck in Middlesex county for the next week. Then there was a phone call with my family similar to an intervention. I was 30 years old at the time and my 18 year old sister got on the phone and called me out on the pain I was causing my family."
" A few days later I called my Dad to come home and he agreed. The next morning at 6 am the police were there to arrest me. It was a compassionate arrest..... at least in front of the family, and I was able to say my good byes. I wasn’t cuffed in front of them."
"My mother said to me: “when are you going to do anything for Morgan? You need to put YOU first. stop protecting everyone”
"I knew my world was about to change. I went into survival mode numbness, but didn’t think I was going to jail that morning. They waited to handcuff me outside of the house, read me my rights and I was placed in the police car. I was completely numbed to what was happening... I simply wasn’t aware of the size of it."
"Absolutely numb and checked out.... the police officer told me "You're facing 30 years.". The realization began to sink in when I got to the interrogation room. I was emotional and scared and very raw. I saw stacks of my printed out text messages, and I knew I was caught due to the content of those texts. The interrogation was hours upon hours of explaining. I saw myself in the camera they had....... the night before I had been “pretty high” .... and for the first time I could see that I was run down.....I saw myself and I looked like shit...everything was about to end.......My life was over.”
“Looking back.... I felt manipulated to tell the police who was involved in the crime. I called my parents to tell them I was going to jail. At that point, I didn’t feel like I was going to be in jail a long time”
“I was handcuffed to a bench at the state troopers barracks, and was dealing with continual interviews. I was so cold and alone, and slowly the reality was registering of the seriousness. I felt a lot of shame and embarrassment, especially because my family was connected to the jail and police department. It was so embarrassing for everyone involved, and the illusions of sobriety were shattered. I was transferred to another jail to be kept from those I did the crime with. At this point I was in jail with actual real killers. I was very scared by the environment. This showed me how serious this all really was. I was told by the police that my life was actually on the line. I wanted my phone and spoke to my dad, and he said “by the time you get out, your phone will be a rotary phone." My heart dropped. My dad told me I would get at least 5 years. When I got to reception at the jail, people were detoxing and puking and pooping themselves..... Thankfully I wasn’t going thru that."
" When you are in jail, people automatically look at you as low, like you are shit. Jail is degrading, And it’s degrading to go through intake. At the time I had a kidney infection. I was very sick from drugs and didn’t even realize it. This started the whole feeling like shit. Constantly being talked down to and treated less than. I got moved to the block immediately. I had never been to jail. I was insecure around these rough women. Being the new girl was a huge adjustment. I had been living a life of chasing drugs and then it just all stopped. I was now sitting in my shit.”
“My mom wrote me an 11 page letter. It was devastating and heartbreaking for us both. I felt let down and angry. My mom was facing the loss of her daughter in this situation and couldn’t deal with it. I felt very insecure in this new situation and missed my ex fiancé. My family didn’t get it, and didn’t understand the codependency....the feelings just didn’t go away..... Especially since I didn’t have morals at that time, or standards for myself. I felt really shitty. And it was such a big adjustment getting used to being in jail and deciding what to do next. I had to decide if I wanted to be a part of the process of getting better in my life."
This is now my personal part of the story. To reiterate, this must be told as it is deeply intertwined with Morgan moving forward and the profound expanding personal inspiration, which eventually blossomed from our connection. Over time, bringing forth the inception of Somebody's Daughter, as well as, a personal focus on creating an effective empowerment program which I created specifically to support her, and women like her, women who wanted to transform their own lives from ground zero.This wasn't developed with great lofty ideals in mind, but truly seeing a deep core necessity that had never been met in these women. The development was one of the most inspired challenges of my entire life, because at first I didn't want to go that far into this process, I knew it was going to take a lot from me to grow within this as well. It was emotionally confrontational, and yet there was a giant pull to do this, to go much deeper.
Our connection was, and still is, the powerful inspiration which instigated an incredible period of high creativity, writing and application of a well honed tool set, a specific education and eventually this all culminated into a program that would be a part of a developing of skills, which would support Morgan to help herself in moving forward, even while incarcerated. There were absolutely no guarantees she would want what I was giving or that she would care to put that time in. It was a high risk of using a ton of energy that may go no where. Therefore, this was not a small process I speak of here. It was also deeply impactful to me because I knew that if I dove headlong into this emotional creation, I was going to be inextricably linked to her for life and I could not falter. To do this well together, I had to be on top of my game and couldn't waver in my commitments to my own stability and mental health. It demanded congruent thought, word and action. My own life had very real issues to address and be present to as well, I was a single mom with very real and unavoidable demands which had no end. But that desire to support her became so much stronger than my fears of failing her, so I made a conscious leap into a wild unknown void along side her.
At that point in my life I was leading a weekly meditation and 12 step meeting for the female inmates at the county jail. There was also teaching meditation at a halfway house for female addicts as well, so I was quite involved in this type of process from the stand point of service. As rewarding as one would think it would be, most of the time it was profoundly stressful and deeply influencing my psyche, as most of the women I was working with, didn't want the changes that Morgan was seeking. It was many times, a painful dance of futility, as they were simply buying time until they were released back into their worlds to return to the patterns that would either keep them trapped or eventually destroy them. A sad and devastating reality check which was experienced more than I can tally. The challenges as I have mentioned in the beginning of the article, were incredible for expanding my clarity, all by my own choice mind you, and shifting my world view. But this is a reflection now, and at the time I was starting to see that this was an absolute necessity for my personal and spiritual growth. It had become about cultivating true compassion for others and for myself. I didn’t realize I would ever go this far down the path with such an extraordinary person. But I did, and we have some incredible results on both sides. Was this easy? NOPE.
The connection between us wasn’t exactly immediate. Morgan had decided that she wanted to get off the block and look deeper into her own recovery. She was around people who weren’t serious about it and couldn’t wait to get high when they got out. Morgan was facing a longer term incarceration, and the reality check of that was quite jarring. Early on she was quite angry and annoyed.
“I didn’t want to open up and share a lot. It made me vulnerable. It took me time to let my guard down. I felt most comfortable with you because you would be honest and authentic with me. I was starting to build some clean time, and I wanted to be honest about the impact of my addiction. With the others on the block, I wanted to show them the realness. I didn’t want to be fake. You got my attention because you were honest about yourself and your own recovery. I felt like I could relate to this. The meditations were uncomfortable for me, but you started to make them comfortable. You told it like it is but you were never cruel, you were calming and open. I actually felt safe. You used to always say “ if you really want to do the step work, I will do it with you” that’s what got me to do the step work. You never pushed it, your encouragement was never forced. In the past I had never put this much work in ever. And this was the turning point between us, Car...in that 4th and 5th step I learned what direction to put everything down on paper.”
Due to principles of recovery, I won't share a lot about the process, so that will be vague. This commitment between Morgan and I was growing stronger and more valuable for us both as the months wore on. I was actually starting to enjoy going to jail every Monday, and always looked forward to seeing her. This is no small thing that I am saying here. It is a harsh environment and any given week the dynamic could change depending on who was a new inmate that week. At times we had a small group of women, and other times up to 15. Each with their own story and a lot of anger, suffering and toxic patterns they were trying to sort out in the group dynamic. And... they were active addicts. And many wanted to stay addicts. I learned more about public speaking during that time then i ever thought possible. To stay on task, move from format to meeting content was always a new process and taught me to trust what I knew and to speak clearly and honestly from the heart in a way that was as unique as each of the women. Imagine that level of vulnerability coming in as someone who wasn't an inmate, trying to build trust and have to at the same time show that I truly was not judging but there to be of service. To individuals who at that point in their lives, could care less about service.The process became a weekly learning curve for years.
Eventually Morgan agreed that she would share her 5th step with me at the jail. This cemented a level of trust between us that was decidedly next level. I wasn't the meditation lady dropping laser sharp truths for an hour and a half each week anymore, safely leaving after each session. It was on the ground and suddenly very real for us both. Needless to say, that process of making that step work happen was an exceptional bureaucratic hell to get approved. I would now be visiting as her sponsor to hear the whole 5th step for several hours. After a month of negotiating time and gathering clearance. We spent an exceptional morning with Morgan emotionally purging the story as the sublime storyteller and me as the neutral witness, sharing the intention of moving her forward to true recovery. This is not easy for either involved in such a task. This isn't about wanting to be a super hero. It is about simply knowing it can help in a way she would need. It is a process which actually works effectively for many. We were pretty anxious to have this step work completed before she was to be sentenced and transferred to the women’s prison.
“The counselors at rehab never helped me feel as safe, so I really let out everything. And we still have that connection, genuinely supportive “
Everything between us changed after this. Both of us approaching a process with profound vulnerability. We will be cemented through life after such a connection. As I type here, I am covered in goosebumps with that memory, as fresh as it was the day it happened so long ago. Then it was movement toward some deep maturity for us both, knowing I committed with all my heart to support her as she was deeply learning to support her self for real this time. I am still in awe of how she empowered herself..step by step..phase by phase, and I was able to witness this intimately. Is there really any greater gift than to see someone step into who they really are?
MORGAN TO PRISON
“Things changed quickly and were very very hard at first. Our connection had to change from seeing each other every Monday to a prison schedule”
CARRIE We had no contact for almost a month at first. I had to apply and go thru a massive security check to be able to visit. Going through the state, interview, finger printing, background check, trusted references. And for my private life, personally I also had to commit to following thru with that communication thru the completion of the prison sentence. And to know that I could not break that commitment and it also meant that I would have to stay in connection, no matter what, especially with the recovery challenges in prison.
“I saw your commitment and felt so supported and I wasn’t expecting to be. I was used to people walking away at this point”
CARRIE I knew that this was not going to be easy at all, and I knew you would need the support to help you see that you needed to continue to transform your life..plus I am a sucker for a really good story. I wanted to see how this was really going to end. Being hungry for real help and willing to do deep work in all areas of my life. As much as I was there and wanted to be, I was met with commitment as well, it wasn't me thinking I could save anyone. That is the reality here that everyone needs to get. The way that incarceration works, is that you know that there are potent negative influences and some deep internal dialog that the inmate is looking at all the time. There was no way I could change that, I knew I could not, but I had tools to help Morgan see how to could change herself, for herself. And amazingly in spite of everything to be dealt with daily, there was no stopping this process. At times it was breathtaking the courage Morgan had to do the deep work in the face of what she was submerged in.
At this point I was deeply inspired to write an empowerment program for Morgan to build her own self esteem and clarity and to also hopefully be able to support other incarcerated women as well. I knew it was a labor of love, but this wild muse was plugged into a really interesting new address, and that was enough to bring her to a growing desire for personal development. That was insane inspiration for me, in a matter of days I had written a 12 week program and would send it to her where she would hand write each week and mail it back to me. It was nuts, but this is one of the reasons we came together. My muse was dressed in prisoner khaki, and all I could see was this amazing light and I wanted to see what she was going to do for herself next.
Tandava [the cosmic dance] was officially formed with the needs of Morgan and her fellow inmates in mind, holding the intention of supporting them in learning how to cultivate real self esteem, self forgiveness and creating a plan to be able to begin to effectively meet goals for themselves where ever they were standing. And it was on them to cultivate this with the tools which I was creating. And there were absolutely no guarantees anyone would follow through with a process like this, let alone sustain interest. I knew the reality was that I couldn't make anything happen. I had to drop well placed seeds among the good soil and hope they took root. For Morgan they truly did.
Morgan continued on in her process of rebuilding herself and her life in prison. She got an in prison job, she also took college courses where she absolutely excelled, continued with her 12 step recovery, had counseling, focused on rebuilding her health and developed some very meaningful relationships with some of the women she was serving time with. We wrote letters and emails, sent holiday cards and occasionally prison approved gifts, and when she was allowed to make phone calls we would also talk on the phone as well. And there were of course the visits which were intense and emotional for us. And that was the normal we created in our connection,which lasted through her prison term.
MORGAN "Meeting Kelly was completely unexpected. We met online, on May 3, 2018. I had been single for 4 years, and this was the first time IN MY LIFE that I had been single for that long. In those 4 years as you know, I had come so far and put in so much work to be able to say I truly love myself and to know exactly what I wanted or expected from a man in a relationship. I was cold and standoffish with him at first because I didn’t want to give my attention or time to someone who was just looking for a pen pal. Kelly was home from jail, when he reached out to me, but I didn’t know anything about his story. I knew he was in recovery and that he had been in my position before. And I knew was an addict in recovery because he told me. I wondered if he was like every other guy from my past. So I was guarded. As we emailed back and forth we got to know each other. "
"We built this amazing connection that I had never had before because it was all emotional. Obviously there was no physical connection. In time we started talking on the phone and then he got approved to come and see me and would come every weekend. He drove two hours one way just to get there. The things we were able to talk about so freely showed me how much we had in common, and how much of the same goals we had for ourselves. I’m not gonna lie it felt too good to be true sometimes, because he was just so perfect in my eyes. And I know he felt the same way. We both agreed that God had given us each other as a gift."
" Kelly told me he loved me first and I didn’t just say it back to say it back, or because I felt like I had to. I waited until I truly felt like I meant it. So many times in my past I would just say it back to men I didn’t even love at that point. I was taking this relationship with Kelly very seriously. The moment I knew that I was in love with him was after a phone call that we had. The conversation was so easy and we were bouncing jokes off of each other, poking fun and I was able to, for the first time ever, laugh at myself. I didn’t feel like I had to be defensive. I didn’t think he was picking on me. I felt like I was able to just be Morgan and be okay with that. He loved me for Me and not someone I felt I had to try and be to impress him. That felt so good and so right. Being locked up for so long though..... I had a hard time believing that Kelly was going to be there for me when I got out. I didn’t think he would be able to stick around. I had 20 months left the day we met, and there was enough people that were in my life in 2014 when I got locked up that were not in my life anymore for whatever their reasons were. I thought Kelly would be just like the rest. It was hard to fully trust him but I tried to be open. He showed me a love that no guy ever had and I had to always remind myself “Morgan, you deserve this. This is what unconditional love feels like. Let him love you”. .....And so I did. "
"Allowing Kelly to show me this kind of love made me so anxious to share that with you Carrie, and my family. Because of my past history with very toxic and unhealthy relationships, I was so scared to tell my family. But I knew the future I wanted with him, and we had even discussed me moving in with him upon my release. I wanted to be honest with my family, and most importantly I wanted to share this incredible joy I was feeling because of him. I was so scared though, I was scared of them rejecting my feelings and not being supportive of the relationship. They had every right to be worried. They had just lost their daughter to a 7 year prison sentence behind a toxic unhealthy relationship with a man who claimed he loved me..... and had my best interest at heart. "
"Because of my relationship with you Carrie, I felt like I not only needed to but COULD come to you and ask you for your suggestion on how to deal with this situation. Also, I was ecstatic to share my new love experience with you. I couldn’t have become the strong woman I am without your help, love, dedication, belief in me and encouraging words throughout the years, as my sponsor."
"Because of our relationship, I now had the strongest relationship with myself 'self love', and was able to actually love another human being..... I wasn’t nervous to tell you at all....and you never judged me and I knew I could count on you to be completely honest with me, not give your opinion but just suggest ways to go about talking to my parents. Of course you were over the moon happy for me. And suggested I just be honest and express how I felt about Kelly, and how I wanted to move forward. You encouraged me to ask them for their support and to trust that I am not the same woman I was when dealing with other past relationships..... You told me, “just be yourself, speak from your heart, and remember this is your life”. And that’s exactly what I did.
CARRIE "All I kept thinking was when you told me is.. this is just like online dating, but instead of one custom designed to preferences, the platform was so specific to where you were both, in your lives, and it fit. And to realize how you were really taking your time to get to know each other was great, and the reality check of where you were sitting, kept it in a space of being very real. It was quite incredible to witness this unexpected, surprising and beautiful unfolding for you both."
MORGAN "Talking to my parents about Kelly happened at a visit that fell on my birthday. Because I was nervous I emailed them before hand giving them a heads up and explaining everything that had transpired between he and I. I knew and expected them to have plenty of questions and worries. They did let me know before they came that they were very happy for me, and we would discuss it more at the visit. And that’s what we did. I had never felt more confident talking about a man I had met before. There were so many amazing qualities about him that I wanted to share with the world. He was kind hearted, loving, hard working, goal oriented, intelligent, sober, outgoing, mature, funny, ambitious...the list goes on and on,but most importantly, he made me feel safe. I hadn’t felt that way in a very long time. The easiest way to explain it is to listen to the song “Mama’s Song” by Carrie Underwood. That’s exactly how I felt about Kelly. My parents were very excited and happy for me. The visit went so smoothly and I felt like they really were beginning to trust me and my decisions again. I was so happy. After that visit I could truly feel the growth not only in myself, but in the relationship I had re-built with my parents.... I was floating on cloud 9!"
"Then there was a visit That I thought I was having with only Kelly one time, and when I walked into the visit not only was he sitting there but so was my mom and little sister Kylee as well. He went out of his way to reach out to my mom and ask her if she wanted to meet up in the parking lot, and then all of us have a visit together. He showed up with flowers for my mom and sat in the back of her car and answered any questions she had about him. They fell in love with him right there. The visit was amazing..... Again, something I could never see any man in my past ever doing. "
"As my release date approached Kelly and I ran into some difficult times. He was dealing with some personal issues that put a wedge between us, and I took on his issues as my own, which caused me to feel like I wasn’t good enough for him. I began stressing myself out feeling completely helpless, being behind those walls and him on the outside. I felt myself falling into a dark place. I was questioning if I had truly changed because in those hard moments with Kelly I felt so weak."
"I didn’t feel like the strong woman I had become since being arrested and getting sober. I forgot how to set boundaries, and to keep myself first. I spent every minute of every day worrying about him. I fell back into my co-dependent ways making the relationship my first priority, and when I couldn’t reach him it felt like my life was over. I hated that feeling. I remember sitting on my bed one day and literally yelling at myself to get it together..... Telling myself “you’re stronger than this Morgan! If this relationship doesn’t work out you still have to get out there and live. You’ve waited a very long time for your release and with or without Kelly you need to succeed.”
"I wasn’t telling anyone what had happened, and I realized that I was starting to keep secrets and live a double life again, and I didn’t want to do that. So I reached out. I picked up the phone and called my sponsor...YOU ! Because I knew that I had a relationship with you where I could talk to you about anything. I knew I wanted to succeed when I got out and I knew I didn’t wanna risk my life and pick up and use again over a relationship. So I got honest. Not only did I tell you what was going on, but I also got honest with my family. And that was so hard because I knew how much they liked him and I also knew how much they were waiting for something like this to happen because history repeats itself. But I needed to be honest..... Carrie, you reminded me how strong I am, how far I’ve come and you asked me flat out, "what are you going to do for YOU Morgan?"
"You told me what could happen if I stick around and things don’t change, but you also gave me suggestions on how to work through it. You told me “go in your room and purge purge purge”...." Write down every single thought and feeling that you are having."..... You told me to read my Codependent No More book for the third time and to answer the questions at the end of each section and to email everything to you and you will work with me on this. You also told me that no matter what, I was going to get through this and I was going to be okay. Not only did I trust you, but I was desperate to not feel this way any more. It’s okay to have weak moments but it’s how you react to them that counts. I took every suggestion you gave me and we worked through it. That was a true example of your dedication to me. Between extensive emails, phone calls filled with tears and frustration, and visits where we spent two hours just talking and talking, I got through it. I learned through that experience that I don’t have Control over other people’s decisions. I just have control over how I respond to those decisions."
"Doing the work showed me that I AM enough. That what Kelly was dealing with had absolutely no reflection on me as a woman. I learned that I could be supportive and love him through this hard time, but I couldn’t lose myself in the process. Very very slowly ...and I mean very slowly, I started to feel hopeful again about my future and strong In My spot. I learned how to keep myself and my recovery first, and then the relationship would fall back into place..... Without those things, the relationship would not make it. I held on though because I loved Kelly and I believed in him. I knew him before his hard times and I knew his potential. It wasn’t easy to do the last few months of my bid dealing with such hardship, but I wasn’t willing to allow any distractions to take away from the fact that I was about to experience freedom after 6 years!!!"
"Some days were easier than others but I worked through it. I made a new plan and took the steps necessary to put that plan into place. I had you and I had incredible support from my family. They opened up their house for me to come home to and welcomed me with open arms. "
"Throughout the years you and I had anticipated my release so much! Not ever knowing each other on the outside made it even more exciting. All we knew was this relationship while I was locked away, and it was amazing, so we both knew it could only be incredible on the outside. We talked all the time about hanging out and having taco night on your deck, just talking about anything and everything and not having to worry about time.... or cops standing over our shoulders. That’s why our last visit felt so surreal. You have this way about you that sort of brings things into perspective for me, and makes them a reality. You have a mind that is so creative and just thinks about things in a light that makes them so emotional. You are always telling me how far I’ve come and how much I’ve truly grown, and I know I have but when you talk about it it seems even more real...And I feel so great about my recovery when you do. So when I knew it was our last visit, it was so exciting but didn’t quite hit me until I walked into the visit, and you just started crying talking about that being our actual LAST visit together in the prison. And I couldn’t hold back my tears either. It was like “damn, this is REALLY it!” I was so happy. We just sat there and cried together..... Happy tears...... It was so emotional for the both of us, and we knew that this was just closing one chapter and opening another. And I knew that you would continue to be on this journey with me. I knew I could count on you. I knew I could trust you. You proved that to me over the last 6 years.... We had become soul sisters. "
CARRIE This is as humbling as it is beautiful. In pulling this story together as a whole, from beginning to middle, to end. Writing this with tears in my eyes, there is a depth of gratitude we share together here, that is why the story has to be told. To reveal to humanity, or at least those who wish to read it all, and be inspired by this story, to see that we can all come together for an exceptional outcome. It may not be comfortable or easy and even down right nightmarish, but it can sure be powerful and it can definitely be meaningful. It is just an incredible tale of love to share with others.
RELEASE AND NOW
"Kelly and I regained contact the day I was released and we worked through all that had transpired. "
"Speaking of release, it was definitely an adjustment! I remember being driven to the front gate and feeling so emotional I was almost numb. My mom, Dad and sister were waiting jumping up and down crying, and my mom gave me a hug that just told me she didn’t ever want to have to let go again. It felt amazing. It didn’t actually hit me that I was free, until I walked into my parents house and they showed me the room they had put together for me. I just laid down on the bed and bawled my eyes out. I was so happy to be surrounded by those that love me and had stuck by me for 6 years! I felt like I could finally breathe! I again realized on that first day home how much my decisions had affected everyone who loves me. But you know what?. They still believed in me, they were cheering me on and supporting me as I transitioned home. And I am so appreciative of that. I was blessed and able to find work before I was even home a month!. That gave me a lot of hope about the future because I was so nervous I wasn’t going to be able to find anything because of my felony record. I was told I was the best interview they had for the job, and that felt really good.. I knew all I had to do was get the interview and get in front of them and present who I am today... and they would like me. I was offered the job before I even finished my drive home from the interview! I also was able to pass the written and driving test and get my license back within two months of being home. I had set goals before I was released and was achieving them one at a time. Each goal I met, made me want to meet the next one...........'.
".............and then COVID happened! ....To most people I believe that this pandemic we are in is a very negative experience.... But it actually had a very positive impact on my life:
- I was forced to be home 24/7 with my family whom I hadn’t lived with in 6 years. My mom and I were butting heads a little bit when I first came home just adjusting to being around each other and when COVID came and we were forced to be around each other even more , it brought us so much closer. We spent all summer outside in the yard doing yard work, gardening, and swimming in the pool, and that gave us time to learn each other again. My mom looked at me one day outside while we were cracking up about one of the many things we laugh about and said “God did this to us Morgan. God made us have to stay home because of COVID... so we could Improve our relationship together.' It’s crazy because the day before I was thinking the same exact thing in my head but I just didn’t say anything. Helping in the yard and gardening, cleaning up the house, helping with my pop pop who lives with my parents, and doing dishes always made me feel good because it was my way of making a living amends to my parents for all I’ve put them through.
- Because of COVID there were more cars available at my house to use once I had my license. My grandmother went away to my aunts to get out of NJ for two months and allowed me to borrow her car. Kelly and I saw each other for the first time during COVID.... Seeing Kelly on the outside made everything real for me again as far as our relationship went. We had gone through such a difficult time together (well technically apart) and yet we were still going strong. Although we had to go through the storm to get to the sunshine it was so worth it. Every single obstacle that is thrown our way brings us even closer. Kelly promised me from day one that he was going to wait those 20 months for me. And through it all, he did. I am so grateful for that. Being able to hug and kiss and just lay in each others arms without officers breathing down our necks was incredible. Those emotions I felt That first day seeing him made it all worth it to me. We began seeing each other every two weeks and started setting goals to find an apartment and move in together and be able to truly start the life we talked about for so long.
- Because I was out of work, I was given unemployment and was able to save so much money. I bought MY OWN car in June without any help from my parents. And I say this because my entire life I have been so dependent on them and scared to make decisions because I didn’t trust my own judgement. I made a goal before I was released to detach from that dependence and learn to make decisions for myself by myself and to feel confident in those decisions. Buying that car was the first step in doing that. I felt so good after I realized I had just made my first huge decision on my own.
- Saving money allowed me to be able to move out of my parents house within 6 months of being home. Kelly and I applied for an apartment and were so nervous because they do background checks. Kelly ended up going in and speaking to the leasing manager and just being honest about who we were and what we came from and who we both are today. God was on our side that day because she was so thrilled that we were being so open and honest. It pays off to tell the truth. We got accepted into the community and moved into our own place July 1st. We both have a nice savings and we’re able to buy what we needed for our place and are living comfortably. Within two months of being in our new place we just looked at each other and agreed that we have all we need right now for our place. We don’t have any worries or needs. We are at peace.
"Moving in together was a HUGE adjustment as well! Kelly and I had been together just over two years when we actually moved in together. But most of that time was spent apart. We had hung out a handful of times before we actually made the move. So it wasn’t easy at first. We are complete opposites and both like things a certain way. We had to learn to compromise. We had to learn to communicate effectively if we were feeling some sort of way about something the other one did. I realized that there were many behaviors from old relationships that I carried into this one and it wasn’t going to work with Kelly. I had to and still am changing those behaviors. It’s not always easy. I’m very talkative and Kelly is very quiet. We balance each other out. We’ve come a long way in the months we’ve lived together. We both just understood that each other is what we both want so we had to find a way to make it work. And it’s working now! Like I said from the beginning, Kelly has shown me a love I have never experienced before in my entire life. He makes me want to be better. He challenges me. Kelly works his ass off 6-7 days a week to be able to provide for us and he never complains. He is one of the most humble people I have ever met. He encourages me to reach for the stars and reminds me that there is nothing I can’t do. When I’m weak he’s strong and vice versa. Each day is a learning experience with each other and each day we both remain open to learn is better than the last day. "
CARRIE So in the middle of the interviews through the summer and the many hours of discussion and note taking and recording, all of the texts and emails back and forth, there was one exceptional August morning we had arranged to interview. And I was met with yet another transformative communication.
"Finding out I was pregnant was the most incredible feeling in the world! We had a phone call scheduled to continue working on our interviews for this story and I knew that I wanted to tell you this on the call. I was so ecstatic to share the news with you because we had been on this amazing journey together and you know how much this moment meant to me. I remember you instantly crying tears of JOY for me, and not only for me but for Kelly as well. You have been a part of our relationship since the beginning and this news was going to start the next chapter of our lives .I don't want to say it was a goal for me to become pregnant but we (Carrie) had discussed it several times at length, how all I ever wanted in my life was to become a mom. You also listened to me cry with worry so many times while I was away about my fear of never getting to experience this because of the journey I was on '6 years in prison'...It was a constant fear...But on this morning, I was able to share the joy of this blessing God had given Kelly and I, and not only was I going to become a mom, but I was the most healthiest I have ever been and the father of my child was the man of my dreams...who I had built a beautiful healthy relationship with..It couldn't have been more perfect. Sharing this moment with you (Carrie) was more confirmation for me about how far she and I had come...You were genuinely happy for me."
"This woman who I had met 6 1/2 years prior..who had never before this..had a relationship with me outside of prison walls, was now celebrating real life joys with me! It was amazing to be able to just sit on the phone for good half hour before the interview started and just smile and laugh...and cry together at this big news!"
"Morgan, years ago in a visit at the prison, I Promised you I would tell your story... tell our story. So here we are my treasured light. I see how you have grown and how you are working so hard to live the life you have always wanted for your your whole life. The beautiful existence of simply being where you are with dreams falling into place and learning together with someone you love so passionately... and coming back together with your family.... and ultimately reclaiming the redemption you sought so early on. When we had discussed sharing this whole incredible testament to your experience, it was with the intent of us both to let people know what is possible no matter how hard it gets, no matter how difficult and agonizing life and our choices can be. We met in an incredibly unique way, clearly part of a much larger divine design. And due to you dear heart, I am putting out this exceptional tale, in hopes, that somewhere, someone will read this and see, this is what is possible among people, among women specifically....in the simple living of every day..I think we may have accomplished this and I am excited to see what is next for us. More to come, I am sure. Morg....I LOVE YOU MORE!"