December, 2020 Monthly Reflection

Happy, Joyous, Free

by Ann Marie Jones

This year of 2020 can actually bring some very good news! The following is a tale of a life that moved from chaos and darkness to freedom and shining light. Once, I was not the happy person that I now am. Trauma led me to leave the life that I had, one that included a husband and a beloved daughter. My older brother molested me, when I was thirteen. The counsel I received was to remain silent about it. I became a run-away, started smoking pot, felt unloved and called myself “no-name.” I had my first daughter at the age of 20 and was married soon after to her father. I had a beautiful home, and a lovely life until another brother molested my thirteen-year-old daughter. At that moment, memories of my own experience surfaced, and I suffered at the horror that my daughter would continue to face for her whole life. My addiction was born at that time, beginning my path to the streets.

For eleven years I was an “el-dweller”, underneath the Philadelphia elevated train. In 2003 I met a pimp who charmed me, told me he would give me everything I wanted, and at the time I didn’t know that “true love” was not in his plans for me for the future. That is when my nightmare started. He beat me, controlled me, and led me to believe in his myths about me and the world.

In 2005, my twin daughters were born, and then taken from me by my pimp. My addiction got worse and I lived in abandoned houses that I renamed “abandominiums” to make me feel better. Prison became a second home. My life began to change for the good, when I met a strong advocate for women, a local Public Defender; she invited me to consider joining a diversional court for women, charged with prostitution. She knew that we were victims, not criminals, the same as women who were trafficked internationally.

Happily, I agreed, attended Dawn’s Court, and went to Dawn’s Place, where love, honesty, and hard inner work radically altered my life. In that home, I learned to trust, love and care again. I carefully watched the employees and knew even then, that that is where I wanted to work. My hope for the future was to help change the lives of others, to be part of the flame for the miracle of transformation to occur. I completed the program, and moved to my own apartment.

Shortly afterwards, having earned my peer mentoring credentials, Dawn’s Place offered me employment, which of course, I accepted. I won back custody of my twins, became reunited with my older daughter, had my record expunged at Dawn’s Court, bought a car, and most recently in the chaotic year of 2020, I bought my first home!

Now, I actually hear the birds singing and I stop to listen; I feel their delight in soaring to heights, in the beauty and freedom of the air. I identify with them!

Now, my family is entirely reunited, my daughters all best friends. Unity and peace!

Now, at Dawn’s Place, I know that I am planting beautiful seeds with the residents, and am able to water those seeds, and watch the women grow into the confidence and trust I possess.

I am free, no longer controlled by anyone. Joy fills my soul, because I can care for my family, and I realize what a powerful role model I am. I am a productive woman of society, grateful to the Public Defender who recognized my potential, to all who believed in me, to my Higher Power and now to myself, knowing I am worthy of praise, and never more to be a “no-name.”