Second place, Nonfiction, Heard/Arlington County Detention Facility writing contest, August 2021
As a child I have a very vivid imagination. My thoughts and dreams were clear pictures of everything from cowboys and Indians to moonwalks in outerspace, nothing wasn’t fun. With a little time and mental energy my brothers and I could defeat Dragons or swing through the jungle with Tarzan leading our way.
As our boyhoods left us we turned our thoughts to older exploits like who would get the first kiss, how would we make it through jr high, or was it possible to be the running back on the school football team?
Now that I’m a man wounded and scared by my hard life I’ve lossed the ability to recall old thoughts, play mind games like chess, or just find pleasure in remembrance of last nights dreams.
Age has brought me a long way, now that I’m here I’d give a fortune to return to the times when I could be anyone, go to any place, or just draw out my days activities based on last nights journeys.
Our minds are wonderful things we can use it to be the greatest of thinkers of plotter of heinous crimes. No child lays in there beds at night with ill thoughts hoping they’d come true. As adults we need to return to our boyhoods in remembrance of the kids who played with giants, flew with Eagles and swam with Dolphins.
Thats the minds we can use to live inside these old bodies on this Hard unimaginable cold world.
Nonfiction, Heard/Arlington County Detention Facility writing contest, August 2021
She’s here born April 20,2008 weighing 8 ads 10 oz A beautiful little girl name Damariah Waller. If it was up to me she would have my last name, unfortunately at the time me in my daughter mother wasn’t in A great place, so by her giving my daughter he[r] last name she felt as though she was getting back at me, but that’s another story.
Damariah was born A beautiful healthy little girl at Fairfax Hospital, after spending 3 or 4 days in the hospital we were able to take my heart in human form home with us, the was probably the second best day of my life, the first best day of my life was when my daughter was born. The first couple of months of my daughter being home, I can admit it was hard, but with the help of all of the grandparents we managed to get by. Our parents took some leave from their jobs, in it was truly appreciated because without them I wouldn’t know where we would be, at the time when my daughter was born I was just starting my job with A construction company so I couldn’t take off so soon, but my supervisor was understanding because he was once in my shoes, so he started letting me get off early. Which was A blessing because not only could I take some pressure off of my daughter mother, but the grandparents as well, but most important I had time to bond with my daughter in get the hang of things with an infant, I also got to learn my daughter more, so I appreciate everything, in everybody that help me out with the transitioning of my daughter being born in the world.
My daughter has made me grow alot, in mature, now I understand what my parents went through raising me in my sister, because raising A child isn’t easy, and the saying time flies, it really does because before I knew it my daughter was starting Pre-School which was A task within itself but I loved every moment of it. She was still A kid., my kid but she was growing, and in a way it was scary, but these were the moments I cherished because as you sit there in reflect about how you can create something so small that looks exactly like you, it really is A gift from God, and how they evolve into being everything you’ve ever wanted while being themselves is A beautiful thing.
Damariah has grown to be quite the young lady, smart, talented, great personality, and beautiful, she’s the perfect child in my eyes. Damariah has been on the cheerleading team since the age 6, in she has also been on the dance team since the age 6, in she’s good at both of them, she has actually made the AAU team for both cheerleading in Dance. She enjoys dancing in cheering with her friends also, but most importantly we make sure her grades are right, in school work is done. And if she’s not cheering or dancing, she’s playing her DSS with her friends, she only has two game she plays Fortnite, or WWF Wrestling, which me in her mother don’t mind as long as her school work is completed. Damariah is A really good kid, and as she was about to graduate 4th grade in go into the 5th Grade, me in her sat down in had a talk in I told her that she was going to be a big sister, she always wanted a sister or brother, so when we had our talk she was very excited that she was going to have a little sister, she actually started suggesting baby names, in one day she came to me in said daddy can we name my little sister Destiny which I thought was the perfect name, because she chose a name that started with the letter D. Just like her name, and my middle name starts with the later as well which is DaJuan so it was perfect. So the morning of September 24, 2017 I sent Damaria off to school, in as soon as I back in the house I had to rush my soon to be wife to the hospital because her water broke, so while I was in the process of rushing to the hospital, I had to call my mom in fill her in on what was going on, and to have her pick Damariah up from school. Now I’m sitting here in the Labor room, the same place Damariah was born 9 yrs ago at Fairfax Hospital, waiting on the arrival of baby Destiny. Destiny was born at 5:26 pm weighting 7 pds 13 oz, looking exactly like Damariah in her father, I thought Damariah looked just like me but when Destiny was born she was a spitting image of me, it’s kinda of scary because when I look at both of my daughter, I looked exactly like the both of them when I was younger in my baby pics, and as I’m older seeing the both of my daughters grow from when I watched the both of them birthed we still look exactly alike. In the both of my daughters have me in the palm of their hand, they most definitely have the keys to my heart. When Damariah got to the hospital in seen her little sister, I think she was more happier than me that her sister was here, in I love the bond they share, she’s really playing the big sister role in you can tell she loves Destiny. My two hearts in Rare Form. Destiny tries to do everything she sees Damariah doing in if she can’t she will throw a fit, eery dance move her big sister does she tries to do it, it’s cute in funny at the same time, you have to see for yourself to actually know what I’m talking about.
At this current time Damariah is 13 going to the 8th grade, in Destiny is 3 about to turn 4 yrs old this September getting ready for Pre-School. I miss you guys so much that words can’t describe and I’m truly sorry for being away from you all this long. I promise it won’t happen again. I’ll see the both of you sooner than you think, but until then I Love you guys in stop giving mommy a hard time.
Michael D. Nash
First place, nonfiction, Heard/Arlington County Detention Facility writing contest, August 2021
With over 7.5 billion people on this earth, each and every one of us possesses many different characteristics that uniquely separates us from each other. Because we process and react to life’s mysterious experiences at our own individual pace(s), there are exponential amounts of risk factors that must be considered so that we can know how to best move forward with our lives. More often than not, especially through negative and/or violent experiences, the average person tends to suffer from some form of mental health illness at some varying level. If severe enough, the effects of those traumas will produce a plethora of debilitating physical and psychological deficiencies upon the person(s) affected.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t help either how commonplace it is, especially as Americans, to shun and ridicule people who are probably already hesitant to either actively seek the proper help; let alone even admit that they may have a problem. I felt compelled to write about this issue because I’m empathetic to the despair of others’ concerns during these highly uncertain times. With great uncertainty comes great misery. Imagine free-falling into a vast, infinite void that you’re never sure of when/if you’ll ever make it out. So who’s going to bare the weight of the millions of people suffering from depression? Or the many victims of drug, alcohol, verbal, physical, and sexual abuse?
I commend those that are courageous enough to put themselves out there to help someone else in their time of need. Some of the largest advocates in the movement are celebrities and professional athletes. Shout-out to tennis star Naomi Osaka, Olympic Gold Medalist and swimmer Michael Phelps, former NFL Quarterback Andrew Luck, NBA Champion Kevin Love, and up-and-coming track star Sha’Carri Richardson for putting several familiar faces on the subject of mental health. Their valiant efforts have provided a powerful voice for the voiceless. Singers like Mary J. Blige and Toni Braxton understand that having fame and wealth doesn’t automatically guarantee us peace of mind. With prior underlying issues either present or dorment, additional adversity may materialize from such circumstances.
A wise man once made mention that with more money, there comes more problems. Another thing all of the people mentioned before can relate to is how painful it is to be trapped in that dark place. Conjuring up negative, harmful thoughts/intentions. Although I’ve never had any suicidal thoughts, even up to this point in my incarceration; I understand how overwhelming life can be in every facet. One thing to never be mistaken is the significant psychological toll it takes being an inmate. Not everyone is built for the jail/prison environment.
My first few weeks being locked up did not come easy. Never in a billion lifetimes would I have envisioned myself in my current situation. There were many times throughout this experience when I’ve felt confined to and conflicted in a deep funk. I felt extremely betrayed by someone special to me. Someone I would have done anything for. Nothing made any sense whatsoever. So when I was having those terrifying nightmares early on, they really got to me. The worst part was being reminded by my cell lights waking me up every morning that I was living in a 24/7 nightmare. I was going through it.
Finding myself at the brink of self-implosion on more than several instances and overcoming those burdens has humbled me in ways I almost may have never imagined before. One thing I can certainly attest to is that it takes extraordinary patience in dealing with so many different and oftentimes difficult personalities. As well as the strange, adverse situations. There have been plenty of memorable events in my time away from society. Whether it was competing in a Backgammon tournament, learning to break dance from an ex-NFL Cheerleader, knowing a guy who killed himself in jail, or receiving the news that I lost a family member at the age of 27 a few months into my stay here. I felt really vexed in knowing that he was coming in and out of a coma before eventually being taken off of life support. Some things just can’t simply be forgotten. To this day those occurrences are still surreal. They’re harsh but necessary reminders that life moves faster than we could ever realize and can change in the blink of an eye.
I’ve learned not to take anyone or anything for granted. My journey has forced me to see how much of a mental battle imprisonment is. On the plus-side, however, I’ve been blessed with the contentment of knowing how and when to just sit back and stay still. Something seemingly as simple as taking time away from stressing about the things out of our control and just focusing on being grateful and recovering from tragedy is greatly overlooked and undervalued by many inmates because they aren’t in the correct frame of mind and maybe lack the discipline. I had to realize for myself before anything else that I am stronger than this situation and eventually I did.
Having a solid support system in all of this has played a major contributing role in my ascension as well. Knowing that there’s someone to confide in means so much to me because sometimes it’s not about searching for answers or seeking advice. It’s about speaking your mind and expressing your thoughts, your joys and your frustrations. It’s about being heard. To me that’s one of the greatest feelings in the world.
I take life one day at a time and continue to actively challenge myself physically, mentally, and spiritually to remain sharp. Regardless of whatever happens in my near and distant future, I do not have many worries about prosperity. I am optimistic because of my faith and I encourage everyone going through hardships to become more spiritually involved and connected. It may not change instantaneously, but your life will get better. Be proud of who you are. Remember where you came from and never be ashamed in yourself. Let me reassure you that there’s nothing wrong with making yourself vulnerable sometimes. As long as it is with the intent to learn and grow. And it’s perfectly okay to not be okay right now. Seek the proper professional help when necessary and lend a helping hand to a loved one or someone in need. Realize and utilize your talents and your purpose in this world. Always count your blessings and thank the Lord for them any chance you get.
There’s so much to live for so find that inner-strength whenever you’re in doubt. Once you stand firm in your beliefs and set/achieve realistic goals for yourself, your success will shine through your personality. So stand strong and never give up. The universe has an intriguing way of giving back to you what you put in. Soon enough you will reap the sweet fruits of your labor.
A FACE OF THE EPIDEMIC
by Ebonie Warren
First place winner, nonfiction, Heard/Arlington County Detention Center/OAR writing contest, August 2020
I remember walking home from school by myself on one of the rare occasions that I went. My mother had not showed up and I was 6.
I can see the house up ahead. Maybe she’s not home as usual but as I approach I somehow know that something is wrong.
See I took care of her and my sisters and I hated at 6 that I couldn’t stop the insanity that was my life.
When I walked into the basement which was part shooting gallery and part our living space, I immediately start looking for my twin sisters and when I find them in a corner rocking back and forth I know that today will change my life.
Then I heard a man’s voice and I followed it to the back and there on her knees was my mother and 3 men standing in front of her and one of them had a gun.
I knew in that moment I could deny her nothing.
I took care of her when she was drunk or when she nodded out with a needle in her arm. I pulled it out.
So when she looked at me and said “Mommy needs a big favor” I somehow knew that my needs didn’t matter. Everyone else came first and sometimes sacrifices have to be made for the survival of everyone involved even at the expense of your very existence.
So that day I traded my innocence for her life while she held my hand through it all. See I’ve lived in an epidemic long before the world acknowledged it.
I am a 5th generation addict. Addicts are beautiful, misunderstood people who just want a break sometimes because life can be cruel. We assume our realities are all consuming and our feelings will strangle us.
Jail gave me the opportunity to be clear headed long enough to see that my life can change. I don’t have to die a statistic and my mother’s life was not a prophecy for my future.
I almost turned it into one and only I can do that. I am not evil, evil was just done to me. I am not my mother, I just came from her and life is bearable.
Being in recovery is only one dimension of the many that make up me. I am an intergration of all my experiences, failures, and successes. I am a mother, a sister, a good friend and a fragile women. I mess up sometimes, but that only makes me human.
Get to know the stories behind this epidemic because that’s where the healing starts. Every one of us has a story to tell.
We are more than numbers in statistics.
We want help managing our disease.
by Semhar Teclay
Third place winner (tie) nonfiction, Heard/Arlington County Detention Center/OAR writing contest, August 2020
How It Happened
by Deonte Johnson
Second place, nonfiction, Heard/Arlington County Detention Center/OAR writing contest, August 2020
I loved fentanyl and heroine more than anybody or anything else I stole from my kids and mother to get high and didn’t feel bad about it.
As intelligent and goal oriented as I am I hung around all crooks and low life people twice my age who lived like I was getting high day in and day out, manipulating others, committing crime and living in the streets. Our way of living was the total opposite of the average law abiding citizens.
When everybody was up getting ready for work and going about their day productive I would be somewhere sleep and when everyone winding down for bed I’m just getting up running the streets looking for a way to get my first fix. It got to the point where I started staying up for days so I wouldn’t wake up sick from not having my fix when I woke up.
I would go hard in the streets to get money to stay high this lifestyle and my way of thinking at the time caused me to be arrested over 30 times. I didn’t learn my lesson from none of those arrests because either I got out the same day or wouldn’t serve no more than 90 days in jail.
Every time I got out the first thing on my mind was getting me some dope once I made it home to my neighborhood in no time I was welcomed back with my first high for free then before you know it I as back in the swing of things running the streets, committing crimes, and within my first month of being home a warrant would be issued for my arrest.
I was always placed on probation I would never report due to my continued drug use. Everybody I surrounded myself with pretty much conducted themselves the same as I did so none of us seen nothing wrong that’s why why we hung out together. When the police wanted to make an easy arrest they would just roll up on me and run my name because most likely they knew I had a warrant.
While living like this I never went home for two reasons one being my family didn’t tolerate my behavior and two because I had to travel too far to cop so I rather stay in the streets where I had easy access to everything I need.
Besides I was ashamed of my physical appearance and my family was speaking a bunch of stuff at the time I didn’t wanna hear about going to a program and getting clean how they always praying for me and I need to stop running the streets, stay out of jail, get a job and take care of my kids.
I use to be so high and use to doing what I wanted to do at times I forgot I had kids it’s sad but true. Even when I decided to give them a call I would make them a bunch of promises I couldn’t keep. For special moments such as Birthdays, and Holidays I wouldn’t show up because I looked bad and the dope man had all my money and full attention.
I didn’t even attend my grandmother funeral and help comfort my dad in a time he needed me most that was his mother and he loved her to death. I didn’t have my fix the morning of her funeral so I didn’t go.
Although I never tried to get clean I was scared to because of all the stories I heard I heard about how bad it would be withdrawing off heroine also I never thought I had a problem.
However on August 10th 2019 all that changed my addictive behavior caused me to cross the bridge in Arlington Virginia and commit a crime I was held without bond and been here in the ACDF since.
Being here in the ACDF I have been able to accomplish things I couldn’t accomplish on my own in society such as physically winging myself off heroine with the help of Dr. Ashby and the medical personel I was able to.
The ACDF has provided a safe and secure environment that has allowed me the opportunity began my recovery from from addiction process.
I don’t think anybody ever got more out of coming to jail than I did. In fact this jail enabled me to study far more intensively than I would have if my life had gone differently. Where else but in the ACDF could I have attacked my ignorance by being able to study intensely.
I’m in treatment today privaleged to be a part of the ACT unit I’ve had the opportunity to learn all about addiction how it affected myself and others. Also I learned how to begin dealing with life on life terms without being intoxicated.
Now today I’m comfortable with communicating and asking for help! Clinically I’ve allowed my brain enough time to transition from the addictive state back to a normal functioning brain.
Also I’ve managed to begin rebuilding broken relationships with family and love ones mainly my children and their mom! Today I’m much better than I was when I came to this facility.
Honestly I needed this experience being confined to one place for a period of time to get a grip on my life before it was to late. This facility saved my life since being here I’ve been able to set goals for myself now I have more than enough tools in my tool box to stay clean and sober be a great dad and successful upon leaving this facility.
Thanks to the ACT unit staff, some of the deputy’s I’ve conversed with over the past year and Ms. Watkins for all of the information, words of encouragement, and positivity y’all surrounded me with has helped me in my recovery process and has also helped me to think the way and become the man I am today!!