Inconceivable cynicism

Statement Of Brenda Peppers

I grew up in a small town in South Carolina. I was raised by today's standards to be the old fashioned way. We attended church every Sunday and Wednesday. My mother still plays the piano at a small church in our community. I was brought up with good morals and a conscience. My father passed away when I was twelve years old. I was daddy's little girl. My mother remarried a very respectable man who had farmed all of his life and worked in the local mill. He loved my sister and me like his very own.

After seven years of marriage, I realized all my future plans had changed. My husband was an alcoholic with a bad temper, although he never physically abused me. We loved each other but felt a separation was best. Due to the fact that his job provided our home, I had to find a new place to live. In retrospect, I had been suffering from a severe depression for quite some time.

I met new people and made new friends in another area. I was soon introduced to downer type drugs and marijuana. This seemed to be just what I needed. These kinds of drugs helped ease the anxiety and depression I was experiencing and since I had real trouble sleeping, the drugs helped me to be able to sleep more. I didn't know how to fight the depression. At first the drugs helped. I realized though that I had spent months living as a zombie, and at that point I learned of a new drug. It could keep me alert and motivated. That seemed to be closer to normal than the way that I was living. A couple of months later, my on and off again use became more regular and frequent. At that point, my life really began to spin out of control. I became a daily user. By this point, cocaine, or rather an addiction -- had gained control of every aspect of my life. What I thought I wanted and needed had turned to a physical craving, an emotional longing, and an overwhelming psychological desire.

At no point did I make a conscious decision to become an addict. But, I was an addict when I became pregnant; therefore my body, mind, and spirit had already been taken over by the disease. Without the proper tools such as drug education, rehabilitation, treatment and support to escape the clutches of cocaine it would be nearly impossible. Even with everything that was so important to me in my life at stake, I could not just walk away and "Just say no".

Due to my dependency, I did not receive the proper prenatal care that I should have. I was ashamed and afraid that people may look down on me. I also became paranoid and basically lived as a recluse. I continued to suffer from depression and very low self-esteem and became anti-social. I distanced myself from my non-using family and friends (the ones who really loved and cared about me). I only felt safe associating with people who were in the same vicious cycle I was in.

I was not aware that I could go to jail for a crime in this state of unlawful conduct towards a child. I did not see the harm that it was causing me. I had not even realized that I was an addict at that time. I justified my drug use as a way to help me cope with what life had dealt me. I did not know of any danger that the unborn fetus could have been in because the drugs would make me feel better.

I had previously been charged with possession of marijuana. This was the first time in my life that I had ever been in trouble with the law, so I was given one year and six months probation. During this time was when cocaine invaded my life. I tested positive on a urine analysis conducted by my probation officer. The punishment I received was thirty days incarceration.<.p>

These thirty days covered the entire seventh month of my pregnancy. It should have been the perfect opportunity to get "healthy", and "drug free". Instead, I was placed in a small one room cell with ten and sometimes as many as fifteen other women. I was forced to sleep on a mat on the floor, sometimes near the over flowing toilet. Never being allowed out of the cell, I could do nothing more than stand, squat or lay for the entire thirty days. I was not allowed milk or juice because the other inmates could not have the same. It being the month of August, temperatures were soaring. There was no air conditioning or even a fan. I was truly miserable. I repeatedly requested medical attention, but to no avail. I missed a scheduled OB/GYN appointment because they could not transport me to another county twenty miles away. They would promise that I would see the jail doctor the next day, but tomorrow never came. Before arriving, I had been diagnosed with a urinary tract infection. I now know that protein in the urine can be the first sign of pre-eclampsia that can lead to HELLP syndrome. (As explained to me, this is a life threatening complication of pregnancy that often involves high blood pressure and severe injury to key organs and to the blood cells).

Being denied of these basic needs, I lost complete faith in a system that could ever possibly help me. I was punished for having the disease of addiction without anyone presenting a cure. Being incarcerated did not prepare me for a way of life without drugs, once I was released. It instead left me bitter and unprotected. Without knowing how to deal with life drug free, I was thrown back into that same vicious cycle. I soon learned that abstinence alone was not the answer.

On September 29, 1996, something went terribly wrong. I was transported by ambulance to our local hospital. They in turn transported me to a larger hospital that was better equipped for emergency situations. After a short time there, I was diagnosed with HELLP Syndrome. I don't remember any of this. I lapsed into a coma and I lost the pregnancy. My bodyís organs began shutting down. My heart stopped numerous times. I was placed on a respirator where I remained for five weeks. This was very hard on my family. I was jaundiced and swollen beyond recognition. Due to internal bleeding I developed a massive hematoma in my abdomen. The doctors gave very little hope. My mother had been told I would either be brain dead, paralyzed, on dialysis, or blind. During the fifth week the doctor told my mother to consider turning the respirator off. She talked it over with the hospital chaplain and after many prayers decided this was not the answer.

Miraculously, I began to improve. I was removed from the respirator and started on a long road to recovery. I remained in the hospital for nearly three months. My mother stayed by my side the entire time. She assisted me with the most simple tasks, eating, brushing my teeth, combing my hair. I had to learn to walk all over again.

By the grace of God and the love and support of my family, I was able to come home. After eighteen months, still on a walking cane, I was arrested and taken to jail for unlawful conduct toward a child. This came as a total shock to me. The doctors had told me my baby died from oxygen depravation due to the HELLP syndrome. I had not done any drugs for several days before I went to the hospital, but the baby had traces of cocaine in her system.

By this time, I was already able to maintain abstinence. I had decided God had left me here for a reason. I just had to find it. Through the education on drug abuse that I had received at a real rehabilitation center and N.A. meetings, I now had the tools I needed to fight this terrible disease.

If addiction can strike a small town, level headed person like me, it can strike anyone, anywhere, at any time.

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