Cheryl's childhood is full of love. Raised on the farm and the youngest of ten siblings, she worships God every Sunday and basks under the praise of her mother. But she has a tendency to look at the other side of life and wonder what it's like. The popular crowd is so glamorous and full of fun. Could their way of living be better than hers?
When Cheryl moves into her first apartment, things begin to fall apart. No longer under the protection of her mother, she is independent now-and that means she is in charge of making her own decisions. She starts hanging out with old schoolmates. When she realizes they are doing drugs, she throws caution to the wind and decides to try them.
But drug addiction is not a pretty thing. Cheryl's life spirals out of control as she becomes not only a user, but a dealer. She thinks she can get herself out of this mess alone, yet those years of Sunday school and church worship tell her she needs to turn to the Lord. Listening to that small voice proves more difficult than she imagined, however, and her partying lifestyle may just lead her in the opposite direction.
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From Hell to SalvationOne Girl's Journey
By Roberta M. Heck
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Roberta M. Heck
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDown the Spiral Steps to Hell
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All her life, Cheryl had been a people person. She attracted who and what she sought, depending on what phase she was going through, whether it be good or bad. But things didn't begin badly with her, for her life began as a true "fantasy." Everything she put a little effort into turned out to be a success. All through school and college she excelled under the guidance of her mother, Doris. But it all changed when she grew tired of her mother's rules and had a peek at the wild side of life. Cheryl was the youngest of ten siblings and was regularly showered with positive attention. Being raised in the country on a farm, she lived a shielded and protected life. She was raised in a highly religious home, where card playing and loud rock-and-roll music weren't allowed. Doris participated in many church functions, including being "Mother" of the church, and that was where most of her evenings were spent. That was when Cheryl's older siblings would rock the house with some of the latest jams and steps. With microphone in hand from Doris's tape recorder, everyone had their opportunity to toot out their favorite tune, imitating their favorite artist. Cheryl really loved those times.
Life for Cheryl was a dream until she stepped from behind the hedge onto unholy grounds. She came to her crossroad in life, where she had to make a choice to either continue on the path that was set forth or get out and try something new. The things she saw the so-called in-crowd doing looked like a life of fun and glamour, which lured her into areas that would swiftly sink her into depths that she soon learned she could not easily get out of.
Cheryl had quite a few major brushes with death. In one instance she truly felt that she had drawn the "final straw." She knew deep down in her soul that if she did not make a drastic change, her lifestyle would soon be the death of her. It all started when Cheryl moved into her first apartment. She soon became acquainted with old schoolmates who sold drugs, and they gave her drugs to sell. But that's getting way ahead of things. Cheryl's descent began when she made the choice at the crossroad. When she felt she was ready to handle anything and everything that life had to offer, that was when she began her major descent down that spiral stairway to hell ...
Cheryl's mind was made up as she moved into her first apartment, less than five miles from her mother's house. Staying close to her mom made her feel safe, but she still had her independence. As Cheryl slowly pulled her car into the driveway of the apartment complex, a warm feeling of satisfaction overcame her. With the thought of her independence, of having her first apartment, she felt accomplished. Regardless of her situation, she was still doing well in school. If Cheryl had given it half a thought, she would have realized that it was Doris's continuous support that kept her atop of things. Cheryl was raised with the feeling that she was entitled, which left her arrogant but not selfish, which was one of her good traits.
After parking her car in her space around the back of her apartment, she started unloading the items Doris had given her and headed to the front door. She glanced back at her sporty car, a candy-apple red 1973 Dodge Charger SE, with a thin black stripe going down the side to match the black vinyl top, and smiled smugly. Her mother had bought her the car as a graduation present so that she would have good transportation to get to work and school, but of course she picked it out. Doris promised Cheryl that as long as she continued her education and made good grades, she would help her. A really deep feeling of accomplishment came over Cheryl as she looked up at the cloudless sky and the warmth of the sun spilled over her face.
As she rounded the corner to enter her apartment, she heard Penny, an old classmate, shout, "Cheryl, come up here when you're done!" A wide smile came over Cheryl's face as she yelled back, "Will do!" She quickly unlocked her door and went inside to put her items away. Cheryl had known Penny as far back as elementary school and hooked back up with her when she moved into her apartment. The excitement in Penny's voice and the grin on her face said it all; she had an idea of what was going on. Cheryl knew that Penny's friend Ray Boy was back from New York. Ray Boy was a known drug dealer; he had gone to New York over the weekend to cop some drugs to sell and for his personal use. Cheryl felt at that moment she could use a little something to brighten her day. Ray Boy sold both heroin and coke, and Cheryl figured a little toot of coke wouldn't hurt. She didn't care for heroin at all; it made her feel sicker from all the puking, rather than high. Cheryl wanted so badly to fit in, and it seemed that all the so-called hip people were into drugs. As Cheryl put away the few items she had purchased, she paused and wondered, Should I do this? But it was a fleeting thought that lingered only briefly. The thought was gone as quickly as it had come. She immediately placed her final items in the refrigerator, locked her door, and hurried across the complex to Penny's apartment.
As she tapped on the door, Joanne, Penny's roommate, answered, grinning and saying, "What's up, girl?" in a low, hoarse voice. Cheryl skirted through the door and headed to Penny's room, giving Joanne a quick "What's up?" as the door closed and locked behind her. Cheryl could feel Joanne on her heels as she headed down the hall to Penny's room. As she entered, she saw Ray Boy sitting on the bed in front of a small night stand table. Centered on the table was a plate with a portion of what Cheryl feared was heroin with a razor blade propped to one side for cutting. Next to the plate was a cellophane bag almost half full of heroin, a box of baggies, ties, and some white powder. Cheryl was not sure what it was but figured he used it to cut the heroin.
As Cheryl entered the room, Ray Boy was holding a spoon; he looked up at her and grinned. In a hoarse, raspy voice, he croaked, "Cher, come try some of this." Cheryl honestly did not like heroin; it made her puke and heave in the worst way, but her friends did it and she was still in the "want to be accepted" mode, a country girl to the bone, who was trying so hard to be like her hip associates that she thought of as friends. Cheryl slowly took the spoon, and Ray Boy scooped a very tiny amount on a match book and dumped it in. Cheryl looked at him and said, "I'm not about to put a hole in my arm with this small amount; it's just a water shot."
Ray Boy grinned in a half nod, obviously already high; he stopped and scratched his cheek and his groin area. In an almost inaudible whisper, he hissed, "Girl, this stuff is too potent for you. You ain't use to this yet. The rinse in the spoon makes you puke." He was right about that; it really did make her puke. That's where she got the term "water shot."
She had overheard them tell someone else that "she could get high on a water shot," which was the rinse of the spoon the original shot was cooked in. Cheryl actually hated a heroin high, and the thought of a needle spooked her. Even worse, when she took just a couple of toots of heroin, it made her itch, made her sick to the stomach, and put her to sleep; she was more of an "up" person. But none of that mattered now; Penny had called her out, and to Cheryl, her lifestyle was exciting. She felt it was popular to hang with the in crowd.
Ray Boy took the spoon, and after adding a little water, he heated it and dissolved the powder that rested in the bottom of the spoon. With the hands of a surgeon, he drew up the liquid and told Penny to tie Cheryl up. Ray Boy kept a box of needles that he had given one of his diabetic clients a bag of dope for. Cheryl soon learned that was the way it went in the drug world. If you didn't have money, any expensive items were good for an exchange, and it would get you any drug product on the market. Ray Boy, blinking his eyes as if to clear his head for the moment in an attempt to look more sober, took Cheryl's outstretched arm and aimed for a vein as she turned her head and cringed. He hit her on the first try and slowly pushed the liquid in. Cheryl felt the warm liquid coursing through her veins, and her head began to feel very light; then everything went dark.
She passed out, only to come to in Penny's shower with cold water running over her. Penny was standing over her, smacking her with light taps on the cheek, telling her to wake up. Slowly Cheryl opened her eyes in shock with her head still spinning; she wondered what had happened. The last thing she remembered was Ray Boy giving her a hit and the warm feeling that rushed over her. Why, she wondered, was she now sitting in Penny's tub with the cold water flowing down over her from the shower? As she started to get up from the tub, she staggered back a bit, and Penny asked, "Are you all right?" Penny went on to tell her in a shaken voice that she had just OD'ed. Ray Boy had injected salt in her veins; otherwise, she'd be dead.
Cheryl slowly lifted herself up from her sitting position as Penny handed her a towel. She wrapped the towel around her shoulder and sat on the side of the tub; she turned to look at Penny and shuddered. Silence filled the small bathroom as they looked at each other. Cheryl broke the silence as she got up from the side of the tub and sat on the commode after putting the lid down. She looked at Penny in a shivery voice and said, "Penny, I need a few minutes to get myself together so I can get home."
Penny got up, opened the door to leave, turned back to Cheryl, and said, "Call me if you need me." She slowly closed the door behind her. Cheryl, now alone in the bathroom, could hear Joanne asking Penny if she was okay. Ray Boy in a croaking voice, chimed in, "I told her that this stuff ain't no joke, she got a long way to go before she can hang with the big dogs. She ain't ready for this."
Cheryl heard them laugh with Penny shushing them to be quiet as she closed her bedroom door, hoping to keep Cheryl from hearing their laughter and what was being said about her. Cheryl dropped her head in her hands as her temples began to throb. She vowed to herself then and there that she would never ever do heroin or needles again, when she should have vowed to never do drugs again.
As Cheryl slowly rose to her feet, the towel Penny had draped around her shoulders dropped to the floor in a heap. She gave a quick glance at her bewildered reflection in the mirror and paused just for an instant as she heard the muted voices coming from the other side of the door. Quietly entering the hallway, she could hear that she was still the topic of the conversation going on behind the closed door. She tapped on the door and in a low but audible voice said to Penny, "I'm leaving now, come catch your door."
She walked ahead without waiting for anyone to come out, but she could hear someone racing behind her as she shut the door. Penny opened the door as Cheryl made her descent down to her apartment, and in a barely audible voice, she said, "I'll check with you later, Cheryl."
Cheryl rushed to her door on trembling knees, and as she entered she lay back against the door and with shaky hands locked it behind her. Her head was spinning and reeling as Penny's words echoed in her head: "You OD'ed, you OD'ed, you OD'ed."
Cheryl stumbled to her bedroom and started tearing off her wet clothes as her hands clumsily fumbled with her buttons and zipper; she dropped her clothes in a pile on the floor by her feet. She quickly snatched up the warm cotton robe that lay draped at the end of her bed and wrapped it around her nude but still damp body. By this time she was shivering uncontrollably. She then collapsed outstretched on her bed, pulling the bedcovers up and clenching them around her neck. Her mind began to replay the wonderful day that she had before she made the choice that could have ended her life. The tension in the grip of her hands lessened as she slowly released the bedcovers. Aimlessly, Cheryl grabbed the pillow next to her and squeezed it close as the tears began to flow, and flow, nonstop, till her head began to spin. As the darkness of a horrid sleepiness started to overcome her, she began to drift. Her mind went back, way, way back.
As far back as memory would allow.
Chapter TwoAs Far Back as Memory Allows
* * *
The noise from the shaking of the draft from the big "Warm Morning Wood and Coal" heater, which sat in the den, caused Audrey Mims to stir out of her sleep and turn over, pulling the covers with her. It was Joe's week to get up and start the morning fires in the wood heaters in the den and the kitchen. Those two large heaters heated most of the Mims home, with the exception of the master bedroom, which was heated by an oil heater. Joe squatted to open the bottom door of the heater and began to shake the draft knob back and forth to sift the ashes from the previous fire. A light puff of dust arose from the ashes, and he quickly jerked his head back to keep from inhaling it. Loading the heater with newspapers and wood chips, he quickly grabbed a match from the box that lay on the shelf across from the heater and lit the papers inside. The small strips of wood began to slowly crackle and burn.
After starting that heater, Joe ran down the hall to get the heater in the kitchen started. By that time, the heater in the den had started to burn swiftly. He then loaded them both with logs and a few coals, one after the other. As the fire started to heat up and burn, he turned down the drafts on both heaters to keep the fires on low so that the wood wouldn't burn out so fast. He then ran hastily back to his bed and jumped under the covers to warm his shivering body. It was like that back then. Until the fires were started and the house had a chance to get warmed up, it was like the outside: Cold!
As the fire began to crackle and warm the front of the house, Audrey pulled the covers back from over her head. She could feel the warmth taking the chill out of the room. As she reached over to switch on the lamp and wake Anna so that they could start breakfast, Cheryl turned over, and in one swing of her arms and legs, she playfully smacked Audrey. Cheryl's arm landed on her sister's face and her leg automatically wrapped around her waist. Audrey jumped, a little startled, and slowly peeled Cheryl off her and slid out of the bed. Covering Cheryl with the blanket, she softly called to Anna, who didn't budge. Audrey then went over to Anna's bed and nudged her to wake up. Anna rolled her eyes back and jerked the cover over her head. As Audrey headed toward the bathroom, Anna grudgingly dragged herself out of bed. She slowly felt for her slippers and slid her feet into them one at a time. There she sat, eyes closed, until she heard Audrey come out of the bathroom and head toward the kitchen. After lingering a few more minutes, she finally shook the sleep from her head and dragged herself slowly to the bathroom.
The smell of bacon and country ham filled the house, entering Cheryl's nostrils. She sat upright in bed, awakened by the hypnotic aroma. She jumped out of bed and ran into the kitchen, snatched a piece of bacon off the counter, and went to the bathroom to wash up, with Audrey trailing her. At four years old, Cheryl was very witty and smart; with all the coaching she got from her older siblings, it was no wonder. She was given plenty of positive attention. Whether it was counting, singing, dancing, cooking, manners, table setting, or whatever one of her older siblings happened to be doing, you would find curious Cheryl on the scene, watching.
The boys' room was shared by Joe, Mack, Mark, and Bob. John, the eldest, had set off to New York when he had gotten out of the Air Force. He did come down to visit often, bringing his family. Cheryl couldn't remember him ever living at home with them, but she knew that he was her oldest brother. When he did visit, he made Cheryl feel special with the way he carried on about her rhymes. He told her that she had a talent and someday someone would buy her books and make songs of her rhymes. Mostly everything she wrote at that time was scribble. Then she would recite something that she had made up by memory, pretending all the time that she was reading it from the paper she held in her tiny hands. She was an adorable, overzealous child that couldn't wait to learn to read and write. Some of the stuff she made up was really good.
Those years when the family was young, with all the siblings still at home, were the best years of Cheryl's life. Cheryl's days were spent in nursery school. It wasn't much like today's nursery schools, where there are buses and a classroom setting. It was more like a baby sitter, where an older lady would come by in her station wagon and load up all the neighborhood kids and cart them off to her house to spend the day. There they'd play games, learn letters and numbers, take naps, and eat lunch. Lunchtime always included some kind of beans. Navy beans, pork and beans, or black-eyed peas or pinto beans, there would always be some kind of beans, a slice of bread, fruit, and milk. Then in the evening, the lady would load all the kids back in the station wagon and take them back home. The kids that would act up had to sit in the backseat, whereas the others could sit in the trunk cab section and play sing-along games. This was a routine Cheryl didn't look forward to; her preference was to stay home with her mother, and some days she got her wish. The days that Doris was off work, she would let Cheryl stay home with her and save that fifty cents for childcare.
Cheryl really enjoyed spending the day at home with her mom. One of her favorite pastimes was playing house. She would take the folded blanket from the foot of her bed and put two chairs together to make a tent house. She often saw Mack and his friend Sam do this outside. They would take large cardboard boxes and open them up and spread them across the sawhorse that their dad, Ralph, used to cut wood on. They would then wrap a portion of the cardboard around it to make a "fort." Of course, Cheryl didn't get to play with them because when she did, she would get hurt, getting Mack in trouble. That didn't stop her from watching, and she watched intently as they fought their make-believe battles. Cheryl would become so caught up in the moment that she'd begin to cheer them on, chanting, "Get'm, get'm, get'm." Mack and Sam would stop, look at each other, and burst into laughter. Cheryl, only a little embarrassed, would roll her eyes up at them, throw her head back, and storm away.
Excerpted from From Hell to Salvation by Roberta M. Heck Copyright © 2012 by Roberta M. Heck. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsDown the Spiral Steps to Hell....................1
As Far Back as Memory Allows....................7
That First Brush with Death....................46
My Country Tears of Thee....................68
The Shrinking Land: Surviving....................72
Cloud Nine: Country Meets City....................96
Crack: A Love-Hate Relationship....................114
In Search of Sobriety....................153
God Sends an Answer....................174
A New Town, A New Day....................193
God Gives Second Chances....................222
Climbing the Stairway to Salvation....................228
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a great educational read on the realities of drugs and gives you good food for thought to bring to the table in discussion with your children on the topic of addictions. Good work and great subject.