All Photographs + Text copyright 2007 Christopher Keeley
Sharing my story
I didn't start out being abused and battered as a child. Looking back I see a lot of emotional abuse but back then parents parented that way a lot of the time. Today I know it was abusive. I come from a large family and being good Catholics the more children the better. Problem was that my father was not able to produce his own offspring. So they hooked up with their doctor and the babies started to coming to them about every 2 yrs. I was the third to arrive. After adopting me, my parents adopted one more child 3 yrs. younger than me. I also have two brothers who were born after the first four of us were adopted.
All of us went to Catholic school. HMMMM I have run into almost half of my graduating class in the rooms of AA or NA. Could there be a connection??? It is not my job or intention to slight any religious organization but it does seem to have some high statistics. Anyway, my school yrs. at St. Monica were years that I lived in fear that someone would find out my secrets from home. There were so many. Parents who screamed all the time, at each other and the kids, a sister who was somewhat promiscuous, a brother who was certainly gay, and a Mother who was having an affair. I was a cheerleader - one of the popular girls and very aware of how I looked to others or perceived myself to look anyway. The first party I went to where alcohol was allowed was at my home when my older sister and brother had a big bash. I drank and then drank some more and it just felt good. I was so at ease for the first time in a long time. I got very drunk and felt horrible before the end of the night but knew I liked alcohol. I drank a little from time to time but didn't get drunk again for quite a while.
Got out of St. Monica in 8th grade and begged and pleaded with my mother to let me attend public school versus the all girl Catholic school I was supposed to go to. One little threat that I would tell Daddy she was having an affair was all it took. I didn't know who she was with or anything, just instinctively knew from phone calls where her voice changed to a tone I had never heard before, her not coming home till early morning when Dad was out of town, etc. Before the end of my 8th grade year my parents announced they were getting divorced. This of course, threw me for a loop because I had it pounded in my head all those years that divorce was a mortal sin. I was very confused and angry because my father was my hero. I was his baby girl. Mom took that away in her greed, in my mind. The summer before I was to start public school I started partying more with alcohol. Just hanging out with my brother and sister and having some drinks. I started school and immediately realized I did not want to be an SC (social climber) because they were all snobs and I would never fit in. So I hung with the "hoods" and that was where I thought I belonged. I took my first hit off a joint behind the school building during a lunch break. Didn't feel anything for a couple of times but that first time I did, I absolutely loved it. Got to feel at ease and so much different.
I vowed then that I would never take acid like everyone else was doing but that went out the window when I started hanging at the park with all the hippie guys and chicks. We would all meet at the park and get stoned and take acid. I thought it was fine - no harm. I continued to escalate the kinds of drugs I was using and everytime I would say but I will never do*and I always ended up doing just that. In my sophomore year of high school we had moved to a new neighborhood and school so I was again, out of place. Soon found the hoods and was back on track.
I would skip school and hang out and drink and get stoned and this is where I did my first shot of dope. We were at some older guys apt. and they were selling what was called border reds which were morphine based barbituates. I had already taken about 3 of them and some guy asked if I wanted to shoot one. Sure, why not? The next thing I remember is the cops being everywhere in the apt. and being handcuffed and taken to jail.
Apparently these guys were selling these drugs to Jr. High and High school girls and two had overdosed and told where they got them. There was also a couple lbs. of pot. I had to call my Mother to get me out but would've rather died so I told them she was out of town and called my sister who picked me up. I didn't shoot dope again for about a year because the first time was not the best experience. By this time I had a wonderful boyfriend who had a Daddy with a drugstore. And he knew where all the class A (Schedule 2 are what they are called now) narcotics were kept.
I started shooting speed with him. Desoxyn, Preludes, and Desbutols (which were a bonus because they had a barbituate on one half the pill so you cut that off and save it for when you are ready to crash). This was non-stop day to day and we thought we were so cool. Then we decided we wanted to crash after one particularly long run and had no downers so he hooked up with one of his heroin dealer friends and I found my true drug of choice. My boyfriend started stealing Dilaudids, morphine, and assorted other narcotics. I soon broke up with him for whatever reason but we remained friends.
I met another guy during this time who was selling heroin unbeknownst to me at the time. I just thought he always had it and didn't really give much thought as to how or why. I got my first habit for real at this time. I also became pregnant. Couldn't figure out why I was so sick all the time. He just laughed and said I was dope sick. I didn't think I could get a habit. At the time the movie Reefer Madness was out and it was full of horror stories about getting addicted to marijuana so I figured the same with all other drugs. I can handle them. Well, I didn't. I was to get into a cycle of addiction that would not stop for many years.
I did the relocation thing but just found other junkies there. Came home after boyfriend hit me and I had an abortion. Just kept shooting dope and trying not to feel. I hooked up with some people in the race horse business whereupon I got as many dilaudid as I could do - just had to sell them at street price for the trainer. The trainer became my boyfriend. I had no real feelings for anyone just what they could do for me to keep my habit going. This guy turned out to be very cruel and this is where I experienced my first real beatings.
I would leave him but always came back because he was my source and I had to protect my source. So I never told anyone the truth about how my eyes got blacked or why I was bruised all over. My fear wasn't the beatings in themselves, it was that he would lose it and go too far and kill me accidentally. I stayed with him for four years and then I started to want out for real because the beatings were getting more frequent and much worse.
I tried to leave a few times but he caught me and the subsequent beatings were so brutal that I knew I could not get away with anything more than the clothes on my back. I got indicted for conspiracy to sell controlled substance and covered for him with all my might. He never saw a day in jail. But shortly after my indictment, he had a stroke. He was rushed to the hospital where an anurism broke in his brain and he did recover but when he went home, I was gone. That was how I got out. I continued to get diluadid from him because I had something on him now. I moved to a different state while awaiting trial. He paid for my attorney and left me alone pretty much.
I ended up being sentenced to six yrs. in a federal correctional institution. Never had been arrest for sales or possession but the conspiracy law covers that as long as there are at least two witnesses who will testify against you. With all the junkies I sold to I had more than enough for them to put me away so I plead out to possession with intent to distribute. I went to prison after never being in jail more than a few hours.
I was terrified. I got there and found it was coed. Not bad*and the prison is where I met notorious criminals such as the Manson girls - one who tried to shoot President Ford (Sqeaky ), one who had some federal cases pending when the murders happened way back when. I also met Sara Jane Moore, I think she tried to shoot Ford too, or some President - it is all a haze. But the ones I met that "mattered" were the big drug dealers and people saavy to the system.
I did my first speedball there - the best coke and heroin I had done to date (California had and probably still has much better drugs than Texas). I smoked cocaine for the first time. Learned how to cook it up into a rock. Crack was not even around then. It was free basing. I smoked pot on a daily basis and took some of the purest acid I had ever done. We called that taking a furlough. :-)
I stayed there about 2 and a half years and had to kick a heroin habit before I left because they were sending me to a halfway house where I would be give UA's all the time. I ran into some gangsters there and hooked up. They weren't dope fiends but they were bank robbers. I always had money which meant I always had drugs and had learned how to beat the UA's. I didn't know they were robbing banks really, but they did have a lot of money for guys who didn't work.
Within six months they were busted on new charges and I was violated for association with known felons. Back I went. This time they sent me to a different prison. I stayed six months and was released to the halfway house again. Hooked up with a dealer and again had all the dope I could shoot. The thought of quitting never occurred to me.
I ended up getting busted shooting dope in the halfway house and left before the police could come get me. I was on the run for a short period of time and got busted leaving a dope house so I went to jail and after being there for a few days was arraigned for possession from the halfway house deal. Got a state charge but beat it. Also had a state charge for a syringe that was in my car.
The trace law had just come into affect in Texas and I got a felony possession case. Back I went and was sentenced in absentia to five yrs. Texas State. My federal parole violation ate up that time and was also paroled in absentia. I got out and stayed out for a while and then went back for not reporting. I ended up doing six flat inside on the six yr. Sentence not to mention the street time that got taken from me. But still had no desire to stop using. I left in 1987 having done all my time. In 1991 I met the man I thought would change my life.
I was crazy in love. He was hispanic and my family wasn't too thrilled being the good prejudice Southerners they are but I didn't care. I got pregnant and had this vision that all the drugs would stop and I would be a good Mother and wife and life would be wonderful. Of course, this is the farthest thing from reality. Mario and I had a little apt. and I played wifey and he talked to the baby in my belly and I cried at the first heartbeat I heard and the first ultrasound where I saw it was a boy. I didn't pick up on the fact that Mario was becoming increasingly controlling and very dominant.
I had been on the streets on my own for so long his control stuff didn't go over too well and my independence totally freaked him out. I was on methadone and was still using a bit but that was okay - everything would be fine. Mario would straighten out and we would all be fine.
I had pregnancy induced hypertension so I kept ending up in the hospital because my blood pressure would go up and they would monitor me and see where I was at and the threat of having to deliver this baby early was always present. I had some great people who had helped me detox from the heroin and coke when I found out I was pregnant and they were there for me all the way. Early on they would drop hints about Mario's control stuff and that I needed to seek counseling with him because he was part of the stress that made me blood pressure raise a lot of times.
I thought they were nuts and did nothing. Three weeks before my due date I had to have my labor induced due to high blood pressure.
No pain killers, no spinals, no nothing except some horrible drug called magnesium to keep the pressure down and keep Jordan and myself from having seizures or a stroke. I was in labor for 28 hours.
My son was born healthy and beautiful. His father was not there. He had to go to work, so he thought. Work was his passion and his lifeline because he supported his mother and siblings back in Mexico.
My son was a miracle to me and I promised him and myself that I would be the best Mom ever. That was short-lived. Mario became another person entirely after Jordan was born. He wouldn't let me go anywhere or talk to anyone. He became insanely jealous. If a guy was in a car next to us at a light and glanced over he would jump out of the car and try to beat him up. It was nuts. I couldn't wait to get a shot of dope. I was in this crazy world all of a sudden not even a clue how to mother this child and handle this man and I decided a fix would help everything. The cycle began again.
I had left to go use the phone since we didn't have one in our apt. and when I came back Mario was in a rage about where I had been and who I had talked to . He threw me around that apt. like a rag doll and ended up breaking a couple of ribs. Then calmly went and called 911 and told them I fell down the stairs. He also called my mother and told her I was so loaded I fell down the stairs and I was going to the hospital.
He warned me that if I told what happened he would take Jordan and go to Mexico and I would never see him again. He always told me that he was my only hope. Without him I would always be a junkie whore. I believed him after a while. I mean, I couldn't quit shooting dope. So I covered for him from the first time he put me in the hospital.
The cops and paramedics knew I didn't fall down stairs just from the injuries themselves and add to that the neighbor's stories. But I wouldn't budge.
I checked myself into a rehab. for mothers and infants after talking to my counselors at the hospital. Mario showed up for visitation every Sunday and went to family counseling - even got a certificate for it which assured him he was absolutely right about being my only hope. During this time I told my mother the truth about Mario beating me. She moved Jordan and I into an apt. once I left the rehab. You notice I say left and not discharged upon completion.
I thought I could handle it and wanted to go so I did. Mario was not crazy about me living alone with Jordan but I made up some story about us still needing family counseling per the rehab. and that I couldn't live with him until we completed it. So thus begun a cycle of me letting him come visit Jordan and always finding a reason for getting money and scoring as soon as he left. What I didn't know was that he was watching my apt.
My connection would come and deliver and when he drove off Mario would come flying up the street and try to beat on me for seeing a man. Not sure if he really understood that it was a buy not an affair. He became obsessed with watching my apt. Many times I walked outside and there he would be parked up the street. He came and kicked in my door many times and beat the crap out of me for seeing another man after I would score. One time in particular, a friend came to get Jordan and I and called the police.
The cop told me he had seen that much blood at murder scenes. But I would not press charges because I knew Mario would get right back out and then I would be in worse danger.
I was still working with the counselors from the hospital and they knew he was abusing me and kept telling me he was going to kill me and maybe even harm Jordan and I needed to do something. Once again, I had to protect my source. He gave me money and kept my habit up. I ended up giving my sister temporary custody of Jordan because I knew instinctively that I was not nurturing this baby. He would cry and want to be held but if I was dope sick and trying to score I just couldn't do it.
I told the social worker that I wanted to go back to rehab. and that I would ask my sister to take care of him until I got out. She physically took him from me and I felt I had been betrayed. But going into an emergency court hearing the next day the judge asked me if this is what I was sure I wanted and it was the hardest thing to tell the truth and say I can't take care of him. He was clean and fed and all that.
I could've gotten him back and really wanted him back but knew I would be terribly wrong if I got him back at that point. So he went to my sisters. Mario was livid. We both had visitation and all that but he thought I should have let him take the baby. Not even a consideration. The social worker would never have let it happen because she knew Mario was violent.
He finally got me evicted after breaking a window and kicking in the door. So I decided to move and not tell him where I was moving and I moved. One of my junky friends helped me move. She would actually be the one to betray me and tell him where I lived not two days later. Now he was on a mission.
He would just sit and watch my apt. I didn't let anyone come over but every now and then I would get a ride to score and he would see and go off. He retained an attorney to get custody of Jordan and forced me to go sign papers that gave the okay for them to have court hearings without my knowledge. Which was fine because at the moment Jordan was actually a ward of the state and I had to be notified by law.
After telling my Mother and sister about him making me sign those papers, they retained an attorney as well and I had to go sign more papers that made the first agreement void. He bullied his way into my apt. a few nights later and got into my purse and found the papers.
Whereupon he really lost it. He started to beat me and I ran into the bathroom and locked the door. He kicked that door down so easily and had a knife in his hand when he got in. I ended up on my back in the tub with him straddling me and just beating me with his fists until I was unconscious. He kept raising that knife high with both hands on the handle and thrusting it down towards my chest but would stop just short of stabbing me. He would then beat me some more and raise the knife again.
I could barely see as both eyes were swollen shut at this point. Finally I just gave up trying to talk to him and told him to just kill me and do me a favor. He threw the knife on my chest and told me to kill myself. Got up and walked out of the bathroom. I remember thinking "I have a knife now, I can protect myself."
He walked back in and took it from me and said he was taking me to the hospital and if he went to jail I would go to the cemetary. I promised I would not tell what happened. I told the cops that I was mugged. They questioned me for a long time and tried to make me feel safe to tell the truth. I felt no such safety.
I had numerous broken ribs, a broken nose, my cheekbone was shattered, my sternum was bruised so badly I couldn't breathe without excruciating pain. I looked like a monster. I was sitting outside of the emergency room in a waiting room when one of my counselors walked by. She saw me and just totally took over. I told her I was mugged and she said that she knew Mario had done it.
I cried and begged her not to tell because he would kill me. She took me to her office and took pictures. She called a shelter and they said I would have to get my medical treatment taken care of before I could go there. They would put me underground and arrest Mario for aggrivated assault. But I had to get my cheekbone wired back together first because there would be no coming back out for a while.
We scheduled the surgery and I went home. Mario showed up the next day and I had to act like everything was okay - he wanted to have sex and I was in great pain but he wouldn't take no for an answer and I knew if I truly resisted he would've raped me so I just let him do it. He left and and I went and scored to try to kill the pain. Nothing worked. The next day I went to his apt. and got money using some excuse and went back home since my ride wouldn't take me to score.
I called someone to take me to score ( a guy) and I told him I would give him some coke to take me. We went and when we got back he told me needed a rig so he came up and got one and was going to fix but the phone rang and it was Mario. He said he knew I had a man in the apt . and would be up in a minute. He was on a payphone downstairs!
I hurried that guy out and he passed Mario on the stairs I found out later. Did Mario try to beat him up? Of course not! So he is beating on my door and I look out to see the buck knife in his hand. I called 911 for the first time. I knew he would kill me. He kicked in the door and jerked the phone out of the wall while 911 tried to keep me on the line. He started swiping that knife at me and I would ball up and he would stab my head. This went on for what seemed to be hours. Me trying to dodge his blows and getting stabbed in the top of my head.
I was still so badly beaten from two days ago that I don't know I was strong enough to stay at arms length from him. I had some silverware drying on the countertop and picked up a steak knife and told him to stay back but he kept coming. I stabbed at him and it went right into his chest so easily it surprised both of us. This made him really go nuts and he came after me.
I had gotten to the front door and was running out screaming but he caught me and tried to throw me over the balcony. I got away somehow and ran some more and he caught me once more and then fell face down. I realized that I could get away and was terrified he would get back up so I ran downstairs and then back up the back stairs to my apt. somehow got the phone plugged in and called my mother.
I was watching him out the window and he wasn't getting up. The police showed up approximately 25 minutes later. My mother was already there at that time and they were trying to get me to go to the hospital in an ambulance but I thought it was the same one Mario was in and that he would get back up and get me. Mother finally told them she would take me.
At that time, one of the cops came to us and said that he knew our history from others calling when he beat me and that he would testify for me if I had to go to court. Mario was still alive at this time and they told me we would both be charged with aggrivated assault. Once at the hospital, I was getting my head stitched up and Mario was in surgery and the cop came in and told me that he would never hurt me again and laughed saying he's dead.
I totally lost it. I had not meant to kill him. I found out later that I actually stabbed him three times and all stab wounds were straight to the heart. Which is unusual because when someone gets stabbed in the chest the ribs usually deflect the blade and it is not fatal.
I was not taken to jail or anything. They said it would go to the Grand Jury and they would decide if charges should be filed. I was in total shock and couldn't deal with anything. I was sent to the emergency room shrink and was asked if I felt I did something wrong and I told him I just wanted him to stop stabbing me. I went home. The days following this I just cried and fixed. I went back to my apt. and cleaned up the blood by myself.
I had to contact Mario's family through the Mexican Consulate and arrange to have his body flown to Mexico to be buried with his family. His mother and sister came to get him and all of his valuables and to see Jordan. My sister took him to see them. I was so guilt-ridden just to think of how his Mother must have felt losing her son. I would be devastated in that same situation. It was so easy for me to feel like I was the bad guy because after all he was a hard worker and didn't do drugs, etc. I was just exactly what he said I was - a junkie whore. I began a rapid decline of using as much as possible. I didn't deserve to live. He died in June.
The Grand Jury no-billed me in August and in December I was picked up for simple possession of narcotics. This is where I became willing. I was in a single cell on suicide watch puking my guts up and I finally asked God to help me. His help came in the form of a 15 yr. Sentence to the Texas Dept. of Corrections. It was then that I finally started to want to do something different. I had lost my son for all intents and purposes and I had no where else to go down to. Only through a Power greater than myself did I get the strength to do something different.
I stayed in TDC almost four and a half years. During this time I did not see my son for three years. Pain is a great motivator. I took classes in college and attended a battered women's group and started a group on another unit I was transferred to.
I wrote in a journal and attended 12 step meetings when they had them on the unit. But what counted most was when I was paroled I went to a meeting right up the street from my house.
I walked up there and was terrified for these people to know who I was and where I had come from. But they loved me and taught me how the drugs and alcohol were but only a symptom of my disease. I had a living problem. I will be forever grateful to the program because without it I would not be clean. I have had periods of time where I got some power back and thought I could take prescribed medications that were narcotic and I relapsed because I had not surrendered totally. This is not an easy thing for me to do. I have fought so much and so many different aspects of my life.
I stayed as honest as possible and told someone in the program what was going on. I don't have a lot of ego when it comes to having to pick up another chip because walking around with a bunch of lies and not being able to look someone in the face is a motivator more me as well.
I know I don't have to live like that ever again. Today I have my son - he has been with me for three years now. We just moved to a condominium close to the school he attends.
He has never missed an Honor Roll. He is a brown belt in Tae Kwon Do and he is very stable. There will be issues of his father's death. He has asked some questions but not to the point where I have had to tell him everything.
Honestly, I am scared to death about the day I have to tell him and it will come. Right now he is only 9 yrs. old and I will tell him when I know he needs to know.
I continue to actively participate in my sobriety and know that it is a daily reprieve based on my spiritual fitness and abstaining from mind-altering chemicals. I would be happy to share with anyone who would like to talk to me. My email address is
One day at a time and it truly does work if you work it. Peace and light to all, Debbie