Anna's Story, by Anna

Christmas can be one of the happiest times of the year — when you’re warm and cozy, surrounded by family and friends, watching Home Alone in your pajamas. But when you’re in jail — alone in a cold pod, eating rolled up turkey and waiting in line for your 20-minute phone call home — it can be one of the loneliest times of the year.

My first time spending more than a night in jail was December 2015, when I got locked up for a probation violation two days before Christmas. I was terrified of this cold, smelly, dirty place where I was treated like an animal and everyone around me was loud. Luckily I had a super nice bunky who tried to teach me the ins and outs of jail life.

In addition to this new experience, I was stricken with guilt because I wouldn’t be with my daughter for Christmas. I hated myself. I couldn’t stop crying, and even when I’d call home all I could do was cry. I would ask my mom not to put my daughter on the phone because I didn’t want her to hear me so upset. I talked to her Christmas Day, though, holding back my tears. 

But that is a memory to me. If you are in jail this Christmas, remember that that experience will eventually be a memory to you, too. There will be another Christmas with more memories to make.

The next Christmas I was in treatment at Chaney Allen. I was allowed a day pass to be with my family, and even though I had to go back to treatment that night, I was grateful to spend those four hours with my daughter.

I relapsed many times. I made many of the same mistakes again and again. But I kept learning about myself, kept trying and kept fighting. This year, God willing, I will be home for Christmas. It will be the first time in two years.

Keep fighting, and remember: This will all be a memory one day. Singing Christmas carols on the pod benches with my arms in my shirt, freezing: a memory. Begging for a honey bun because I was too late to get commissary: a memory. 

It sucks, I know, but next holiday season can be different — you can get through this. So grab your bunky and a few neighbors if they’re cool and throw in on a candy break. And from the bottom of my heart, I wish you a very happy holiday.