22
Nov

Love Is An Action Not An Idea. TDCJ Goree Unit to Gib Lewis To Jordan Unit. Travels Of A Prison Wedding Officiant…

Monday was a mess due entirely to dealing with my niece, Stephaney. Worrying about my niece is a full time job and the primary cause of all the stress in my life. 

For my twin sister, the stress of her daughter and her consistent shenanigans has caused not only stress but also high blood pressure and hypertension. 

I wouldn’t realize until Friday that the stress my niece brings to our lives would affect my sister to such an extent that she is currently awaiting heart surgery at Harris Methodist Hospital. 

We had a very full week and Monday as well as Tuesday had Cindy and I slammed busy dealing with her daughter Stephaney AGAIN. Stephaney would ruin both days for our schedules (as usual) and by Wednesday I was driving to several cities with Cindy complaining of chest pain yet refusing to go to the ER. Watching my sister pop nitro pills like candy my fear mounted day after day this week. The nitro wasn’t helping. 

Friday morning at 10:30AM, we had a Skype conference with the BBC and ITV. I suggested a reschedule. Cindy wouldn’t even consider a reschedule. “We have never rescheduled in our lives and this won’t take 20-40 minutes.” The call took over 2 hours. With incredible chest pain, my twin sister laughed her way through those 2 hours with the determination of a skilled actor. No one knew she was in extreme pain. Cindy and I have work ethics that surprise everyone. 

In Los Angeles, I walked into a pitch meeting with my production company with a broken foot. I had tripped getting to my rental and knew it was broke when I heard the snap. Cindy looked and me and said “we have an hour to be on here and then we will run to the hospital. Suck it up and smile buddy.” I did. No one knew my swelling foot was bothering me. A pitch meeting lasting two hours as opposed to the twenty minutes our production company expected left me limping out of Lifetime. The ER cut my shoe off hours later. Cindy and I both have a high pain tolerance so when my sister complains about pain know she is in pain.

Friday after the Skype call, we went immediately to the hospital. An hour later, Cindy was admitted to the hospital. Cindy’s EKG was normal but her enzymes high. More tests were ordered. Her heart surgery is scheduled Monday morning. 

Life with an addict in it causes more stress than people realize. You never stop wondering if the next phone call is more bad news when you have a loved one with a drug problem. Late night phone calls scare Cindy and I both.

Tuesday, Stephaney had walked away from the very same bus that Cindy and I had put her on from Dallas to Muskogee at 6:30AM. A bus that should have gotten a break from Stephaney that didn’t. 

Within 2.5 hours though, Stephaney would yet again upset our schedules and our lives with her consistent ability to focus all of our attention on her needs. Her emergencies and how nothing is ever her fault. Sigh. 

By Tuesday afternoon, after yet another “Stephaney situation” phone call of her claiming the bus had left her at a McDonalds in Oklahoma, Cindy and I were forced to drive several hours to Oklahoma then go find Stephaney and drive her to the to Oklahoma treatment center ourselves. Naturally, the treatment facility for severL hours from where Stephaney has left the bus and decided to relax while we drive to find her before she wandered off yet again.

My life has never been easy. Cindy’s hasn’t either. The number of times I’ve prayed, screamed and begged my niece to straighten up would astound you. 

Consistently trying to force Stephaney to choose her family rather than drugs is a twisted merry go round of torture for the few people who still care about my niece. Who are those few people? My sister and I. Everyone else has given up. 

By midnight Tuesday after hours of driving through Oklahoma, Cindy and I finally rolled into my driveway thankful that we didn’t have to worry about yet another phone call from Stephaney for at least  a few hours and get some sleep.

Stephaney is going to find her usual complaints of course as she always does. If we can keep her in this program, it’s worth the money to get 6 months of peace in Texas with Stephaney in Oklahoma. 

I still kick myself everyday for keeping my niece out of prison five years ago in Oklahoma. Maybe if I had let do hard time I could have spared Cindy and I as well as her twin daughters the past three years? Maybe if I hadn’t believed her when she said she would never do drugs again in Oklahoma and convinced me into getting her a plea deal and paying court ordered rehab she might have a life and a future right now after doing a few years in prison?  I can assure you that I won’t try to save Stephaney from prison by throwing thousands of dollars to defend her again. 

Having Stephaney where we know she can’t find drugs is and has been the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to accomplish. I understand now why people give up on addicts. It’s taken me years but I understand why people just give up. They just can’t take it anymore. Who can blame them? Addicts pull you in every direction mentally, physically, emotionally and financially. How did our mothers mother manage our heroin addicted mother? I will never know. I do know that grandma Tinney survived our mothers addiction forty years. I do know that my grandmother died far too young. Stress kills you.

Wednesday morning after getting approximately 2 hours of sleep, Cindy and I headed to Huntsville. We were exhausted from dealing with Cindy’s daughter, Stephaney Monday and Tuesday. 

Stephaney and her antics consistently rob of us of any degree of joy. Work is our salvation. Our escape. Our reward. We shake off our stress of Stephaney and focus on our clients instead. 

The pain and loss of having an addict in your family will never be understood by others unless of course they’ve been pulled through the dust storm of their loved ones choices themselves. 

The worry, frustration and anger don’t go away. Years later, Stephaney and her choices have also affected her twin daughters, Maryssa and Makenna (like Cindy and I) will never understand why drugs were more important to their mom than they themselves were. 

Cindy and I will never understand or accept our mother’s choices either. We can’t. I hate addiction and what family members addiction issues has brought to our lives. I hate that my twin sisters health has been affected by trying over and over to rehabilitate Stephaney. I hate that my own efforts have failed too. Addicts shouldn’t be allowed to have children.

Getting Stephaney into treatment in Oklahoma after she walked out of treatment in Fort Worth was as stressful as you might imagine. In Dallas, a man was lying in the street near the bus station. I didn’t know if he was dead or alive. It was 3AM in the morning. I told Cindy “call 911.” Stephaney said “who cares about him? I only care about my family.” 

As usual, I lost my composure at this ridiculously stupid statement. “Your mom is having chest pains. Your children won’t talk to you. Your sister wants nothing to do with you. Our husbands are sick of watching us try to save you. A man is lying in the street and you don’t care? Jesus, Stephaney, I wish you could find compassion, understanding or comprehension regarding why we are in Dallas at 3AM in the morning hellbent on getting you to Oklahoma. I have at least 10-12 hours of driving twice this week. For God’s sakes get on this bus and get your shit together. We NEED a break from you. You are killing our family. Do not get off that bus until Muskogee. I do not want another phone call from you until you are back in treatment. The counselors will meet you at the station.” 

Stephaney (as usual) would find a way to screw up our Tuesday. Wednesday we were on a twofer unit day from Goree to Lewis and Thursday I had two brides at Jordan Unit in Pampas, Texas. It would be another week of driving 1500-2000 miles for me this week. 

Arriving at TDCJ Goree Unit, the chaplain met me in the parking lot. There was a CLM issue and my clients wedding would need to be rescheduled. Not surprisingly, she would be devastated. The chaplain and I walked to her car together leaving my sister in my suv. Genekia had her sister with her in her suv. I spoke with her and tried to assure her that we would work through this issue together with the inmate and the law library. 

The warden and chaplain returned to Genekia’s car and the warden granted her a contact visit. This is rare and remarkable. For Genekia it was also a gift of generosity. 

You will hear me say this often because it’s true “prison weddings are rainbows in the dark.” More importantly, without the assistance of TDCJ personnel there would be far more hurdles to overcome as Goree had moved Genekia to 10AM and Gib Lewis had moved my other client to 2PM in order to accommodate my drive time between Units.

After a 15 minute contact visit, the chaplain escorted Genekia and I back to the gate. Because she had her sister with her and was dressed for wedding day, I suggested leaving the Unit and taking a few photos nearby before heading on to Lewis Unit.While on the side of the road unloading my inventory, a car stopped with a couple who offered to allow us to use their home for photos. This WAS unusual. I followed them in my suv with Cindy while Genekia and her sister followed us. My timeline was tight but within range to get to Lewis Unit. 

The location was actually perfect. My bride and her sister loved the trees and pond and we captured a few fun pics before I thanked our new friend and drove on to Lewis Unit.Arriving at Gib Lewis Unit at 1:30PM, I sent a text to my 2PM client to let her know we were on site.

Gib Lewis Unit is located in a beautiful wooded area. My excited bride and I entered together.The couple had both written their own heartfelt and memorable vows. Leaving the Unit, I found an area for a few bridal photos.Headed back to Fort Worth, Cindy and I are equally tired now. Cindy’s in pain that she thinks is angina. I’m very concerned. My son is staying at Cindy’s house caring for Maryssa and Makenna. We are hours from home.

Thursday morning at 6AM, my son and I leave for a five hour and fifteen minute drive to Pampas to meet my 1 o’clock bride at her hotel and drive her to Jordan Unit.

It’s 39 degrees outside so we take photos in the hotel then check in with my 2PM bride as we head to the Unit.

All three of us walk in together. The Unit has stacked my clients closely together on the same day which is truly a gift due to my travel time to Jordan Unit. The warden was so nice and accommodating that he even moved my 2PM bride to 1:30 so we weren’t left waiting. 

I want to give a shout out to the wardens at Goree and Jordan as well as the Chaplain at Goree for their assistance this week. I cannot say enough good things about TDCJ staff and their amazing efforts to make prison weddings a reality for our clients. 

Leaving Jordan Unit, my son drove my bride and I while my other bride followed to a nearby restaurant where we celebrated over lunch with both of my clients before headed back to Fort Worth.