My family came to visit me last weekend.  It was amazing to see them and really emotional. My friend Macy lives in the RDAP unit with me, and came to see me while I was waiting to be called over the intercom to see my family. She said, “Wow, Porshe, you look so beautiful! I’m so happy for you, I think I’m going to cry.” Then we both started crying. She gave me a big hug and decided to leave so I could calm down before my visit. Visit’s are a big deal in prison. Most women in federal prison live miles away from their families and are lucky if they get to see them once or twice a year. Sometimes people from the free world volunteer to come see women in prison that don’t get visits. I was talking to my kids about Macy, and Sadie asked if her parents would ever come to visit her. I told Sadie that Macy’s father died of a drug overdose a few years ago, and her mother and brother are still drug addicts. Macy grew up homeless, when she went to school it was usually out of the back seat of a car. Macy’s from Salt Lake City, and grew up less than 30 miles away from where our family lives. My kids were surprised when I told them that.

Sometimes it feels like time stops here. Jackson, and Sadie have grown up while I’ve been away; seeing them reminded me how long I’ve been gone. I think the most important thing I did while my kids were here was listen to them. I spent some time alone with each of them, and I’m grateful that they trusted me enough to talk openly with me. We talked about my drug addiction, and I found out that until last year they didn’t really know I was addicted to drugs. I can’t imagine how hard it was for them to grow up with a mom who was often sick and depressed; who was emotionally unavailable, and unwilling to listen. I think talking to them about my struggles made it easier for them to open up with me? Sadie told me, “When you were home I always thought you would freak out if I told you I was doing something you wouldn’t approve of. I just didn’t think you could handle it.” I told her that I was just so scared that you would make the same mistakes I made.  I told her that she probably didn’t want to hear anymore, “I’m sorry’s”, but I feel really bad that things were so hard for you. I love you Sadie, and hope that I will be able to earn your trust.

After my family left I felt like a hole had opened inside of me. We made some progress while they were here and started to heal; then I had to let them go! Sometimes I feel like I’m losing myself, and while my family was here I felt like myself again. Last week was hard.  Then anticipation of seeing my kids then letting them go, and realizing that I have lived big chunks of my life in denial was overwhelming. While we were in a group recently a counselor asked us to put holes in a piece of paper to represent the loss of trust we have incurred with our families. When she asked us to fix the holes with some glue and tape.  I was too emotional to participate and told the group, “It’s going to take a lot more than a stick of glue and some tape to repair the loss of trust I have with my family! Right now I am broken, and I don’t really trust how I feel. I’m just sick that I hurt the people I love the most.” One of my regrets is that I didn’t give my kids a chance to grieve. I’m a fighter, and when I found out I was going to prison my response was: “We can do this. We will do this! Everything will be alright, we’re going to get through this.” Well, maybe it isn’t alright for them. Sadie has gone though junior high without a mom. She’s had to deal with the changes that young women go through, and the questions of self worth and identity that make junior high such a struggle while her mom is in prison. When I asked Jackson what it’s like for him he said: “Nobody dares talk to me about it. They know I don’t want to talk about it, and I’m fine so it doesn’t matter.” When he said that I wanted to give him a hug, and never let him go. Sadie told me, “Sometimes it’s embarrassing, and I really just want you to come home.”

After my visit one of my room mates saw that I was struggling and put a letter on my locker that said: “Ms. Louder, please trust and believe that God Almighty has got you held tightly in the palm of His hand. I can not tell you enough how amazing I think you are. I believe in your beauty, and kindness, and strength. Your family will be okay, and so will you. I’m here if you need to talk. Just breathe baby, God only gives us what we can handle.” After a particularly hard day in treatment I found this scrap of paper on my locker: “I love you and hope you had a good day. You are so special to me.” How grateful I am for the kindness and love of so many women that I’ve met in prison. My heart is still tender, and I always appreciate your prayers. But I would especially appreciate your prayers right now for my children. I know we will get through this, but it isn’t easy, and we can’t do it alone. Thank you all for following along