I'm Not Bitter, I'm Better

I have been molested, addicted, placed in a psychiatric hospital, abused by ex-boyfriends, abandoned by loved ones, lost my children to the state, homeless and incarcerated. But I'm not bitter.

I was born in Atlantic City, NJ, in 1965. I spent most of my summers on the beaches and the boardwalk watching all the tourists gather, from all around the world, to spend their vacation at the world’s biggest playground. I was molested at the age of eight up until I was 12 years old when I began to make the streets my home.

As early as 11 years of age, I remember my mother having parties and gambling sessions in our home. I was exposed to a lot at a young age. We were poor and grew up on a rough side of town known as “Back Maryland.” My addiction started the first time I had a taste of alcohol at 11 years old. The first time I smoked marijuana, I was 12 years old. I started smoking cigarettes when I was 13 years old. 

In 1982, I had my first taste of cocaine. I started out sniffing. Shortly after, I began to smoke it in my marijuana. After awhile, I felt like I just couldn’t get high enough. I was then introduced to crack cocaine, and my life quickly became out of control. My only concern was where and when I could get my next hit. I had to think of ways to get money, and get money fast. I tried to convince myself that I was making a fair exchange because I was not actually standing on a corner, so I didn’t consider it prostitution, but it was. I was using my body to pay for my habit.

In the summer of 1984, I went to Philadelphia, with some people I met on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, to a house party. The drugs and alcohol were flowing freely. I over-indulged and experienced my first blackout. I knew it was divine providence that led me back to NJ safely. However, I still did not stop using drugs.

The day I overdosed was so clear to me. It was a cold and rainy night in October 1985. I had no money, no job, and no place to call home. So I did what I knew best—hustled until I could raise the funds needed to get high. It was a horrible cycle of drugs and despair. I found myself in a part of Atlantic City known as the Inlet. I hooked up with a couple of guys and experienced my first love for pills.

I thought for sure that barbiturates and Valium could erase all the pain from my past--the constant voices in my head, the abandonment issues, the abuse, the loneliness I often felt, and worst of all, the emptiness. I didn’t know then, but I know now, that I had a void that only God could fill. After a night of drinking, drugging, not eating or sleeping, it finally took a toll on my body. I had overdosed. When I came to myself, I was laying in Atlantic City Medical Center with tubes in all my veins and feeling the echo of death. I had no hope and no real sense of who I was or what my purpose was in life. 

After my stay in the medical center, I was taken to Acorn Psychiatric Hospital. Until this day, I still don’t know how I got there or how long I stayed. When I was released, I went back home to the same life of depression, hopelessness and despair, so the cycle continued. 

On May 7, 1989, I was sentenced to 30 years to life for murder. I took the plea and ended up with the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter. I was sent to Edna Mahan, the only women’s prison in NJ. Prison life was worse than the streets, but since I had to be there, I made the most of it by applying myself to the many free programs they had to offer: NA, AA, behavior modification, anger management classes, one-on-one counseling, GED. I even signed up for the Scared Straight program to warn young girls about the dangers of a life of crime and prison. 

It wasn’t until the Amer-I-Can program founder and CEO, Jim Brown came to the prison that I began to see the hand of God upon my life. I got saved on November 1, 1993. It was the best decision God allowed me to make. Four years after I gave my life to Christ, I was raped and forced to have an abortion behind bars. 

Since then, I have learned the power of forgiveness. I had to forgive others. Not an easy task but possible when the love of God is rooted deep in my heart. 

I have been molested, addicted, battled substance abuse, overdosed, placed in a psychiatric hospital, abused by ex-boyfriends, abandoned by loved ones, lost my children to the state, been homeless and imprisoned. 

But I can truly say that I’m not bitter. I’m better. Because my past is not my potential. 

Author Update

Ava Roseboro now leads Expected End Ministries, an outreach of transitional housing for women who are victims of domestic abuse.

Ava founded Expected End Ministries because of her own struggles with drugs, alcohol, incarceration, and homelessness.