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Dara’s Journey Back Inside, to Share her Story

Dara M. once resided here, in Lockhart Correctional Facility. On this day, she returned for the first time since her release, to go back inside those walls and share her story with the current Truth Be Told Behind Bars group. Share her experience here:

Dara has also shared with us her own personal journey and story. Thank you, Dara.

Dara today

Since I was a little girl I have been involved in some type of abusive situation. I grew up in a very dysfunctional home. I was sexually and physically abused by my step-dad and step-brother until the age of 11. My first intimate relationship was at the age of 14 — he was 28, I now know him to be a predator. I thought because he hurt me ( beat me up, raped me, held me hostage) he must love me and couldn’t live without me. Every relationship I have been in has been abusive. Growing up in the home I grew up in taught me that pain equals love. If you hit me or abused me you must love me.

I was a little girl that felt ugly, unloved, unwanted and abandoned. A little girl who knew nothing that was safe, or stable, or about love. When I was 14 years old I ran from yet another children’s’ home and into the streets of Houston, where there were no rules, no schools, and where I had found what I thought was freedom. I was introduced to methamphetamines and this started my 25-year dance with death.

It was fun for me, at first, living in that drug-induced life. I started doing things I thought I would never forgive myself for. Methamphetamine, sometimes referred to as speed, became my everything. I was a slave to that drug, at its total mercy.

Dara’s mug shots from one of her numerous arrests

I became what I hated: I stole from people, I lied to everyone, and I started selling my body to support my habit. My obsession with methamphetamines overrode everything moral in my life. My ability to make good and healthy decisions was shattered: my need for dope stole that.

I have been in and out of juvenile detention and have been in prison 5 times, all because of the choices made in my drug addiction. At the age of 37 I sat and soaked up my surroundings for the first time, really seeing where I was: sitting in an aluminum barn with no air conditioning. I witnessed old women dying in prison and I realized, “This is not what I want.”

At that moment I felt a shift, literally, a shift in my heart. From that moment on my life has been different and it is because I realized that I wanted something different.

In November of 2010, I was released from prison to Austin, Texas. I chose to go into a transitional home for women. A month after release I was diagnosed with uterine cancer and was told I was going to have a radical hysterectomy and that I would have to endure aggressive treatment. The treatment would include two rounds of internal radiation, five weeks for five days a week of external radiation, and four rounds of chemo. During the treatments I felt a deeper level of that shift of wanting to live. I looked back on my life and realized that I had wasted so much time. Through the addiction, breaking the law, the cancer, and living life like I had a million lives to live, I was determined to speak out and seek out others that wanted the same thing in life.

I enrolled in school, though I was intimidated and frightened of doing something I had never done. I was confused because I did not understand the college talk. I am approaching the end of my second semester, anxiously awaiting my third. I have a 3.5 overall GPA.

Today, I am in remission from cancer; I have 19 months of sobriety from all mind altering chemicals; I volunteer and I have shared my experience, strength, and hope at the juvenile detention center, at several events for  Truth Be Told that works with women behind and beyond bars, and at the Center for Success in Houston. Today I LOVE MY LIFE and where it’s going.

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About Shelley Seale

I'm Shelley, a journeyer and learner of the world, freelance journalist and author, yoga chick and dog lover. I pound the keyboard from home barefoot every day, and while my boss is demanding she also occasionally lets me have the early afternoon cocktail. I think not going into an office or collecting corporate paychecks are very good ideas, though not always profitable. I have written for National Geographic, USA Today, The Guardian, Texas Monthly and CNN, among others. Neither the New York Times nor Johnny Depp have answered my letters yet. I love yoga, indie movies, wine, and books, though not necessarily in that order. I believe in karma. Mean people suck. If I could have any dream job I would like to be a superhero. I have performed a catch on the flying trapeze, boarded down a live volcano and was once robbed by a monkey in Nepal. But, I don't know how to whistle. My mantra is "travel with a purpose."

24 responses »

  1. What a fantastic article and such an inspiring story!

    Reply
  2. Her childhood was so vastly different from mine, and it was just complete luck. I could have been her so easily. I feel so blessed and lucky, all the time, despite my own challenges. I remind myself of that every day. Dara, and others like her, are such strong women for overcoming these things and being such an inspiration to the rest of us.

    Reply
    • i couldn’t have been this open or vulnerable without the help and tools that TBT has taught me!!!!!one of the things that keeps me sharing is knowing that people are listening…..so thank you very much….for caring….that is inspiration!!!

      Reply
  3. Thank you soo much for asking me to share my truth…..my one prayer in doing this is that it will help at least (hopefully lots more) one person….embrace their past truth and shame let go and embrace a new truth and a hope that all is well in this dance we call life!!!!

    Reply
    • Dara, THANK you for sharing. You are an amazing, brave, strong woman who is an inspiration to so many. I am glad that you are overcoming your early challenges which were not your fault, and a lot to overcome. You are beautiful – thank you!

      Reply
    • I am so happy to hear that after this post was published, Dara was invited to visit the Del Valle jail, where she was given permission by the Sheriff to get up and share her experience, strength, and hope. Dara is a passionate speaker and she brings TRUTH to a new level. Thanks for choosing to use this valuable tool to give hope.

      Reply
  4. Linda Ritter

    Very Heart Warming Story Thanks

    Reply
  5. Cara Lionberger

    Dara, Thank you for sharing! How inspiring you are. I am grateful for your courage!

    Reply
  6. Thank You ALL for your encouragement and love…..you will never know how MUCH ALL THIS REALLY MEANS TO ME…..

    Reply
  7. I praise God for Dara’s strength and courage to leave a world she was so grown accustomed to. I hate that the people in her life took her childhood, her self esteem and her faith in humanity….but I’m so thankful that she has found her inner light! I hope that she continues to help others through her witnessing and sharing of such painful memories. And, even though they remind her of pain, I hope she will always remember that she has walked away from the pain and into the precious light of the universe. My best to you always Dara, you are such a brave woman and I admire you so very much. Thank you Shelley Seale for helping these women tell their stories so that we can be enlightened and encouraged to get up and help.

    Reply
  8. Paula E. Harrington

    Dara I am so very proud of you. I never gave up on you. There were times though that I thought you stuck on a path to destruction. That you have survived is a miracle. I know how much you have wanted to share you story and that it is a dream come true for you. YOU are a dream come true for me. I love you so much. Mom

    Reply
    • Paula, thank you so much for sharing. This touches me so much to hear you supporting Dara in telling her story and for believing in her, even when it must have been very hard and scary to witness and worry. I am so grateful that you never gave up on her. So many women we work with do not have what you have blessed Dara with.

      Reply
  9. Dara,you have a great testimony.Thank you for your willingness to share it with us and Lockhart.I look forward to hearing great things about you.

    Reply
  10. Dara — Sweet Survivor,
    The tears continue to flow after reading the story of your PREVIOUS life and how far you have come from that hot-as-hell barn. I,too, am a graduate of TBT, where I came to love Carol, Nathalie and Suzanne Armistead and all the positive feelings and actions they extended to an obvious loser like me. And as diligent and committed as they were to us, the REAL truth was that I would be released into a world of situatons for which I was sadly UNPREPARED. You, however, are a winner! I can feel your love and compassion emanating through your words I read today. Stay strong, Princess Warrior/Sister. Love and best wishes forever, GiGi (aka Tina Dayton, TBT Grad, Volunteer and former TBT Board member)

    Reply
  11. i was gonna respond to every comment individually but decided to do it this way….Thank YOU ALL for listening to my story with your hearts….for speaking to me from your hearts….all your affirmations about love courage strength and inspiration touch my heart…..in places that are so new to me…..places that are exciting to visit…. all these feelings and this new life is like being invited into a huge palace and opening up different doors that have sooo many intriguing things inside and you are amazed each time you open a different door…..excited about the way that room is decorated sometimes the room is dark but you know that if you just open up a curtain that light will come bursting thru then realizing that its really dusty and knowing that you pick up a rag and start getting that yuk off all that pretty stuff…….and getting all giddy inside about what you have discovered…..you just want to run thru the palace yelling “LOOK AT WHAT I FOUND” ….i have been covered in dust for so long and so much darkness has been in my life i am being dusted every time i tell my truth and every time someone listens and responds to that those curtains are being pulled back so a little sunlight can shine….so again THANK YOU ALL for caring about me and all the other women that are on this journey……

    Reply
  12. Pingback: Dara shares more of her story « Truth Be Told

  13. Pingback: Journeying Back Inside | Truth Be Told

  14. This was the just the uplift and sweet emotion I needed to read and feel. Today we start our Talk to Me Speaking and Circle classes at Lane Murray Prison. Carol and I both have full classes (many were unable to get in) and we’re training 2 new facilitators, Cis Dickson and Lori Shuman. Dara, your beautiful face in that video from 2012 – and your encouraging words in response to all who write, as well as that powerful painful true story that will always be in your past are the essence of the treasure that has been unburied, polished for presentation, and given away to those whose shame might otherwise prevent them from digging up and healing from that trauma.

    I honor the life and the light that is within you. And each of you who are daily making new choices for sanity and strengthening all of us on our journeys. I remember you, Dara, and Tamra, from the 1st day you were in TTM Speaking class in 2001. I’m not even sorry now that you returned to prison, for I see how the seeds planted then needed more time to emerge from that soil, and from Gigi’s affirmation of the HOT room you were both in – sounds like you got the full Gardener’s treatment for a Healthy BEAUTIFUL BLOOM! Gigi, your seeds are also being nourished and I hope you are looking to the light each day as it shines on you. You are loveable, and loved.

    Nathalie

    Reply
  15. Thanks for sharing your journey, it makes it that much easier for those of us that are better writers than speakers to hear you tell your journey with such grace & humility, so awesome & proud to see the fruition of your TBT tools working so beautifully in your life 💐
    But in the end its YOU that makes it all beautiful.

    Reply

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