Donna Wilson has spent many hours behind bars in the Sebastian County Jail. Some of those hours were involuntary; however she has spent much time behind bars by choice so she can speak to the women inmates, especially those suffering from alcohol or drug addiction, about the dark road she walked for a very long time.
That road eventually turned into deep, thick, muddy mire that threatened to swallow her. By sharing her story it is her desire to deter others from going down that same road.
Wilson moved at least 20 times by the time she was 13. Her dad was an officer in the Army, but he was also an alcoholic.
“I cannot remember a time that I did not see him drinking. He kept beer around the house which was very accessible. At age four I was drinking beer out of a shot glass with my dad,” she said.
She and her siblings stole beer from her dad and helped themselves on a regular basis. By age 13 she was smoking weed, a progression of smoking cigarettes which she began at the age of six. She began smoking weed when she first moved to a new school in the 8th grade. The moves had gotten harder as she had gotten older and the first people to accept her at her new school were the “potheads.”
“They made it easy to fit in,” she said. “They were fun to be with.”
Her mother had always told her to be the very best at whatever she did, so when she got involved in drugs she decided she was going to be a very good drug addict. For the next 30 years, she became proficient in every aspect of drug abuse. Wilson was able to maintain control for the first 10 years. She and her husband had friends who did drugs. She thought it was like couples getting together to play cards and drink beer except they just partied and did drugs. They lived in California during that time.
“It was just fun, we were having a great time. I was very functional. I worked and no one was the wiser.”
She discussed drug use during her pregnancies.
“I was in control,” she said, “so I just simply quit using while I was pregnant.”
With her first two pregnancies, she stopped doing drugs, however by the time she had her third daughter she was well advanced into her use. Recently divorced, she moved to Arkansas when her daughters were 17, 12 and 3. She told people this was so she could take care of her father, when in reality her father was taking care of her.
“By this time I was really messed up,” she said.
In California her friends had brought briefcases full of meth to their parties and Wilson became great friends which what she terms “Mr. Briefcase.”
“Little did I know,” she said, that she “had shaken the hand of the devil.”
She became pregnant with her fourth daughter. At this point she was taking drugs every day and did not stop.
“I was too far gone,” Wilson said.
She knew she could not take care of this child and gave her daughter up for adoption, choosing her adoptive parents. Her daughter was born without any addiction and is a beautiful well rounded young lady today. Wilson keeps in contact with her. She is proud of all of her daughters, and is relieved that her youngest daughter was born without an addiction and attributes that to the fact she was doing “clean drugs” as opposed to the dirty drugs people do around this area. She explains that people who made drugs in the California area had chemistry degrees or at least had a good knowledge of chemicals.
“Those drugs take a long time to manufacture, where here the drugs are crazy,” she said.
Wilson said prescription pills are cut in half with the insides taken out and then mixed with other prescription drugs.
“In California we called these people ‘dregs’ because they were the worst of the worst. When drug heads resort to taking the medication apart and mixing it together, well, it just doesn’t get any lower than that. This shake and bake stuff, well just how crazy it that?”
Her sister noticed how bad she was and pleaded with her to give a family member temporary custody of her daughter who was then age 6.
“After hours of arguing, denial and crying, I finally agreed to voluntarily and temporarily give up custody of my daughter, so I could go through rehab.”
Wilson was shocked at what happened next. She was in Juvenile Court for the custody hearing, doing what she was supposed to be doing when an officer came up to her and told her to follow him because she was being arrested for an outstanding warrant. She was able to convince him to let her complete the custody hearing, but afterward was arrested and put in a jail cell.
“I was so angry at God because here I was, trying to do the right thing and then what happens? I get arrested. … I cried. I wailed. I railed at God for two solid days.”
On the third day there was a “church call.” Not knowing what that meant, Wilson followed the women into a small room where she saw a nicely dressed lady with a Bible who smelled really good. Wilson began to hear words she had never heard before. Words like mercy, grace, forgiveness and salvation.
“For the first time in my life I heard about the story of Jesus’ love for me,” Wilson said. “I heard that I just needed to surrender my life and ask for forgiveness, and by so doing, I could live a whole new life. At this point I was willing to do anything because it was obvious that my way was not working.”
Wilson was saved and baptized in the Sebastian County Jail two days before her 42nd birthday. She believes God knew rehab wasn’t going to work for her so He let her stay in jail for the whole month of October. A fellow inmate taught her how to pray and how to study the Bible to find instruction on how to live her new life.
“God totally removed the desire and the obsession for the drugs. I didn’t ask him to, he just did it.”
Upon her release she was able to go to outpatient rehab, and became active in her new church, volunteering to help for any event. Within six months she asked for and was granted clearance to go back into the jail and share her story with the ladies. For the past almost 12 years Wilson has been sharing what was shared with her so those women can have the same opportunity she had to turn her life around.