Written by Sosha Lewis
We can choose many things in life, but our families aren't one of them. As a child of drug addicts, local blogger Sosha Lewis has turned a childhood filled with addiction, uncertainty and loss into a series of uplifting and inspiring stories of healing and growth. From being a child to having a child, join Lewis on her journey in this guest blog.
My parents cleared almost a million dollars in a lawsuit settlement after my fathers hand was mangled in an accident while he was working on a commercial fishing boat. Considering the relatively low cost of living in southern West Virginia, with a simple lifestyle, a smart investment or two, and my fathers inevitable disability check, our family could have lived a quiet, comfortable life.
However, Steve and Starr Testerman were anything but quiet. They were addicted not only to narcotics, but, as my father explained in a letter, to the hustle. They had no desire for a simple life.
In a 2012 letter from my father:
Freeland S. Testerman
Inmate #: 29547-3
Martinsburg Correctional Center B-4-3
Martinsburg, WV 25408
The hustle! You even get addicted to that. The whole way of getting your love, for that is what it becomes, your lover, is an addiction all to itself. Ive always been a good hustler. When it came to getting dope, I could work a doctor like you would not believe.
And, work he did. My fathers disability actually propelled him to the upper echelon of the drug dealing profession - for a while, anyway.
I can work a doctor like you wouldnt believe. I always could, but after my hand got messed up - it was on. I scored so many pills because of my hand. It is one of the reasons I didnt have it cut off. I knew I could use it to my advantage.
Although my parents had plenty of money to take care of their family and my dads hand could secure more than enough of the drugstore heroin they desperately craved, it still wasnt enough. They needed more. They got greedy.
Drug addicts do not make successful drug dealers.
It was a still-warm, sunlit fall day when my parents addiction and greed got the best of them. As the colorful leaves floated down from the trees on a postcard-like autumn Appalachian day, my mother, with my two-year old brother on her hip, was arrested by undercover federal agents outside of my grandmothers apartment - the cute two bedroom garage apartment she moved into after my parents bought their house.
We were living with her until my parents added a bedroom and bathroom in the basement.
For years, I thought my mother had sold drugs to the cops. However, my father informed me that she was actually arrested for buying drugs from an undercover informant.
Your mom didnt get caught selling pills. Starr got caught buying dope -100 Dilaudids. She paid $2,700.00 for them.
My father went on to tell me that it was me that told him that mom had been arrested. He and his brother were working on the remodeling project at the new house. I do not remember this, but I believe him. My memories from that day are very fragmented.
This is what I remember: I came home from school, I was a freshmen, and my grans apartment was in complete disarray. They had tossed the house just like they do in crime dramas. My clothes and books were strewn everywhere.
My gran told me that my mom had gotten herself into trouble and had been arrested. She assured me that everything would be fine. Just fine. However, this is not a memory that I own. It is just information that Ive pinched and grabbed through the years.
Furthermore, even now, more than 20 years later, my jigsawed memories have never pieced together where my younger brother and sister were at this time, and Ive always been too much of a coward to ask. I have a faint memory of my sister crying on my grans large unmade bed, but my sister cried frequently and my grans bed is hardly ever made. Therefore, Im not sure if this is an accurate recollection from that day or just a piecemeal memory of my sister and her daily toddler drama.
Had this day been a scene in a movie it would have been one with nausea-inducing swirling camera shots and pulsating music. The only vivid picture I have of that day is grabbing a black trash bag from the kitchen and throwing some clothes and books into as I mumbled, Why did they touch my stuff?
I threw the bag over and my shoulder and headed straight to my great-grandmothers house - or at least I thought I headed straight there. Apparently, I made a pit-stop at the newly acquired Testerman house, the one we had yet to move into, to let my dad know that his wife had been taken to jail.
My gran had called ahead to let my great-grandmother know that I was coming. It wouldnt have mattered. I was always welcome there. Her house was my safe haven. I willed myself not to cry during the two mile walk. When I arrived, sweaty and exhausted, I climbed into my great-grandmothers, a woman who had lived through the Great Depression, bore 13 children and buried three of them, bed. The beloved matriarch of our family, kissed my check and patted my hands. Then we both opened books and read in silence until I feel asleep. She just knew.
Later that night I slipped out of her bed, crept to the living room and turned on the eleven oclock news. I curled into a ball, pulled my t-shirt over my knees and sobbed as I waited for my moms picture to be flashed across the screen. It never was. However, it was in the newspaper the next day.
I was told that I didnt have to go to school the next day. I did. People whispered, students and teachers. I did not acknowledge the hushed voices. I laughed too much, talked too much, tried too much. I was just fine. Just fine.
Almost immediately the federal government froze all of my parents' assets. The only thing that they were allowed to keep was the house. This was only because we had not moved in. Therefore, it could not be proven that drug activity had taken place there. It had.
My mother became an informant, a snitch. She received a 10 month sentence at Alderson Federal Prison (the same prison that eventually housed Martha Stewart). I visited once. It looked like a college campus.
My father received a much harsher sentence. His reputation preceded him.
My 60 year old grandmother adopted my sister, brother and me (my grandfather had passed away a few months before my mothers arrest). My brother and sister became Yokosuks. I had always been one - technically. However, we all continued using Testerman in school.
The four of us moved 116 Powhatan Ave. The little white house with the wall-less rooms in the basement. My father and his brother had just finished the framing for the additional bedroom and bathroom when my mothers arrest, which lead to my fathers arrest, occurred. This house was almost as wonderful as it was horrible. It was great because my gran didn't have to pay rent or a mortgage. However, gran had lived in apartments her entire adult life; she knew nothing about maintaining a home without the aid of a landlord.
Even without the mortgage, we were poor: welfare-peanut-butter-hidden-in-the-back-of the-cabinet-poor, not-knowing-if-the-lights-were-still-going-to-come-on-when-you-flipped-the-switch-poor, using-dollar-store-dish-detergent-for-shampoo-poor.
Eventually we had to go on welfare to make ends meet. My mom had been on welfare most of my life, but it was a blow to gran's pride. However, she did what she had to do. I was absolutely mortified of being seen paying with food stamps. This seemed to embarrass me more than my parents being in prison.
My gran got a job at Payless Shoes. She worked - a lot. She often pulled 12 hour shifts. Therefore, I helped out with my brother and sister - a lot. I wish that I could say that I rose to the challenge, that I loved them and protected them and that it was just like Party of Five. It was not. I resented it. I was bitter and shallow. I wallowed in the teenage unfairness of it all.
I was a 15 year old virgin mother of two.
Sosha Lewis is a former buttoned-down corporate executive turned running shorts and t-shirts wearing stay-at-home mom. She and her husband, Tony, whom she has known since Kindergarten, are the happy, albeit tired, parents to a talkative, energetic, extroverted four year old, Conley. Between playing the "bad guy" to Conley's Batman and answering approximately 4,756 questions a day, Lewis maintains a blog, Its Not Sasha, and volunteers for Promising Pages. Her writing has been featured in Charlotte Magazine and the anthology Robocup Compendium 2013.Its Not Sasha is a blog about overcoming. Sosha has turned a childhood filled with addiction, uncertainty and loss into a series of uplifting and inspiring stories of healing and growth. By shining light on the darkness that comes from addiction, Sosha throws out the shame and offers up hope. Sometimes funny, other times gritty the stories on It's Not Sasha are filled with honesty, forgiveness, and most of all, love.