Here is the full transcript of Ericka Alston’s TEDx Talk: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told at TEDxHampdenWomen conference. This event took place on May 29, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.
Listen to the MP3 Audio: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Ericka Alston at TEDxHampdenWomen
So I received a Facebook inbox message, because it is my primary means of communication. The message from a woman I had met in networking and I’d met before; no real relationship but connected nonetheless.
And the message said something bizarre, like “you should apply and submit to be a speaker at TEDx. Women need to hear your story”. She went on to say that you’re so inspiring; more people need to hear your story. And I thought, “my story? Me?
She didn’t know my real story and she didn’t know what drove the inspiration. See, through Facebook, I am connected to some 7000 people that I share my thoughts with. But they don’t know from where those thoughts come from — from here because some crazy lady inboxed me and asked me to come.
My story is about a woman — a woman that I met some 19 years ago, on May 26, 1996. And it’s a love story — not a love at first sight story, because I’m not some mushy, yeah not one of those chicks well. I wasn’t until I met Edward. Say hi to Edward.
But it’s a story about a woman that I met on May 26, 1996 and she weighed 86 pounds. You could count her ribs and her cheeks were sucked in and there were dark circles around her eyes. And she looked real bad; she smelled real bad, and she felt real bad. She felt real bad. She is me! But not that me, like not this me, like the me I used to be, like the me I was on May 26, 1996, like the homeless, hopeless, broken me.
See, I am an addict, addicted to crack cocaine. I was passed on the streets. Like you’ve seen me. You’ve talked about me and you roll your windows up and you put your purse out of the passenger seat on the floor when you see me.
So I want to talk to you today about dispelling the myth, that once an addict always an addict and they can do better if they want to do better. It’s easy to get off drugs. They only get high because they want to get high.
So on May 26, 1996, like I threw a suicide attempt — I no longer wanted to be her. I didn’t want to feel like that anymore, I didn’t want to look like that anymore. I didn’t want to smell like that anymore. Like on May 26, 1996, I was like finished, like living the life of getting and using and finding ways and means to get more, like and then I never found anything. Like being a crack at it your full-time drug is getting and using and finding ways and means to get more. Like I wake up and I come to in the mornings, and my only responsibility is to get one more.
And in my getting and using and finding ways and means to get more and more. I was often the last person outside when the street lights went off. And you were in your homes and your lights were coming on. And you were getting ready for work and you were waking your kids up for school. You were giving them breakfast and putting clean clothes on them. And I was outside, like, by myself pretending to be you.
Like, what would it be like to be like mommy? What would it be like to be like this professional woman with a job and a career and people to come home to? Like I’m standing outside pretending to be you. Like I just don’t want to be me anymore. Like I just want to close the gaping hole in my gut. Like I don’t want to be outside but I don’t have anywhere else to go. Like I’m homeless, hopeless, and broken. So I am – she, not me, because surely I’m not her, because if I were her like you wouldn’t invite me to your networking events. I wouldn’t be on your boards. I wouldn’t volunteer at your kids’ schools. You wouldn’t ask me to mentor your students if I told you my real story Facebook lady.
And when I wanted to close the gaping hole and I didn’t know how to stop using drugs because no one ever told me that you could stop using drugs, remember you roll your windows up and lock your doors. No one told me that I could go somewhere and learn to live a new way of life. Remember you cross the streets because I stink.
So while I’m pretending to be you and waking your kids up for school, I’m forced to remember the mommy I tried to be. Like I’ve got children, the women that you pass outside used to be mommies. I’ve been a mother since I was fifteen years old, but getting and using and finding ways and means to get more, I lost the ability to be nurturing. I’ve got to find one more, by any means necessary.
So in the beginning, I would tell my children I’m going to get you something to eat, and I’ll be right back. And in the beginning, I came right back. And the right back turned into hours and hours turned into days. So imagine one moment being the mother who tells her kids I’ll be right back and you never come back. Hmm, or you come back and your children are gone. But because you suffer from a disease that has no known cure, it’s fatal, because you’re suffering from the disease you have no ability to even knock on a neighbor’s door and say, “Have you seen my babies?” I wanted her to die.