For me, this week’s episode of OWN’s Breaking Down the Bars began with an “OH Tiffany!”. Before I could even settle in, Tiffany was being hauled off into maximum security lock down for allegedly refusing to go to work on her day off. Not even 2 minutes into the show. Scheduled to be released in about 3 days…what was she thinking? So close…it should be all “yes, thank you’s” at this point. Her case worker wondered if the thought of transitioning to the outside was freaking her out a bit. If she acts up, she may not be allowed to leave. Talking through the locked door, Tiffany expressed her fears about dealing with her mother’s illness and whether her release would really happen. On Monday, Tiffany was released. After 5 ½ years she knew the world had changed. She arrived home and was greeted by her mother. With family all around her, Tiffany felt wonderful to be home.
As the days passed, Tiffany didn’t make time for her mother or family. Her mother spent years waiting to spend time with her daughter and she was no where to be found. Not there to help her mother or even greet her kids as they came home from school…her mother felt completely unappreciated. Tiffany finally came home claiming she was at her brother’s house and wanted to give her mother time to rest. Not quite sure how that would work if she left her kids for her mother to take care of. Staying home and waiting on your mom…taking care of your kids…doing the laundry or the dishes…making your mom something to eat…that would be showing your mom you cared. Not taking off. BUT great news…Dr. Covington had scheduled a session with Tiffany and her mother the following day. During the session, Tiffany’s mom shared that she unappreciated, disrespected and rejected….not uncommon for people in her position. Tiffany took the opportunity to thank her mom for being there for her and her children when she was sent to jail. Dr. Covington aware of the difficulties suggested that they sort of co-parent until a transition could be made where Tiffany becomes the go-to-mom again. Both appeared to agree. Although she knew she had a lot more growing up to do, Tiffany wanted to be there for her children.
Then the show popped to Amanda on the street. She was released 3 weeks ago into the work release facility known as Theodora House. When did all of this happen? I had no clue this was coming. All dressed up and looking for a job daily, Amanda stayed determined to turn her life around. Dr. Covington arranged a special session for Amanda, her mother and her aunt in order to get a good idea about her support group. Amanda knew that counseling was a positive step and was hopeful it would help her relationship with her mother. As Amanda entered the room all dressed up and excited about seeing her family, Dr. Covington broke some bad news…her family wasn’t coming. Dr. C had only found out a few minutes before Amanda came in. With a nod of disappointment, Amanda merely replied “I’m use to it. It’s nothing new”. When Dr. C questioned her more about how it made her feel, she said “I’m so use to it that it’s just really hard to hurt me anymore”. Dr. C felt concerned that Amanda could end up back in prison without a support group….it appeared to me that Amanda was tired of letting people in that could hurt her. Amanda knew was on her OWN. In her weeks of looking, Amanda wasn’t able to find a job BUT she did meet her new boyfriend, Demond. Disappointing as it was, her only support was someone she just met…and she was grateful. However, the hits just kept on coming for Amanda. Apparently her interaction with him was unauthorized. Amanda plead guilty and learned that if she got more…she may be sent back. Her case worker helped Amanda to see that it was OK to be alone. She went on to note that “usually drugs or men” are the reasons women end up back in prison. Amanda tried to focus on something else. She volunteered to speak to some students in hopes of sharing her story and discouraging them from following in her path. I wasn’t sure how it would go…but she did a GREAT job! Topped off with a happy birthday song from the kids…Amanda felt good about herself and her future.
Now one person who wasn’t leaving yet was Lisa…at least not for 7 months. If you recall she was the woman who was sentenced for killing her allegedly abusive husband. As she gets closer to release she realizes that the outside world and her family may not be accepting. She felt making amends to her husband’s family was important. She decided to write a letter to her husband’s step-mother, Gail, to try to deal with some of the guilt before she was released. Upon
receiving the letter, Gail was uncertain if she was ready to speak to Lisa. Gail struggled with questions about the story Lisa had told. She couldn’t understand why Lisa wouldn’t have just left the marriage…without anyone having to die. Gail agreed to meet with Lisa. Dr. Covington arranged for Melody Stiles, a forensic social worker who specializes in victim/offender mediation, to be there to help them in the meeting. So what was the intent for each person? Gail wanted to ask why not just divorce. Lisa wanted to open the lines of communication after 9 ½ years…but I also think it had to do with her wanting to tell her story to his family. However, both were looking for peace.
Lisa began by telling Gail she meant a lot to her still and that she was sorry for taking her son from her. Gail followed up by asking Lisa “Why did you not just leave Jeff?”. Unsure if Lisa can be honest, Gail was hesitant to believe anything. The conversation began to flow until Lisa mentioned a time she had gone to work with a bruise on her face. Gail’s brow rose and said “and you are insinuating Jeff hit you? That I find hard to believe…I don’t believe it”. Gail questioned how she could have gone on about her life as Jeff was dead in their home…as if nothing had happened. Lisa had no answer. Despite her hopes, Gail left the visit feeling as if Lisa wasn’t remorseful for taking Jeff’s life, wasn’t honest and wasn’t facing what she did. Melody noted that the world would have lots of questions for Lisa and before she gets out, she needed to answer those for herself. An important step for healing and recovery.
Following her meeting, Dr. Covington spoke candidly with Lisa about her visit. Hiding behind a mask, Lisa fails to communicate non-verbally and shows no regret. Dr. C admitted her concerns and mentioned that Lisa has always been a mystery to her.
I was surprised at how much I ended up enjoying this show. I will honestly miss the Rockville drama. I am sure Oprah will bring us a new group soon (crossing fingers). At the end of the episode, the show did updated us on all the women from the series:
- Abbie – was accepted into the C.L.I.F.F. drug rehabilitation program and is scheduled to be released in 7 years.
- Larretha – took and passed her GED but lost the time cut because of bad behavior; she was recently released and lives with her grandmother.
- Nicole – working at a pizza parlor and is set to finish work release in 2 years.
- Hannah – she graduated from the C.L.I.F.F. program and was released; she is still with Joe but moved in with her parents when released.
- Michelle – her mom and her are now speaking regularly and is scheduled to be released in 6 years.
- Lisa – she is scheduled to be released in a few months and will be living with her sister while Gail still continues to block her release.
- Tiffany – she moved into an apartment with her 2 children; her and her mother are not speaking at this time.
And life goes on….let’s pray that these women are able to create new, emotionally and physically healthy lives for themselves as well as their families. Thank you OWN for the brief look you gave us into their lives.