Breaking Down the Bars

Breaking Down the Bars : Rockville – “If I Had A Daughter In Here” w/ Dr. Stephanie Covington – March 22, 2011 Episode 6

This week’s episode of OWN’s Breaking Down the Bars pulled down the bars of shame for several inmates.   Hope can be the catalyst for change and hopefully some of the girls got a little bit of  it this week.   The show started off with Hannah as her parents, Shawn and Sarah, arrived at the jail this week for some family counseling. Hopeful about answering their questions, Hannah realized she has no control over their reactions. As the session began, you could tell how tense they all were. How far was the session going to go? Mom wanted to know what made her turn towards drugs. As all mothers do, Sarah felt she had let her child down. As her mom went on about how “on track” Hannah was before she started drugs, she appeared swallowed in the misconception. It is difficult to speak up and shatter the illusion you feel that your parents hold. Dr. Covington asked Hannah if she would be able to express why to her parents. As she went to speak, both of her parents interjected. After the mom and dad talked a bit….Dr. Covington told her parents that all they had t do was ask her. They started to and then they began answering all the questions for her. Hannah had no voice.

The parents went on to talk about how Hannah had gone to many counselors…but she wasn’t able to open up to her mother and father and they knew that she wouldn’t be able to open up to strangers. It was interesting. When Dr. C refocused the family on the original question they had asked Hannah, neither parent could tell you what the question was. Hannah had no voice because they speak for her. I don’t think it is done on purpose, but that habit can occur when you are trying to protect yourself or the person you are speaking for….trying to make it all OK. Hannah finally told her mom and dad that she lied to them so they wouldn’t look down on her. She lied to shield the truth.

Seeing an opening to the truth, Sarah delicately asked her daughter…why Joe? An honest answer came. Recognizing that she had low self-esteem when she met him, he made her feel special…pretty, smart, important. Dr. C called Hannah’s mom out on her feelings for Joe. Sarah said he was part of their lives like it was a done deal, but by the tone of her voice it was clear there was resentment there. I think her mom is so afraid that if she doesn’t support Hannah and Joe as a couple, then she will lose her daughter. She doesn’t want to push her daughter away. Her mom’s worst fear is “that she will go back to using”. No wonder she had concerns about Joe still being in Hannah’s life.  However, Hannah did find comfort in being open up with her parents. Pulling down the bricks in her self-help project, only three remained- her crime, lying and Joe. Still huge issues. I hope she is able to get past the shame of her crime and find a way to no longer feel as if she needs to lie….but most importantly, I hope she gets rid of Joe! I think that is huge source of her need to lie.

Then there was Larretha…as she shot some hoops, she reminded us of how important basketball has been in her life. Not only as a sport, but as an escape from reality. Her former high school coach, Charlie Brown shared his disappointment. Not only had she let herself down…but she let him and her community down. I understand when people talk about things being wasted on the youth…young, with little experience or guidance, it is easy to be frivolous with opportunities. In Dr. Covington’s one-on-one with Larretha, she asked her to show her some of the rules for basketball. Knowing that Larretha respected the rules of basketball, Dr. Covington headed to the court to prove a point. If you can follow the rules there….why not in life? Something seemed to lick for Larretha. Dr. C created great comparisons between life and basketball….showing her that her team consists of life supporters. For Larretha that would be her mother, grandmother, Coach Brown (her former basketball coach), and God.

Larretha shared her regrets of having a father figure in her life. Apparently he was never there. It turned out that he was in a psychiatric hospital…he was not OK. In all the time Larretha had been in prison, she never had a visitor. She didn’t want anyone to visit because she didn’t want anyone to see her there. After talking to Dr. C, Larretha filled out a request for her coach to come see her. That was a HUGE step. She was willing to be seen for who she was…even at her lowest.

Coach Brown entered the building and Larretha was all smiles. Unable to have contact visits due to her mistakes, Larretha spent her first visit behind the glass. Coach told her to not let that happen again. Like a good coach, he didn’t minimize her incarceration but her also gave her hope. With his hand against the glass, I could see that Larretha found a little bit of her old self…someone she could be proud of. She regretted not having the visit earlier. There is something about a coach…they always know how to make you feel good about your future. It’s like they always see the best in you. (Shout out to all those coaches, including mine- thanks for all you do). With a fist-bump through the glass, it was as if he infused her with a new purpose. It didn’t hurt that he mentioned playing basketball again. She claimed to be ready to work for it! Good news…someone else was was eager for her to get playing again. After reaching out, Coach Meeks gave her a call… “we know you can play basketball” but we “don’t want for you to be a lost soul”. Noting that he was more interested in her as a person than as a basketball player, he wanted her to feel important as a person. However, he did give her hope about attending Vincennes University- the college she was originally given a scholarship at. He gave her hope, telling her call once she is released. What a lucky girl! Now please don’t sabotage yourself.

Speaking of sabotage…with guitar in hand, Annie and Amanda picked back up and tried to fine-tune their OWN song. Amanda seemed to be struggling a bit but I think that has more to do with feeling a bit nervous and self-conscious singing on camera. I have always felt that when someone sings, you can see into their soul. That can be scary for someone to be so open. Both gals are trying to complete the song and make the cut to sing at graduation.   Annie, knowing that they didn’t have it together, decided that she was going to work on her OWN.  Amanda faced a time crunch now…and refused to give up on herself. She was going to write her own song, abandoning the original. As the audition began, Amanda found herself facing off against 6 other women…one of which was Annie. Amanda’s need was not all about winning; she deeply needed to be able to express herself to her mother. Song was the only way she felt she could. Standing in front of the selection committee full of her peers, Amanda belted out her OWN song “Better Days”. A song inspired by her constant hope for a better day…regardless of who has let her down. Although she wouldn’t make the cut for American Idol, her heart was in it. In the end, Amanda wasn’t selected and Annie was. OUCH! More reasons for Amanda to feel like she needs to put walls up. I only wish they would have been more honest with each other. With that behind her, Amanda just wanted to focus on graduation.  Certificate in hand, Amanda found the time to talk with her mother. As her mom acknowledged her past mistakes, Amanda reminded her to focus on the now. Then she sang her original song…the one about changing and everything stays the same. This song was the opening for Amanda to bring up coming home and her concerns about her mother’s addiction. Both clean and ready to do better…Amanda has so much more to look forward to.

A great episode about truth and communication. Both are so important in any recovery process….especially for these ladies.

Now the preview…..WHAT? Tiffany gets to go home next episode? I can’t wait until next week.

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