As the two adults andfour children lingeredin the kitchen, no one saw James enter the bedroom he shared with Tangie andtake a machete from thechester drawer. Tiptoeing into the kitchen, the people in the room were unaware that within seconds, seven lives wouldforever be changed.
Tia turned and sawthe machete in James’ hand. Andas she opened her mouth to warnher loverof7 years, the wordsfroze in herthroat. Jalen turned, and the axembedded itselfin his forehead, severing his left eye. As he sank to the floor, athickpool ofblood oozed slowly from his wounds, unleashingacarnageofterror.(Excerpt from Tia: Portrait ofaBroken Butterfly). by Peggy S. Butler
WARNING: The following story is true. The subject wanted her story told in thehope ofdiscouragingall those addicted to drugs or contemplating on using them. This narrativecontains adult language and references to sex and violencethat may offend some readers.THEREFORE, READERS DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
Claxonville, USA---- It’s a balmy Friday night. The first ofthe month when government checks arrive and injectnew life into the city’sfledgling economy.Surprisingly, there is little money to be made tonight on Wexler Avenue and Sycamore Drive.Butdespite the lack of action, scantily clad prostitutes roam the strip in search ofclients. Among the desperadoes seeking consolation in the arms ofstrangers this night, is a 34-year-old hooker and addict affectionatelyknown as“Dirty Tia.”
Tia Montgomery never proved herselfto be an overly confident person. But there was nothing in her prosaic make-up to ever suggest the drug and alcoholicnightmare she would create ofherlifeinthespringof2012.Up until that time Tiawas the proud mom offour kids, gainfully employed and very content, then disaster struck.
Jalen her boyfriend of seven years was becoming more abusive.At night, neighbors were awakened to the screams ofdomestic disputes.Moreover, Jalen wasn’t working and relied on Tia to support his drug habit. The $700 monthly paycheck from her job as a dishwasher at a local restaurant barely covered the expenses. However, Tia made sacrifices to sustain Jalen’s cocaine addiction. Then the bills started piling up. Not surprisingly, the landlord made daily trips to the apartment in search of rent, wherehewas met at the door by Jalen screaming, “Get out my face you old bastard, we’ll pay you next week.”But next week never came, and three weeks later the couple wasevicted.
Broke and embarrassed; Tia, Jalen and the four kids moved in with her mom. Unfortunately this proved to be a huge mistake, sincethe two women were at odds with each other. Tangie Montgomery was a habitual drunk, who had been at the core of her daughter’s problems for years. Her ex-husband, Tia's father, was also an alcoholic as was Tangie’s currentlive in loverJames.
Like her daughter, Tangie had a habit of choosing men with chronic substance dependency.This explained why Tia found James cold and abusive.She was also aware that he had smacked her mom a few times, now she feared James would take out his anger on her children.“He was always threatening them,” Tia recalls. “Alwayscursing. Always accusing them ofsomething. So I suspected he wanted to abuse them like he did mymom.”
Tia’s suspicions were confirmed when her oldest son, Isaac, told her James threatened to “beat him.”Determinedtoavoidaconfrontation, the nervous woman made plans to leave her mother’s house immediately. Filled with rage, she reached into the closet and began throwing clothes into a suitcase.Ten minutes after packing, Tia looked down at the floor and began crying. Then reality sank in as sherealizedthat she had no money and no where to go. Within the blink of an eye, she watched her dreams vanished. It was at this point that Tia began relying on alcohol to cope with life’s daily rigors.
Tia's day began at 7 a.m., with a cup ofMD 20/20 (a.k.a. Mad Dog, a cheap wine designed to give the taster a quick buzz).By noon she had drained the last sip of wine from the bottle. Later, she guzzled down a volatilecombination ofgin and vodka.
Tia’s drunken sprees lasted for days. During this period of heavy alcohol consumption, she began neglecting her children and the Department ofHealth and Human Services was called in. Officials at HHS warned Tia thatif she didn’t stop drinking her kids would be taken away. Tia’s children were her greatest treasures, and the thought of losing them forced her to seek help. Torn between getting help or losing her kids, Tia made a call to the TimberidgeHealthCenter.
Located on 20plush acres, Timberidge specializes in substance abuse, alcohol dependency, general psychiatry and adolescent behavioral problems.Six days later on the advice of a counselor, Tia was admitted to the center.
With the help ofexperts Tia began the long road to recovery. However, the transformation would not be easy. During her first week at the center, Tia berated herself for being weak. And to the staff’s dismay, shedemolished two chairs. After her tirade, Tia looked around the room, saw the mess she had createdand began crying. A mental health techpassing by her doorheard Tia’scries andrushed into the room.
Peering at the broken furniture, the man walked over to where Tia sat and gently touched her shoulder.“It’s okay Ms. Montgomery,” he assuredher. “Everything is going to be okay.”And he was right. Tia remained at Timberidge for 30 days.And when she was released her craving for alcohol was gone. Tia’s recovery was so impressive; it prompted Tangie to stop drinking. Everything was coming up roses. Not only was Tia getting her life together, so was her mom.
Over the next two months Tia was happier than she had been in years. And although Jalen still used cocaine, he was no longer abusive. But the good news is that she had received a job offer as an administrative assistantwith a great salary and plenty of incentives. Everything was going great. Then three weeks before Labor Day Tia's world came crashing down.
The Nervous Breakdown
On the morning ofAugust10, 2012, Tia awaken with the sun shining in her face. Staring out the window, she realized this was the day she began her new job.Trotting out ofthe bedroom and into the shower, Tia was unaware that James and Jalen were in the house. The two men had argued the previous night over money Tia’s aunt had given her for her32nd birthday.Stretching her arms above her head, she listened as each man threatened to kill the other. “You and Tia owe us money for rent, “ said James, his voice rising in anger. “Well, Tia’s aunt gave her that money and you’re not getting one goddamn cent,” screamed Jalen. After more cursing, Tia heard the door slam and resumed her shower.
With the water lapping hungrily at her body, Tia didn’t give the argument a second thought. She had heard it all before, and dismissed the quarrelas the ranting oftwo weaklings, unable to cope with reality. Emerging from the bathroom wrapped only in a towel, Tia didn’t notice James standing in front of her. Screaming, he began making threats and moved toward the visibly frightened woman. “I’m going to kill you bitch,” he snarled. Jalen who had been sitting outside heard the commotion and rushed in. The sound also roused the kids, who came running into thekitchen and staring at the three adults.
James told the couple thathe was going to the store, and when he returned he wanted them gone. Tia panicked. However, Jalen, in a voice that was surprisingly calm, told James they would comply with his wishes. Having made his point, James, who had been on a three-day binge, quickly left the room.
As the two adults and four children lingered in the kitchen, no one saw James enter the bedroom he shared with Tangie and take a machete from the chester drawer. Tiptoeing into the kitchen, the people in the room were unaware that within seconds, seven lives would forever be changed. Tia turned and saw the machete in James’ hand.And as she opened her mouth to warn Jalen, the words froze in her throat. Jalen turned, and the axembedded itself in his forehead, severing his left eye. As he sank to the floor, a thick pool of blood oozed slowly from hiswounds, unleashingacarnageofterror.
Tangie, upon hearing the commotion came rushing in. Screaming, she knelt down and examined Jalen who was moaning loudly. Reaching for the phone she dialed 911. As the bloodcontinued to flow, Tangierealizedthat Jalen’s wounds were life threatening.Searching for a pulse, she was relieved to find one. Then, as she was removing her hand fromJalen’s wrist, from the corner ofher eyes, Tangie spotteda naked Tia staring atthe walls. To add even more chaos to the horrific scene, the kids were screaming, “Get up Mama.” Upon further examination Tangie realized that Tiawas in shock.
Having to deal with a comatose daughter and a severely wounded man, may have proven too stressful for the average person, but Tangie managed to sustain her composure. She wrapped Tia in a blanket, calmed the kids down and waited for the ambulance to arrive.Fifteen minutes later Jalen was placed in an ambulance.
As for the man who committed the crime. In custody James bragged: “I told that son of a bitch I was going to kill him. And I always keep my promise.”And what about Tia? Three days later sheawakened in aroom that bore a striking resemblance to the one at Timberidge. After a few minutes Tiarealized she was back at the center. But how did she get there? Then the events ofthe previous days came pouring back, as she lapsedinto unconsciousness.
During her stay at the center, Tia was diagnosed as manic-depressive and lithium was prescribed. Overthe next three weeksand with the help of a counselor, Tia regained her strength and grappled with herproblems. Finally, the day came when she was released from Timberidge.Wearing the look of a woman determined toget her life back on track, Tia said good bye to the staff and eagerly awaited the arrival of her mother and kids. It had been nearly a month since Tia had seen her children and she was anxious to reunite with them.
As Tia closed the lid on her suitcase, she looked up in the doorway and saw her mother. Moving toward the woman whom she both loved and hated,Tia couldn’t help butnoticethe strange look onher face.And although she tried hard to hide it, Tangie was clearly distraught. With rapidverbosityTia began interrogating her mother. Through a series of questions she learned that her children were now in the possession ofthe HHS.
Visibly stunned, Tia learnedthatfollowing her breakdown, Stella Daniels, her aunt, had been awarded temporary custody ofMichael,Tammy, Jason and David. Two weeks later Stella,unable, to handle four children with behavioral problemsreturned the children. HHS officials reluctant to turn over guardianship to Tangie, based on herhistory with alcohol, decided that the children were better off in a foster home. Consumed with grief, Tia was convinced thather children werelost forever. She was certain they would never be a family again. But as bad as she felt, Tia was determined to get her kids back.However, as she walked out the door, the frightened woman felt a twinge ofhopelessness that had been noticeably absent i during her priorstay at Timberidge.
After six weeksitbecameclear to Tia that getting her kids back, was a task she did not have the stamina or emotional continuance to undertake. Andgradually her optimism turned to doom. Then just as quickly as she let go ofher kids, Tia’s thoughts turned to Jalen. Luckily, hesurvived the accident, and was released from the hospital after weeksofintensivetherapy.
After his release he phoned Tia and the two agreed to meet, and determine if they had a future. On the day oftheir long awaited meeting, Tia told Jalen she was happy thathe was “okay”, but admitted she didn’t think they had a future. Moments later the former lovers said goodbye for the last time. Tia gave Jalen apassionatekiss and headed home. Depressed, having lost her children andtotally dependant on her mom, Tia began herodyssey into thedangerousworldofdrugs.
Welcome to Crack
Tia was introduced to crack by her best friend, Lasheika, a drama queen with a penchant for every addiction under the sun. For months Tia drank herself into a stupor. However alcohol gradually lost its effectiveness and she grew more depressed. Then one day there was a knock at the door. It was Lashieka. She told Tia that she had something that would give her a feeling of exhilaration and make her forget all her problems---crack.
At first Tia was reluctant to try it. She watched as Lasheika took a small vial of the substance resembling cracked off pieces of soap and put it into a pipe and ingested it. Fifteen minutes later Tia looked on, as Lasheika sank back into a chair with a look of sheer pleasure across her face. Observing her childhood friend, Tia had reached the point where she didn’t care about anything. Her children were gone, she had no job, no one wanted her, and she felt lost and alone. Growing more curious with each second, Tia peered at the rock like substance in Lasheika’s hand and reached for it.
After a few whiffs, feelings of ecstasy consumed every fiber of her body, creating a sensation she had never felt before. Hoping to continue the euphoria, Tia took four more hits and stumbled into her bedroom where she slept for hours. With a bitter taste in her mouth, Tia awaken to the sound of a drum pounding in her head. Opening her eyes, the events of the previous night hit her like a ton of bricks. “Dam,” she mumbled, her teeth bared in a smile. “Where in the hell is Lasheika when you need her?”
Reaching for the phone, Tia was interrupted by a knock at the door. Looking at the clock she noted the time, 10:15 a.m. “Now who the hell is this?” she said slurring her words. Tia opened the door and there stood Lasheika in all her addicted glory. Dirty clothes, matted hair and a body odor that indicated she hadn’t showered in days. “Girl I should kick your ass. Where the hell have you been?” Tia asked, her voice filled with irritation. Judging from Tia’s cranky disposition, Lasheika knew that her friend was anxious for another hit. “Honey, calm down. I got just what you need,” said Lasheika, removing a small bag from her purse.
Grinning like children, the two women spent the next two hours smoking crack. At Lasheika’s suggestion, Tia decided to let herself go and let the crack do its job. “Hey girl don’t get hooked on that shit,” mumbled Lasheika. “Don’t worry about that,” Tia said firmly. “I’ve got everything under control.” But she was wrong. Tia didn’t have anything under control, not even herself.
In the beginning Tia wasn’t concerned about maintaining her habit; it was free and readily available. But after four months her once a week habit escalated into a daily ritual. In between jobs, but thanks to Lasheika’s generosity, she maintained her $40 a day drug habit. However, all that changed when her partner in crime was arrested. Not surprisingly Tia began craving more crack. But was unable to purchase it because of financial discrepancies.
One day while rummaging through her wallet, Tia found a quarter and two dimes. Feeling like a trapped aninal, Tia’s urge for crack was so strong, she knew what she had to do next- sell her body.
Although she regularly used drugs, Tia still managed to find work occasionally. Finally, the day came when she could no longer maintain any type of employment, no matter how minimal. Ingesting large quantities of crack left her exhausted, and she started calling in sick. Not surprisingly,Tia’s employer grew tired of her antics and fired her. Penniless and unable to purchase crack, she turned to prostitution. In this exclusive interview she described her life as a hooker.
For two years Tia said she used her body to bring pleasure to hundreds of men. “I’m what you call a crack whore. I usually had five clients a night. The most I’ve ever gotten from a john was $100, the least was $5. My typical customer was White, 30-35, married, with an annual income of $35,000. There are distinguishable differences between White men and Black men. White tricks pay better, and they don’t take all night to do their thing. Whereas, Black men pull out five dollars and think that gives them the right to screw you into submission.”
She further noted “Most guys want two things, oral sex and straight intercourse. I’m not into that freaky shit. But if I have to, I’ll do whatever they want. Because when you’re a crack whore you don’t care what you do, as long as you get paid. I've had sex with some disgusting men, real pigs," she said turning up her nose. " The worst clients are guys with personal hygiene problems. They have bad breath and bad body odor. When they unzip their pants, the stench is so nauseating, it makes you want to throw up. So many people have asked me how can I let these guys touch me. And I tell them that prostitution is a form of suicide. Most of the time I was so high, I didn’t care if my own grandfather had sex with me. You lose all sense of pride and decency.”
Tia did stress that all her clients used condoms. “I usually kept my own supply on hand. It’s strange isn’t it? I’ll screw anybody, but I won’t allow them to infect me with syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases,” she declares stoically.
In talking with Tia, she noted that on May 15, 2013, her frequent death wish nearly became a reality. In search of crack, Tia went to a part of town notorious for selling drugs. On her way to the seller’s home, she noticed a group of men standing nearby. One of the men said, “What’s up?" Tia responded, “nothing.” At that point the man said, ”What did you say bitch?”
Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a gun. Terrified and shaking uncontrollably, Tia saw death staring her in the face. For years she had committed emotional suicide by indulging in crack, alcohol and prostitution. Now Tia was faced with the real deal, and her survival instincts sprang into action . Falling to her knees, Tia began praying.
Unperturbed by the actions of the woman kneeling before him, the man raised his gun and smashed Tia on the back of the head, making a swishing sound. The pain, stinging and agonizingly pulsating caused Tia to black out.
When she awakened in the hospital, she learned that the wound to her head required 56 stitches to close. As Tia lay in the hospital, she realized that she had grown tired of the roller coaster ride and wanted to get off. She was tired of destroying herself. Tumbling out of bed, she stumbled into the bathroom.
Turning on the light Tia caught a glimpse of her reflection, which saddened and repulsed her. Her hair, flecked with tinges of gray, framed a face that belied her 33 years. Peering closer into the mirror, Tia noticed the wrinkles on her forehead and at the corners of her mouth.
Examining her face for more signs of aging, a single tear trickled down her cheek. She was young, yet so old. “Oh god you’re so ugly,” Tia screamed at the pathetic image in the mirror. ”How could I do this to myself?” At that moment Tia took inventory of her life, the images flashing in and out like a piston. She saw the father whose love she desperately sought to win, berating her for not being the daughter he so wistfully craved. She recalled the mother who was so wrapped up in her own problems, she didn’t realize her daughter had become a replica of her inner demons.
Tia’s heart ached as she dwelled on her children who thought their mother had abandoned them. In reminiscing, she reflected on the beatings she received at the hands of her pimp with a hickory stick that left her bloody and near death. Realizing that the only place to go was up, Tia faced her past with courage and made plans for a triumphant future.
And as I glanced at this woman for whom I felt tons of compassion, I asked her one final question. “Tia how do you intend on turning your life around?” In typical Tia Montgomery fashion she replied: “By being positive and reminding myself that I’m somebody too.” She continued: "I may be a whore, crack addict, bad mother, good-for-nothing daughter and ugly as home made sin drenched in vomit, but I'm still worth fighting for. And nobody is going to take that away from me. You see I’m a butterfly. A broken one, but a butterfly nevertheless.” Then, in a moment of eerie silence we looked at each other, and for a brief second, saw a flicker of innocence and basked in its splendor and uncertainty.
As of July 7, 2016, Tia was employed as a nursing assistant at a convalescent home. On another happy note, Tia said that she hasn’t used drugs or alcohol in two years and maintains she is also celibate. Welcome back Tia! Cachero Montgomery.