Tracy's smile can light up a room. Her compassion and perseverance are innate qualities that were never squelched despite the hardships she endured while growing up in public housing in Nashville with her parents and two younger brothers. Her first experience of a relationship was watching her Dad abuse her Mom and cheat on her with other women. “I thought that’s what love was,” Tracey says.
Eventually, Tracey’s Dad left the family and Tracey began acting out by drinking, smoking marijuana and being promiscuous. When her youngest brother was killed in a drive-by shooting at age 13, Tracey’s grief-stricken mother started using drugs as well. Their now-shared habit only pushed Tracey and her mother further apart.
At 17, Tracey dropped out of high school and in a short time she had three children. Her drug use escalated when her curiosity and feelings of abandonment led her to crack cocaine. “I remember seeing a woman I knew always laughing and seemingly happy and I wanted to feel the same way. She told me, ‘I’ll put it down and if you pick it up, you’re on your own. I don’t want anyone to say I got you started.’ That was my first experience of smoking the pipe and it took me on a loop where I could have never imagined it would take me.”
To afford her habit, Tracey got into a cycle of prostitution and selling drugs for nearly 16 years. Becca Stevens, the founder of Magdalene, talks about Tracey in her book, Hither & Yon:
“One evening, in a haze outside of a crack house, a horrible scene unfolded. In a midst of a fight, a man was shot and she was charged. After living in the Magdalene community for almost a year, the woman was charged with second degree murder. At her sentencing, she was surrounded by a community of women who had lived with her and helped her fight her case. The judge ruled that she would serve no time. He sentenced her to eight years of probation and allowed her to live another year in Magdalene, in a home that is striving to show that love is the most powerful force for change in this world.”
Tracey has been clean since October 2004, is a graduate of the Magdalene program and is the Manufacturing Manager at Thistle Farms. In addition, she is the Supervisor for Housekeeping at TPAC, lives in her own apartment and is a grandmother of three.
She says, “I love my life today. I try not to beat up on myself. I’m doing the best I can in whatever I’m doing. I’m grateful to have gone through what I had to in order to get where I am today.” She is a gift to all people that need to remember that we can all find our way home.
Photos 1 & 2 by Carolyn Snell
Photo 3 by Kate Medley with Whole Foods