As drugs controlled her mind and body, she’d stay awake for days, roaming the streets through the day and night in search of the next fix. She was crack cocaine fiend.
“Suffering to Break-Through,” a book written by Ellis County local, Brenda Crenshaw, narrates her struggles with addiction, feeding her family and the death of her oldest daughter. After putting pencil to paper for a year, her story can now be told.
The novel is a quick read and gets straight to the point, telling of Crenshaw’s supportive childhood and how it flipped upside down to the “demon” of crack-cocaine.
Crenshaw grew up in a loving family with nine other siblings along with their parents in Rankin, Texas, roughly 12 miles southwest of Ennis.
Her parents were described as adequate providers. Her father would give the necessities while her mother was more of a spiritual leader in the household.
“The family was big but we didn’t have a lot like other children, but the one thing we had — and I had to find this out later on — we had love in the house,” Crenshaw added. “You could go to the refrigerator and there was nothing in there, but when we sat at the table, she’d [mom] spread it with food.”
Hard work was a group effort in the home, Crenshaw and her siblings would work in the neighbor’s field after school picking crops. On their own farm, they had all kinds of livestock the whole family would tend.
“We had the chickens, pigs, the garden, oh it was wonderful. I thought it was a really good life,” Crenshaw said.
But in her early twenties, her ideal life took a turn for the worst, which would mark the beginning of her first struggle.
“I was hanging out with the wrong person, and I got strung out on drugs,” Crenshaw explained.
She had a person in her life that would encourage the drug usage, telling her it wouldn’t have harmful effects on her body. Not long after, she was convinced. But, even worse, she was soon an addict.
“And the first times that I had done it, I didn’t get hooked, but then after I had kept doing and doing. This guy kept insisting to do it. And the more I did it, I got hooked on it,” she said.
When walking on the streets at night, she knew there was a warm bed at her parent’s house waiting. Crenshaw balanced her addiction and God, praying at outreach centers and hearing the word of God by day while roaming around town smoking cocaine at night.
Though, she was always praying.
Crenshaw suffered from drugs for about three years. She explained how her clothes went from a size 20 to a seven.
There were times when Crenshaw would quit on her own. She’d go six months without a hit of crack, but when a low point in her life would happen, she couldn’t find the strength to overcome it without the drugs.
From this experience, Crenshaw said her advice to addicts is when that low point hits in someone’s life, “There is hope. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done because God can deliver you. But you’ve got to want it for yourself.”
Over time, she knew this wasn’t the lifestyle for her. It was her roots from her childhood of responsibility, love and Christ that began to tug on her, reminding her of who she really is.
After battling addiction for three years, one day at church, the pastor asked the congregation if anyone needed to be saved and “I jumped up and ran to the altar,” Crenshaw said. That’s when change started.
Even though she’d made up her mind, demons were still trying to enter her new life, approaching her with large quantities of drugs, and she’d deny them. But that didn’t come easily as she would ball up on the floor, hurting.
She said with her arms spread, “The more I said ‘no,’ the stronger God make me. One day after the road to recovery, I was like an eagle. It wasn’t a strain for me to say no.”
She said the beginning of her journey to recovery took her mind to be made up and being steadfast. She realized that the people surrounding her with drugs and the demon of crack itself didn’t want Crenshaw to escape that life. This was something she had to do on her own, with God.
Crenshaw kept her sobriety over the years, even during the hardship of feeding her family of three girls. She had a job that provided, but it was never enough to fully suffice.
Crenshaw went to the Welfare Center to apply for food stamps and was denied. Confused, she didn’t know why she wasn’t getting through this obstacle. She’d tried everything she could to feed her family.
She mentioned how there was one opportunity to get what she needed, but it would have gone against her values. Tempted while filling out her food stamps paperwork, there was a section where she could have lied and been eligible, but she didn’t.
For months her family ate spaghetti and mac ‘n cheese for breakfast and dinner but said she blessed it like it was a steak. During her blessings, she would ask that there would be someone else to have a meal like theirs.
One day looking out the window, she was talking to God about how much she wanted a sandwich. She said God told her to go back and apply for the food stamps and when she returned to the Welfare Center, she was granted.
“They gave me so much money for food. I bought so much food that my refrigerator wouldn’t close. I believe that if you stay faithful to God, he will open doors for you,” she said.
In 2009, Crenshaw went through the hardest adversity in her life, after the unexpected death of her oldest daughter, Natalia.
“I took her into one hospital for lower back pain and within a couple of hours, she was on a ventilator… some of the doctors in court said that they administered the medication wrong,” Crenshaw explained.
She said the family celebrated Natalia’s 30th birthday while at the hospital. Crenshaw now takes care of Natalia’s three boys.
Crenshaw said she was broken after this.
Through the many struggles Crenshaw experienced and overcame, she wanted to write a book for others in her shoes to read and possibly see a way out of the mist of adversity.
She said her main influence for writing the book came after visiting the women in the Ellis County Jail. Through her and husband’s outreach program, she’d visit with female inmates and noticed the same people were in and out for the same reasons, drugs. She referenced it as a “revolving door.”
“The Lord wanted me to write that book to encourage people that you don’t have to be on drugs, there’s a way out for you. And God will give you another appetite. He will take away that appetite of drugs and alcohol away from you and will give you another appetite,” Crenshaw said.
Crenshaw is hosting a book signing on Saturday, Dec. 9 at 3 p.m. at 608 Loggins St. in Ennis. Along with her signing, special guest Prophetess, Lisa Overton will speak. A catered lunch will be provided.
*Previous version of this article identified Crenshaw as a doctor. However, she has not required the educational coursework to obtain this title.