She was married at 14 and had a son. Her husband was a junkie. It was not long before Mary Claire Huslage became a junkie, too, and continued as one for more than 25 years. She lost her children to Child Protective Services and her future to drugs.
She missed Christmas with her children, and everything else, for more than 15 years.
“I was a horrible addict and am thankful that I went to prison. Otherwise, I couldn’t stop using. The walls were protective,” Huslage said. “When I was released from prison, I begged the warden to let me stay. I didn’t want to go back to being an addict.”
Huslage served two years in the Woodman State Prison in Gatesville after spending 15 years in an Arizona prison and an earlier three-year prison stint, all for robbery. She said the crimes she committed were to keep up her $500 a-day drug habit.
“I am 6 foot tall and I am a big girl. Most people were frightened of me. I was robbing anything I could from anybody,” Huslage said. “I was pretty scary. I remember people backing up from me like I was a disease. But I survived it.”
Huslage was released from prison Nov. 1, 2011, and was invited to her sister’s house for Thanksgiving.
“My son cut the turkey and asked me, ‘Mom, do you want light meat or dark meat?’ It brought me to tears. I had not been called “Mom” ever that I could remember,” she said.
Today, Huslage’s two sons are ages 27 and 32. She rebuilt her relationship with her mother before her mother died and with her youngest son.
But her relationship with her oldest child has not yet been restored.
“My oldest son experienced the worst of my life and we are currently working on a telephone relationship,” Huslage said. “My older sister forgave me even though I robbed and hurt her many times.”
The year she was released from prison, she was invited to Christmas dinner at her sister’s pastor’s home. She sat with her hands under her legs and wondered why he would allow her, a thief, into his home. She had already spotted everything she wanted to steal.
“It has taken me years not to think like that and to be able to change a habit of a lifetime,” Huslage said.
Doctors told her it would take three years for her to start thinking like a normal person, she said.
Huslage has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar affect II, and takes medication daily. She no longer needs to self-medicate as she did in the past.
The day the warden unlocked the prison gate on Nov. 1, 2011, was a turning point for Huslage. Someone she had never met before, Belinda Parilla, the resident manager of Cove House, came to pick her up at the prison and brought civilian clothes for her to change into.
“We stopped at the first restroom we came to and I changed out of my prison clothes and threw them away. It was like throwing away the past and I never looked back,” Huslage said.