When Danielle first reached out to me I was blown away from her kindness and love. A total stranger mailed me the most amazing package I have ever seen! It definitely made my entire week that an individual hundreds of miles away felt compelled to send me a gift. The decorated square box was covered with beautiful quotes that spoke of love and being the best person you can be. It was awesome. After several conversations with Danielle I quickly realized that this beautiful soul shines bright even through all the turmoil and suffering she’s experienced. This is her story, in her words, that she has chosen to share in the hopes that others feel inspired by her courage. You have the power to completely change your life no matter what you have been through. -@truth_society
Disclaimer: It can be hard to read at times but through pain and suffering brings a whole new life
**FOR MATURE AUDIENCE ONLY**
EDM Saved My Life
By: Danielle Smalls
That hashtag rings true for me in many ways. EDM has assisted in my personal evolution. I am still evolving and it feels so wonderful. I want to share my story, in hopes of getting through to someone. Opening someone’s eyes. Letting someone know that there is a way out of a dark hole.
My name is Danielle. I am a sober vegan that loves EDM! But I wasn’t always this person…
I grew up the youngest of 3 in the suburbs. Parents were divorced before I was 5 years old. Didn’t really have a father. He sent money and bought me things and that was his idea of being dad. I have an amazing mother who played both roles so, his loss. I was a normal kid. In 1994 a new family moved in a few houses down from me. 3 boys and a 2 year old girl, her name was Tracy. Big beautiful brown eyes, curly hair an amazing smile that just brightened up your day when she was near. She became like my little sister. Crackhead parents, so she was always at my house. One day we were playing outside and I noticed she had a lump on her neck the size of a golf ball. I quickly pointed it out to her mother who brought her to the hospital. We found out she had cancer. Leukemia. What does this mean? She’s going to be ok right? I was only 10, what did I know about cancer?
Over the next two years her condition got worse. With the chemo she lost all of her long curly hair, she became weak, couldn’t walk. Even though I was just 12, it hurt me. My little sister, was disappearing. She, however, never lost her spirit. She still had that smile, still had jokes, and loved to show off her new hats. She spent longer periods of time in the hospital. I missed my friend, my sister. December of 1996, we went to Philadelphia to visit my mom’s boyfriend’s family for Christmas. I didn’t get a chance to go to the hospital and see her before I left. I figured I would see her when I got home. One day, I was sitting in the living room watching holiday movies and mom came to the door. I could see her out of the corner of my eye, watching me. “D, come on upstairs with me.” “Ughhhh I’m watching this movie!” I thought to myself. She looked as though she had been crying. I sat down and immediately thought one of our animals died. “Did Maggy die?” I asked. Tears came to her eyes and she shook her head no and the words came out, “Tracy died sweetie. I’m sorry.”
Have you ever been hit in the stomach with a soccer ball at full speed and it knocked the wind out of you? That is how I felt hearing those words. First thought that came to my mind was, “Why weren’t you there! Why didn’t you go to the hospital and keep her awake! She would have stayed awake with you and stayed alive! How could you let this happen!” I’m 12 years old blaming myself. Holding myself responsible for my sister’s death, the hurt set in. A hurt like nothing I have ever experienced. I felt incomplete. Even though I was in Philly, I felt a part of my heart taken away from me at that very moment. That moment, that night, that statement, that truth, that … changed my life. I forgot who I was, even at 12. I hated myself. I hated everything about life. I hated my own existence. When we got back home, I had some happiness in seeing her brothers again. I was barely holding on and about a week later, more bad news! Tracy’s mom died from AIDS. Her brothers were now being taken away from me by moving to Puerto Rico. Now them. Everyone is gone. I shut down. I was done. I stayed in my room when I didn’t have to leave. I would sit there, in my own dark thoughts and think of ways to hurt myself. I was 12 and all I could think of was a hammer. I sat on the floor and smashed a hammer into my head, it hurt, I knew it wouldn’t kill me but I held onto hope that maybe it would do the job. My mom catches me and I lose it.
I end up hospitalized for being suicidal. 12 years old and I’m suicidal. I am there for a week and I fake my way out of there. I pretended to be happy and ok and they basically look at it as a grieving period. Little do they know, a monster is growing inside of me. I get home and I find out my grandmother is in the hospital. I was very close to her. My father took me to see her and she looked like she was dying. I am in the elevator after seeing her bawling my eyes out and my father can’t even comfort me. What is comfort to him? I don’t know. About a week later, my grandmother dies. I am crushed. Another piece of my heart stolen from me, again. A week after her passing, my godmother’s husband, who I was very close with, dies. What the fuck is happening? It hasn’t been a full month since Tracy’s death and I have lost the substance of my heart in every way imaginable. My mom is doing her best by herself to comfort me. My father is not here for me. I don’t want to live. I don’t want this pain. This pain I can no longer take. I put a garbage bag over my head. I take pills and attempt an overdose.
By the time I was 15, I had been hospitalized and institutionalized over a dozen times. I was suicidal. I wanted to die. I was never brave enough to cut my wrists and I never took the right type of pills to actually kill myself. Why wouldn’t I die? Why must I live like this? This pain, that I can’t shake. I can’t get rid of. I wake up and fall asleep hurting. I cry everyday. I miss my sister. My grandmother. My “uncle”. My father doesn’t love me. I hate myself. Why would my mother love me? How could she love a piece of shit like me? I’m a nothing. I’m garbage. I wish she would stop hospitalizing me and just let me die.
At 15, I was in trouble with the law and charged with “Larceny, Conspiracy to Commit Murder, Conspiracy to Commit Assault and Battery, Conspiracy to Commit Assault and Battery With a Deadly Weapon, and Breaking and Entering.” I was also being charged as a youthful offender, meaning, even though I am 15 years old, I can still serve an adult sentence. My sentence concluded to 1 year in MCI Framingham, the women’s prison in MA. I didn’t want that. Then the fear kicked in.
I had a friend who was not a good influence on me at all and we decided together that we would run away. We took her boyfriend’s car and drove down to South Carolina. A bottle of tequila and we were off. When we got to a hotel room, that an older guy she knew paid for, I was introduced to cocaine for the first time. Before, I had never done anything more than smoke a little weed. I loved it. It felt amazing. I could talk and express myself. I felt strength again. I wanted more. My friend was a stripper (yes, at 15) and she took me to a club the second night we were there. She worked and I drank all night. Her friend TJ came over to keep me company. TJ was around 35 years old. He decided to take the party to a strip club down the street where his two friends were. I didn’t care, let’s just go get trashed. I met his 2 friends, Julian and C. Both in their late 30’s. No one knows that I am 15, no one even asks. Not even the strip clubs. 7 shots and many beers later, I feel drunk but functioning. I remember my last shot. TJ and Julian were holding it for a while, I didn’t think anything of it. The next thing I remember, I’m in a house, on a futon, my legs spread and TJ is having sex with me. I can’t feel much, I can’t move anything, I know whats happening, I’m being raped. I can’t stop him. When he’s done, Julian comes in, he rapes me too. Finally, C comes in and does the same. I still can’t move. I can’t speak. I want to speak but I can’t. Finally, TJ, comes back for more of me. They leave me there. Eventually, I start to come back to life. Whatever it was, it’s wearing off and I’m in Julian’s bed. TJ and C are gone. I want to leave. I wake him up and demand he take me out of there. He asks me, “Where?” and I say, “The police station.”
He drops me off and I stand outside for about 15 minutes. I call my mom, who is now worried sick, and she says, “Go inside D and tell them you are a missing person from Massachusetts.” So I do. I get a flight home and went straight to the hospital. I haven’t told anyone what happened to me. I kept it to myself. The doctors found cocaine, alcohol and GHB in my system. I was date raped. Which explains why I couldn’t talk or couldn’t move. That drug is disgusting. These animals drugged a 15 year old girl and raped her! Sadly, I didn’t care though. Didn’t think about it. My probation officer was not happy. She said it was my only screw up. Next time she would impose a prison sentence. For now, I was ordered to go to a group home.
My time there, I bullshitted my way through therapy sessions with mom and played happy just so I could get out of there. It worked. I was released. Home. Just doing a routine, working my job and going home. Drinking, doing cocaine, smoking weed. Working, alcohol, cocaine, weed. Day in and day out. Hating myself more every day. One day, that same old friend, came back in town. I got excited. I was now 17. I wanted out of there. I was sick of probation. I wanted to leave again. I felt like I could handle it this time. I made a decision that I was going to leave. I needed money though. I made a decision that I was going to leave. I needed money though. In order to find the time to make more money, I decided to skip my probation check in and quit my job while my mom was out of town for a week. On the last day, I met a man and ended up sleeping with him for money to buy a bus ticket. Here we go again… on a bus to South Carolina.
When we get there, we meet up with her friends who take us to a hotel. I don’t regret the next two months of my young life but I also hope no one ever has to go through what I did. I was drinking every day. I worked at a strip club and did cocaine every night. The entire 2 months there, I think I ate an actual full meal, 3 times. We lived out of a vending machine. That is, if we were ever hungry. I could ramble on and on about these two months but I will only share a few instances that stick out the most.
First one, the week I was kidnapped. I call it kidnapping because I was not allowed to leave this man’s house after I got there. His name was Chappelle. At 8 am, I called him to pick me up, after a night of blowing an entire 8 ball of cocaine to my head. He lived out in the country. No neighbors and no stores within a 20 minute drive. Chappelle was a drug dealer, big time. Surveillance cameras all over his house. Pitbulls in the back yard. German shepherds on each side of the house. Shotgun next to the toilet, pistol behind the pillows, pistol under the mattress. I remember this time, because for a week, I was not allowed to wear my clothes, eat food, or drink water. He raped me at gun point and fed me sunflower seeds and Bud Light. Now, I want you to take a journey with me and visualize what I am about to tell you.
Is your imagination open and ready?
I’m laying in bed. Naked. Raped at gun point for 5 days. Starving and drunk off Bud Light. Chappelle, he’s a big dude, comes in grabs me by my hair and drags me to the floor. He is now dragging me across the living room, naked, in front of 6-7 other men. Forces me into another room and pulls me up by the hair, onto the couch. I’m given a bag of sunflower seeds, Bud Light and weed. There is a disgusting porn playing on the TV that I can’t shut off. Drinking the Bud Light, hoping that I can somehow block this moment out. I have no thoughts. I am just blank. I shut down. I’m naked. I sit on the floor, holding my knees close to my body. I look, the room is just porn noise, and I hear puppies barking. I perk up, hoping to see some cute puppies. I climb onto the couch and there’s a window. I take a look and right below are two pitbull puppies chained together on a little house. They were barking in the direction of … more pitbulls. They are all around the yard. All barking. I duck down when I get a glimpse of all the men going outside. “Shit, don’t let them see you.”
There are two men, one in one corner, one in another. Each holding a growling, barking pitbull. I duck. I hear the men screaming, dogs growling, barking, crying, growling and crying, barking and crying, growling and barking. I sit up to look and I see a dog with his head in the other dogs mouth. I see dogs tearing him apart. I get on the floor, in the fetal position and I cover my ears. I rock back and forth. I cry. Cover my ears. I shake my ears with my hands, hoping to drown out the sounds. It does no good. I still hear it. Please make it end! Please stop! I can’t take it! Stop! I hear porn and dogs. Porn and misery. Eventually the noises stop. All I hear now is the porn. I pick myself up and go to the window. No more barking, no more crying, just some rattling chains. All the dogs have taken shelter in their dog houses. One of the pitbulls is getting blood hosed off of her. I see a trail of blood from the other pitbull being dragged into the woods by one of the men. They literally, fought them to death. They did this to them. They killed that poor baby. They killed that living being. For what? Fun? Money? Later, after raping me one last time, Chapelle brought me back to my hotel.
I never knew dog fighting even existed, let alone witnessed it with my own eyes. Since then, I’ve seen videos on animal abuse. Take it from me, experiencing it in real life is not only more scarier and frightening but also unforgettable. 30 years old and I still have nightmares. They were hard to live with in the beginning but I am learning how to manage life with them. After I got back to the hotel I just wanted to drink and do cocaine. So I did. In large amounts. My health deteriorated. I got sick from doing nothing but drinking and using. That’s when I met a 40 year old man who took “care of me.” Kinda. He said, “I’m your daddy now.” His definition of taking “care” of me was owning me. A 17 year old. He came into my job one day and put a pistol to my back and told me, “I could shoot you right here and leave you behind this pinball machine and no one would know until I was gone. Don’t fucking play games with me.” Another time, he got mad at me and confronted me outside of a strip club parking lot. He pistol whipped me and knocked me out. I became conscious while he was dragging me out of his truck into his house house, where he continued to beat me. At this point, this wasn’t even scary to me. I laughed. What can you do to hurt me dude? Nothing.
After that beating, I moved my hotel room and told the club not to let him in while I was working. One day I met this man Tony. He was in the Air Force. He was a very sweet man. He made me feel good. He was respectful. What was that? Respect? He let me stay the night at his house one night and he gave me money to buy food the next day and stay at his place while he was at work. He lived in a nice house. I looked all over for alcohol and drugs. I found a bottle of vodka which I proceeded to drink all of. I also found a gun. I found this gun and walked around his house with it in my hand crying. I cried for Tracy, I cried for mom, I cried for the dogs, I cried for my grandma, I cried because I was alone, I cried for love, I cried because I was hurting. I go outside. It’s beautiful out. Sunny. Quiet. Just birds chirping and me. I look up at the sky and I smile. “I love you Tracy. I love you mom. I’m sorry mom. I miss you.” My heart is beating fast. I can feel my heart in my stomach. My breathing is heavy. It hurts to breathe. I’m scared. Fuck. I put the gun to my head. I scream “I LOVE YOU MOM!” I pull the trigger. Click. I breathe heavy. It didn’t go off. I was 17, I didn’t know how to work a gun. I collapsed in the dirt and cried. I screamed into the dirt. I cried my eyes out. “Why? Why won’t you just let me die! Pleeeeeeeease. I can’t do this anymore.” It didn’t happen.
On my last night there, I was doing cocaine on the floor of my dressing room. I sat there. I was lost. My soul was gone. Who was I? I have been gone for 2 months. Coughing up blood. I was hungry. I was all types of messed up. I broke down. This was rock bottom. I picked up a pay phone and called the only number I knew to call. When I hear the voice on the other end pick up, I lose it, I completely break down and I don’t even have to say a word and I hear “Baby?! D?” I lose it even more. “Mom! I want to come home.” We both just cried. Her daughter had been missing for 2 months without knowing if she was dead or alive. Mom got me a bus ticket back to Massachusetts. Bye South Carolina. Bye city of rape.
By the time I get home to my mom, I am 90 lbs. The size 4 jeans I ran away with were now about 3 sizes too big. It feels good to be home. But, I won’t stay there long. I have to go and see my probation officer. Shit. I won’t go into detail about spending the next 6 months in a women’s prison as a teenager. It was scary. It was hard. It was another experience I would never wish upon anyone. Finally parole.
After prison, cocaine and drinking consumed me again. At 20 years old, my mom and her husband decided to move to South Carolina of all places, right? I was back there again. I’m going to skim through these next years of my life. I was young in a party city, Myrtle Beach. Cocaine and drinking. All day, every day. 2 DUI’s, multiple arrests for driving on suspension, stripping, disgusting and reckless behavior… things weren’t looking good for me. I didn’t care. Why would I care?
I met a man though, an army man, and I quickly fell in love. We both fell in love with each other. We spent 2 weeks together before I was pregnant. He asked me to marry him and I said yes. I loved him. I stopped drinking and drugs the day I found out I was pregnant. I hoped this was the change I needed! I was excited, mom was excited, he was excited. Unfortunately, he had to leave on a deployment to Iraq. One day, I was bleeding and it wouldn’t stop. I drove myself to the hospital. I was having a miscarriage and the hospital sent me home where I laid in the fetal position for 2 days in severe pain. I’ve never felt a pain from a miscarriage. It hurt. I was hurt. I lost another person. I told him and he was hurt too. We ended up breaking up because I was just lost. I didn’t want love. I wanted alcohol and drugs.
Alcohol and Drugs. I met another man. His name was Justice. He was a tall and handsome. I had no intentions on a long term relationship, only physical. But eventually, that turned into a marriage. We had a very rocky relationship from the start but we wanted to stay together when he joined the Marines so we decided to get married. Stationed in San Diego, I had no one but him. He had all of his Marine Corps buddies, and me. We had our good times, but mostly bad times. I was drinking everyday still. We constantly fought. I won’t go further into the relationship because it was the same thing over and over. But, one month he went away for training and what did I do? I bought a ticket to Ultra Music Festival (2012) because my best friend told me too. I had never been to an EDM event. Never been to a festival. Didn’t really know what EDM was. I only knew drugs, alcohol, Miami and plenty of time to escape. Day one of Ultra was intense. My first time doing ketamine, acid, and lots of other drugs. I was in heaven. The music was amazing. I made so many new friends. I immediately fell in love with the scene.
I had to go back to Cali and back to my miserable existence. One day, I was hanging out with some girls from a driver’s course. They were drug addicts. Two of them had meth and asked if I wanted to try it. So, of course I did. I snorted it. It was like snorting glass shards up my nose! But I loved it. I felt euphoric. I felt amazing. I felt untouchable. I stayed awake for 2 days, which was not fun. My husband deployed to Afghanistan and the military life was starting to take a toll. I became a target for his aggression. He hated me. And he let me know it. The emotional abuse was too much to handle. I tried to commit suicide 4 times in 3 months. I remember trying to hang myself in the shower and he caught me. I was isolated. I had no friends, no family and now, no husband.
I finally had the courage to get out. I was going to die if I stayed there. I packed three suitcases and got on a plane back to Massachusetts. Once back there, I was a little brighter. For a little while. However, I was drinking more, and more. I found cocaine, and was doing more. My best friend and I started going to shows. Dubstep shows. That’s where I found molly for the first time. Whoa! Wtf is this stuff! I loved it! I was trashed and doing molly. Going to work hungover. Still drinking everyday. Every show we went to, more molly.
In the summer of 2013, I fell in love with EDM. I was doing a lot of molly and drinking but I loved the music. I loved the people. I would dance and just shut the world out. With each shuffle of my feet I forgot my troubles. I felt the bass deep within my heart. It filled me up. My spirit would come alive. My spirit spoke to me. My spirit was breaking through, for the first time in my life! Incredible! I attended a few more festivals and plenty more shows. EDM taught me what PLUR is. People misunderstand and mock PLUR but I stand behind it’s true meaning. Peace. Love. Unity. Respect.
After summer, I made a plan to finally end it all. I was going to kill myself after the holidays. I was fine with it. I wasn’t upset about the decision. I was fine. I told two people. My two best friends, Meagan and Vanessa. I was going to lock myself in my car with a hose from the exhaust and take pill to fall asleep and die from the carbon monoxide. My reasons for this were simple. Sure, I had left the terrible marriage behind. But what have I ever really addressed? What have I done to face my problems? I was drinking a bottle of hard liquor every day to numb the pain. I had been drinking every day since I was 17 years old. Since my childhood, the only thing I know sure of is pain. Continuing the cycle of pain, nothing changed. Meagan and Vanessa both sat me down one night and they both broke down crying. They let me know they needed me. They let me know how much they loved me but it didn’t matter. There’s a quote I love:
“The greatest souls are awakened out of suffering. The most impressive personalities endure many scars.”
I can’t explain what happened because honestly, I don’t know. Once I wholeheartedly convinced myself and really felt that suicide was my only option, the universe knew that it was time for a change. Enough is enough. The drinking had to stop. The drugs, had to stop. I stopped doing molly and cocaine. I have since found enlightenment, grounding and mindfulness. I can’t explain it! I’m grateful because I’ve never felt this way. Happy and so sure. With my new open mind, I draw the third eye, because my pineal gland is more awake than ever. On June 2, 2014, I drank my last bottle of alcohol. I suddenly stopped cold. No meetings. No cravings. Nothing but love and light.
I drank for 13 years straight and I have never been happier in life than I am right now. I also changed to a vegan lifestyle. I have evolved, and I am still evolving. I won’t get into a big rant about veganism but for me, I personally feel connected to all living beings that have a right to walk this earth as much as I do. I now feel completely cleansed because of my lifestyle. I find healthy connections and support through our EDM community. I’ve finally found peace.
Thank you for reading my story. I hope I can help someone, even one person, to climb out of a dark hole and to let them know they are not alone. Our community is here for you. You have to make the right choices and trust the universe that it will protect you along the way.
In conclusion, I will tell you what P.L.U.R. means to me:
P.eace – I am at peace with the things I have done in my past. I am at peace with the loss of my relatives and closest childhood friend/sister. I am at peace with Justice. I am at peace with not having my father there for me. I am at peace with the person that I used to be because without her, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I am at peace with the men that raped me when I was a child. I am at peace with all the hurt that I ever felt.
L.ove – I love all living beings. I love nature. I love myself. I love my mother. I love my friends. I love the way music makes me feel. I love life. I love the young woman I have become. I love complete strangers because they radiate love and I can feel their energy.
U.nity – I feel unity with people I have never met because they are on the same mission as I am. I unite with people under electric skies.
And last but not least….
R.espect – I respect myself. I respect my body. I respect all living beings. I respect the earth that I am allowed to live my beautiful life. I respect the music, sober and free. I respect those of you that took the time to read this. Namaste.
I have gone to festivals and shows sober. And I have felt the music in my soul even more. I have found my freedom, a freedom I will not give up. I evolve more and more each day. I will never take another step back. I’ve been given back my life. I have found hobbies, things I like that I never knew about. I didn’t have a life. I didn’t enjoy life. That’s what this journey has been for me. Gaining my life back that I lost when I was 12 years old.
Take a moment and write the words.
What will you write?
I am: Beautiful, smart, athletic, fit, loving, giving, kind, free, weird, hardcore, open, honest, loyal, funny, silly, creative, witty, wise, forgiving, happy.
@plurmama on Instagram