Addiction has been a part of my family for as long as I can remember. It affected my life before I even had a choice. My sister was addicted, my mother was addicted…the list goes on and on. My parents got divorced when I was 12; around then is when I started using. I dropped acid, drank alcohol, and smoked a lot of pot. It wasn’t total dependency yet, but I was dabbling. I gave birth to my daughter Jessica when I was 19; the love for her is what motivated me to get my life together.
I held down a job, began thinking about the future, and had a nice apartment for Jessica and me. But then my mother reached to me for help, initially to get away from her addict boyfriend. Her addiction didn’t seem abnormal to me because I had grown up around her using pills. I didn’t understand codependency or enabling at the time; I didn’t have any coping skills or boundaries, so I let my mother move in with me in hopes that she, too, would find joy. It wasn’t long before she started using drugs in the house, having her boyfriend over, and other actions that I had clearly expressed were unacceptable to me. Eventually the stress and disappointment – along with my mother’s disrespect and drug use – triggered my own use, and I started coping by snorting cocaine.
When Jessica was five, I got with a guy who was a full-blown addict; he introduced me to methadone after my second daughter was born. Any time I couldn’t get it, I would use cocaine to ease the withdrawal symptoms. With no way out, I sent Jessica to live with my dad. I planned for that to be temporary but I had no idea how bad things would get for me. I was totally impulsive, and I focused on everybody else’s problems without looking at my own. Eventually, after I was charged with drug possession, child abuse, and driving with a suspended license, my daughter Savannah was taken into foster care. Meanwhile, I got into another relationship with another abusive guy; he introduced me to crack and shooting up.
By that point Jessica had been at my dad’s for years, which caused unbearable guilt and shame for me. Meanwhile Savannah had been adopted. When I gave birth to my son, Jacob, they kept him in the hospital for four weeks for methadone withdrawal, I had him with me for four months before I relapsed and Jacob’s father ended up getting custody. That was my rock bottom; my son was living with this abusive drug addict, and it seemed like there was no hope in the world.
I remember going to a therapist and she said, “There is little I can do for you while you’re on all of these drugs.” I was sick and tired of the pain. It was my seventh year of addiction. Soon I was arrested for theft, got probation, and was introduced to Phoenix House Citra Center. I was finally ready for recovery guidance and healing for myself. I was blessed to work with the caring staff members who challenged me and guided me. My family really stepped up to help, and my kids were extra motivation. So I really embraced treatment, the education and the structure of the program. I learned how to cope if I felt myself losing control or returning to unhealthy thinking patterns.
I got so much out of Phoenix House. I felt like a teenager again; I was taught accountability and skills that parents teach a child to prepare her for the adult world. When I completed treatment I got into supportive housing, for a job lined up, and the opportunity to participate in Dependency Drug Court. I had choices once I left Phoenix House; I got into a healthy routine and prioritized not setting myself up for relapse. I did a nine-week outpatient program and then switched to continuing care, I continue to remain teachable and humble; I go to groups and meetings, and I live in supportive transitional housing. For me, recovery means letting go and taking responsibility. It’s a lifelong process that Phoenix House allowed me to begin.
And guess what? I got my son Jacob back! He is now living with me full-time. My family is bonding, healing, and uniting every day. I recently attended church with my step-mother, my father, Jacob, and Jessie (who’s now 13). With this whole support system of truly special people, and with hope and faith, all is well. One day at a time.