I didn’t grow up around any drugs. I didn’t know anything about them—I think I smoked pot maybe once in high school. I was born and raised in New Hampshire in a tiny little town. I married my high school sweetheart; we started dating when I was 14 and got married when I was 18. We had two kids, a great house; I was a preschool teacher and I established my own stay-home daycare. I gave it all up in the blink of an eye.
I turned 30 and had a crisis. My husband and I split up, and it was a horrible breakup. He was devastated and very depressed, and I didn’t want any part in his sadness. I loved him and I didn’t want to be responsible for what he might do. Now, looking back at it, drugs were my “out”—my way of dealing with all that stuff. My husband would take the kids on weekends, and I would party.
Alcohol was my gateway drug. Before, we hardly ever had alcohol in the house, and if we did we’d have one bottle that lasted a whole year. But now I was partying every weekend and dating a guy who was into heroin. Soon I realized that if I took a Vicodin and drank half of what I normally would, I’d still get wasted and wouldn’t even have a hangover the next day. My relationship with the guy progressed, and I started snorting—Oxycontin, all of that stuff. That was April, and by August I was a daily intravenous drug user.
Now, looking, back, I can’t even understand why I did it. I’m just not that person, but I was. I lost 100 pounds in nine months. Over the next nine months, I lost my car, my house, and my job. My boyfriend and I broke up and I actually got back together with my ex-husband; I thought he would be my safety from the drugs, that he’d bring me back to who I was. I wanted to return to that nice, quiet, mellow life, but the addiction was too strong.
Even though my husband had no prior drug use, even though I thought he was my golden ticket to sobriety, I stayed clean for only three days when we got back together. Instead of staying sober, I shot him up too. I realize now that I could have killed him; I gave him the dose I was giving myself, and I’d been a daily drug user for nine months. His addiction started with me and then it took off on its own.
One horrible moment that I keep reliving to this day was when my daughter found our drugs, a whole box, needles and everything. She went to school and told her guidance counselor. I screamed at her when I found out—yelled and cried and called her a traitor. I didn’t touch her but I was verbally abusive, I was so angry. That’s something I still feel terrible about; she and I still talk about it today and I still apologize. I’m so sorry for what I put her through.
During our mutual drug use, my husband and I had the idea to copy the raffle tickets from our kids’ sports teams and sell them. Of course we used the money to buy drugs. Then I got a call from my daughter’s cheerleading coach, and I thought it might be a “Hey, as your friend I think you might need help” conversation but instead it was “Hey, we’ve kicked your daughter off the team and are charging you with theft by deception.”
I didn’t care about the theft charges, none of that mattered to me, but kicking my daughter off a team she’d been with for six years? It was the first time I really saw what I was doing to my kids—that was my rock bottom. I finally realized that my actions had a major effect on them and I knew I couldn’t do this anymore. So I entered Phoenix House Franklin Center to get help. I entered with nothing, not even a driver’s license, and I gained so much. I did detox and I did 28 days of treatment. My sister is a social worker and she was a great help in the situation; she voluntarily signed my kids over so she could have them while I was in treatment.
It took me a year and a half to get completely sober. After residential treatment I continued with Phoenix House outpatient programming and June 12, 2011 was the last time I ever saw that needle. Before that I relapsed twice, but each time I knew what to do; I called Phoenix House and they got me back on track. I still have all those numbers in my phone, and to this day I know I can call Phoenix House anytime. I know that no matter who picks up, I’ll be talking to a friend.
I have a different life now and I like that. I’ve remarried and I’m back at my job as a preschool teacher. I have a sponsor; her daughter and mine are on the same softball team. All the girls at my work know what I’ve been through, but I don’t let it define me. My new husband and I have full custody of my children and we raise them together; my relationship with my ex-husband is a work in progress, but he also went through a treatment program, which is a good thing. There are people I used to use with whom I really loved, but I know I can’t be near them anymore. I’ve given that up for my sobriety.
Recently, my nephew passed away. He was only nine years old, and it was so tragic, but I remember thinking how blessed I felt just to be there for my kids. Something like that wouldn’t have affected me if I were using. I would have been zonked out on drugs. But instead I was able to be fully present and express my own feelings of grief and guide my kids through that time. We made a memory jar for my nephew, with pictures and special things, and I felt like I was actually doing what I was supposed to do—being present for my kids.
When I was a mother addicted to drugs, treatment seemed like such an impossibility. I thought I could never do it because I had kids and responsibilities that I had to prioritize. But I’ll tell you what—I’d never be able to prioritize my kids and responsibilities if I were dead. Yes, I had to leave my kids for a little bit, but the alternative was leaving them for life. Phoenix House gave me the help I needed to become the mother my kids deserve.