A young mother’s courageous journey takes her from addiction and despair to health and hope
Every little girl dreams of getting older and relishing in spa days and shopping sprees with her mom.
I was no exception, but my storyline played out a little different. My father left my biological mother when I was two-years-old. He shipped me off to south Florida with my grandparents to spare me the heartache of the divorce and to shelter me from the reality of my biological mother’s relentless drug addiction.
A couple of years later, he met Sandie. Sandie quickly fell in love with — not only my father, but me as well. She adopted me and became my mom and my best friend. Never once did I challenge her love for me. But I was left with unanswered questions of my biological mother and why I was never good enough for her, insecurities which fueled my insecurities for as long as I can remember.
Growing up, I’d find myself isolating and changing shades like a chameleon, adapting to every new group of ‘friends’ I’d encounter. Life continued to unfold until at 20 I found myself as a single mom to the most beautiful baby boy.
I felt like my life’s purpose had finally been fulfilled. Things finally came around full circle. Never could I have fathomed unconditional love like the love a mother has for her child.
January 10, 2013 would prove to be the worst day of my life.
Before venturing to church in the city, I entertained small talk in the kitchen with my mom, hassling her about quitting smoking while thanking her for being the best mom ever. I left for church. During the service I received a text that read “Is everything okay? I saw the ambulance at your house.”
Thoughts of every worst-case scenario ran through my mind. I finally got my brother to answer the phone and I vividly remember him crying “Something is wrong with mom; she was on the ground and couldn’t talk to me. Dad is in the ambulance with her, you have to get here and get to the hospital.” My worst nightmare became a reality: Mom had a massive heart attack.
Without taking a second to process the information, I called up a local drug dealer to meet me at the hospital with my analgesic of choice. After all, how could I possibly be sober and emotionally available for my father, brother, and son?
Mom passed away two days later; life as I knew it had been completely dismantled. I felt as though I had been stripped of every ounce of oxygen in my body, and the only relief: Opiates. I didn’t spend an hour without some form of mood/mind altering substance in my body.
I dove head first into running my parents’ restaurant. Without skipping a beat, I was working full time, raising my son alone, and compensating for all of the responsibilities my mom once held. As the pain of her absence grew, so did my unrelenting addiction.
Plagued by the stigmas of addiction, I thrived off of my own denial and lived a double life.
I maintained the picture-perfect life on the outside, but emotionally, I was dead. Grief swept in like a tidal wave and I was drowning. I remember waking up to indulge in my vices before I’d even kiss my son good morning.
This spiraled out of control until one day I was brought to my knees when I found myself in handcuffs on the side of the road in the small rural town where I grew up. Unaffected, I spent 3 days and 2 nights confined to a place I didn’t belong in. Upon getting released, I was faced with the reality that everyone knew my secret. Everyone knew I wasn’t handling things so well — actually, I wasn’t handling anything at all. I was numb.
The superwoman act was a fluke. I hopped onto a plane, desperately seeking relief at rehab. To this day, the hardest moment in my recovery was kissing my son goodbye the morning I left. With no real timeline for when I’d see him again, this is a painful memory that continues to ignite the flame and motivates me to maintain my sobriety.
When I valiantly entered treatment, I was forced to deal with the absolutes of my mother’s death. How could I possibly raise my son and stay sober without my mom here? I was crippled with fear and self-doubt until one day that all changed. I didn’t have the “white light” experience; my spiritual awakening was one of the more educational variety. I blame that on my stubborn Italian genes. Through hard work and pain, I managed to incorporate real recovery into my life. I could finally breathe again.
About a year into my sobriety, I was blessed with a beautiful little girl. A whirlwind of emotions flooded my thoughts. How could I possibly raise a little girl without my Mom here to help lead the way? I couldn’t have been more misled. I found myself walking into two years of sobriety a single mother…again. But this time, I called the shots.
After spending two years in an unhealthy, abusive relationship, I got out.
I pushed through every barrier and challenged every illusion of fear. It was as if my mom was carrying me when I couldn’t carry myself.
Every experience that led up to my recovery and the structure of my family played a part in shaping me into the woman I am today — a courageous, unstoppable force. I could pause before responding; impulsivity no longer controlled my actions.
Meditation and spirituality became my stress relievers. Helping another alcoholic by sharing hope from my despairing experiences became my relief. From the motherless, hopeless drug addict to the more graceful woman I am today with my integrity reclaimed, there is no doubt that “everything happens exactly as it should.”
>You may also enjoy reading Learning From Addiction: Unexpected Costs and Long-Term Effects, by Trevor McDonald