As told to Mary Jenkins
My mother was addicted to Valium. She had a hysterectomy at age 26 and became addicted. She was so sick that we stayed with other family members. I stayed with an aunt, whose husband was an alcoholic and a gambler. There was always fighting going on.
My sister was also into drugs and alcohol—and prostitution. She abandoned her two children and I had to raise them. I haven’t spoken to my sister in 14 years. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even get to spend the last few dying moments with my mother. My sister was messed up, even in the lobby of the ICU, and I wouldn’t leave my children with her there while I went back up to see my mom. Even though we thought my mom only had pneumonia and would be okay, it turned out to be her last moments.
But, I guess you want to hear about my daughter, and the story that is impacting my life right now.
At this time, I have custody of my daughter’s three children. The oldest boy is eight; the little girl is six years old, and the youngest boy is five. I am a 43 year old woman, who raised my sister’s two kids, my own two kids, and now I’m raising my daughter’s three children.
Until five or six years ago, I trusted my daughter, Nicole, with anything. We had a wonderful relationship. We were buddies. I would leave her the keys to my house, my car; she had access to anything she wanted. But she is not the person she used to be.
Since then, she has stolen thousands of dollars in money, jewelry, guns, cameras, and personal items of sentimental value. I suppose she dabbled in drugs and alcohol as a teenager, as many teenagers do. I suspect—and this is my own thinking—that after she had her last baby, she went into post-partum depression and began to self-medicate. The doctor prescribed Lortab, and it went from there . . . now she mostly takes Roxicets.
Our relationship has deteriorated so much over the last few years. She accused my husband of stealing medicine, money, and other items from me. She blamed my husband for missing items, when, in fact, he was the one who convinced me to let Nicole come back and stay with us. Nicole’s husband had just dropped her off and left her and the kids. This time, she didn’t even have a car to live in, as she had done in the past.
Due to the constant stress and conflict, my husband and I separated. He went to live in Tennessee. Prior to this, I had noticed that several items had been missing. The doors and windows were locked. There was no forced entry, so that’s why I believed Nicole’s story that it must be my husband. I couldn’t figure out how anybody was getting in. So, I set her up.
While he was living in Tennessee, I randomly laid three $10 bills in my room. I later discovered that they were gone. My husband hadn’t been around, and I found a butter knife on top of the hutch. She was actually taking the door frame off to gain entry! When confronted with all this, it just opened a Pandora’s Box. As it turned out, she told me that when she was a teenager my husband would let her drink and smoke behind my back. He wanted to be her buddy, instead of her stepdad. We have since reconciled, but my marriage will never be the same because I struggle with these issues.
Now, Nicole visits only when necessary. Our relationship is tense and defensive.
I have lost the element of trust. She visits the kids every 4-6 weeks. The oldest boy knows his mother has a drug addiction. The others are told that she is sick and needs a special doctor. The youngest boy told his sister, “I don’t know why you care about mom. She don’t care about us. She never comes to visit!” And the other night, when I went to tuck the children in bed, the oldest boy said, “I wish mommy would check on us like you do.” I think they love their mom, but they don’t respect her.
But—something good has come out of all of this.
I’m able to take my grandkids to church. It’s brought the Lord more into our lives. It’s made me a better Christian, and I’ve been able to plant these seeds that may have never been there for these kids otherwise. Also, through the process of getting custody, the possibility of sexual abuse has been exposed. That may not have come to light if the drug problem had not been prevalent.
I know that God has a plan. I just wish He would let us in on it. I also wish people wouldn’t be so quick or easy to judge. This could happen to anyone. My daughter used to be a trusted member of my family. I only wish she could get herself right with
God and be a viable part of society and a good mother.
I would never want anyone to have this pain inflicted on them. All my life I have seen devastation brought on by drugs and alcohol. I chose to be the good child growing up. Yet, I lost my mother, my sister, my daughter, and almost lost my marriage. Drugs and alcohol almost destroyed my life—and I’ve never abused either one.
Everyone should do their part to help. If you can help, then try to help. The Serenity Prayer helps me. I hope my story can help someone else.
This story originally appeared in Facing Addiction in Knox County, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky.