I was the first child of a young woman and an Army veteran from Small Town, USA. My mom was just 17 when I was born so she and I grew up together while my dad worked for a construction company that traveled. I grew up in the party scene of the 90’s and had my first drink of liquor when I was probably 8 years old. The year that I drank alcohol for the first time was the year that my parents and grandparents both filed for divorce, although I am not sure of which came first.
As a child I remember spending most of my time pretending to be someone else. Someone older, more beautiful, with tons of friends. I didn’t realize until I was older that I was bullied throughout elementary and middle school. You didn’t hear the word “bullying” like you do now, so I thought it was just because something was wrong with me. I was way too skinny and had thick glasses. The only talent I seemed to have was making people laugh, sometimes with me and sometimes at me. I was known as the class clown, even in the yearbooks. I fed off of attention, and I didn’t care what kind. Eventually school officials threatened my mom and told her that if she didn’t do something they would go through the court and file an “Out of Control” petition. This started a cycle of going in and out of crisis centers, adolescent rehabs, juvenile hall, and being taken out of public school and placed in an alternative school with kids that were much older than me. My identity became more than the bad kid, now I was “the troubled girl”. I always thought there was something wrong with me, that’s what the doctors and therapists made it sound like. Several failed attempts to medicate me for behavioral issues, oppositional defiance disorder, and substance abuse was my proof that I wasn’t like other kids.
My freshman year of high school is when I tried almost everything for the first time. I looked for anything that would change how I felt, no matter how long it lasted or didn’t last. There were days when I would drink a bottle of cough syrup before I went to bed so I could wake up high to go to school. I had friends who were much older than me and was in a relationship that didn’t fit the dynamic of teenage relationships. “I dare you” was my favorite thing to hear because I had a point to prove. In the beginning it’s fun, it’s that party that you’re dying to go to, or the Friday night hanging out with everyone you know! The worst consequence I had was a bad trip on some hallucinogenics that left me with panic and anxiety.
Eventually the consequences became worse and happened more frequently. When I was a sophomore in high school my disciplinary actions and my choices caught up with me and I felt like I had no choice but to drop out and go for my GED. The day I left school for the last time I was so high I barely remember being escorted out by the police but I do remember the principal looking at me and saying “You will never be anything but trouble.” And I agreed.
By the time I was 19 years old I was coming out of an abusive relationship, pregnant, and addicted to prescription Suboxone. I knew that I didn’t deserve a child and I had no idea how to be a mother. I had never worked, never paid a bill, and never had a single responsibility. Prepared as I knew how to be on April 10th, 2014 I had a baby boy that I named Brody Madden. He was perfect, with a head full of black hair and a face shaped like mine. The day after he was born was the day that my addiction to pills changed my life. When you watch the most beautiful little boy you have ever seen withdrawal from a drug that you are responsible for taking it changes something inside of you. While you’re watching, you hope that will be enough to make you stop but you know that it won’t be. Brody was medically withdrawn and it was 6 weeks before we ever got to spend a night together. Still to this day my father doesn’t know that was the reason he had to stay in the hospital. My mom told me, “I’m afraid Daddy won’t look at you the same if he knows that.” I’m sure she was right because my grandma never looked at me the same. The woman that had helped my parents raise me, the one that was my best friend, the one that’s name was tattooed on my wrist never looked at me the same after that. I didn’t blame her. I wish I could tell you that is where it stopped, that it was finally enough to make me stop. But, it wasn’t.
I like to think that more often than not, I was a good mommy. But, I was also a functioning drug addict. I maintained to feel normal on most days, on days that my grandma would take him home with her I would binge. Sometimes, I would call and ask for her help with him because I knew I was going to end up getting too high. I suffered through some post-partum depression in silence and self-medicated.
When I began using meth I knew that my son didn’t need to be around me. I said I would never use a needle but when you’re desperate for a feeling, any kind of feeling, you’ll do things you said you would never do. That was the day I lost any morals, values or self-control I had left. I made the most selfish and selfless decision I had ever made and that was to let my grandma and her husband take care of my son because I knew that I couldn’t even take care of myself. I would go days at a time without seeing him and not even realize that days had passed from not sleeping. I would feel so much guilt for not seeing him that I would get high to alleviate that guilt, but then I wouldn’t go see him because I was too high and didn’t want him or my family to see me like that. Then, I would get high again because of the guilt I felt for not seeing him, but then I couldn’t go see him because I was too high, again! I couldn’t stop.
In 2016 I walked into the doors of my 5th treatment center, Beth’s Blessing. My cravings and obsessive thoughts about drugs were so strong and often that I spent many nights crying and praying for God to help me. I had never been one of those “crazy people” that had a Bible verse for literally everything. I had never much more than picked up a Bible besides when I would use a page to learn how to roll a joint. Somehow I knew this verse “Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.” And with every hard night I woke up feeling a little bit stronger. I started to take the advice of people that I looked up to, I stopped thinking “I could never be that.” And started thinking “I want to be like that!”
I always knew there was something out there much greater than what I was able to understand, if there wasn’t I wouldn’t have lived through my wild years. I figured that God, whatever He was, He was probably pretty mad at me. I often wandered if He thought of me as a mistake and when the subject would come up I would shut down immediately. I used to tell people not to talk about stuff like that around me, because it scared me. There were times when I thought that believing in nothing at all would be better than facing the anger and disappointment that God had to feel towards me. I didn’t fit the mold of a Christian. It was just a big list of “Thou shall not’s” and I had heard what the preacher says happens to people that don’t obey God. So I figured not having anything to do with God at all would be better than deliberately disobeying Him.
Naturally, there are things we want so badly to understand, but in the Bible I found time and time again that God’s understanding is far greater than our own. We are not made to understand everything and when I figured that out was when my faith began to grow. I told myself that I would be as dedicated to finding God as I was to finding the dope man. And I found that it isn’t about how much time we spend getting rid of the old things, it’s about how much time we spend on building the new. If my drug addiction had taught me anything about myself it was that I was as stubborn as they come and when my mind is made up there’s no stopping me. So, I chose to be that stubborn about finding what made me happy. I chose to be that stubborn about what I allowed into my life and who I allowed into my life. I relearned what values were important to me and what is no longer acceptable to me. I have found things that I love and things that I have to stay away from. I had to learn that correction was good for me and how to take it. Several hundred temper tantrums later, it is actually something that I find myself looking for; I know that it is the biggest part of becoming who you are meant to be.
Today we joke about the Madison that walked in the doors well over a year ago because she is much different than I. The world will ask you who you are at a young age and if you don’t know it will tell you, but the world doesn’t know your heart like the one who made it does. Today I am a woman who has faith in a God that is never unfaithful. I am a mother who gets to not only watch her son grow up but one who actually gets to be a part of it. I am a college student with a certification in Behavioral Health and a passion to be an encouragement to still suffering and newly sober addicts. My parents don’t have to hold their head down anymore when they hear my name, God has given them a daughter they can be proud of. And even on the hard days I don’t give up, no matter what it takes. Some days I look around me in amazement and all I can say is “Thank you, Jesus!”
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please call Addiction Recovery Care at 888.351.1761 or visit them on the web at www.arccenters.com.
There is hope. There is help.
Maddy is a Peer Support Specialist at Beth’s Blessing with certification in Behavioral Health. Madison is a student in Justice and Public Safety who will major in Social Work and Child Advocacy. She focuses her energy on helping other women become the mother’s, daughter’s, sister’s, and friend’s that God intended them to be all along.