I rolled the meth pipe between my fingers and watched the smoke as it moved toward my lips. I looked around the bathroom I had secretlybeen getting high in despite my enormous eight-and-a-half month pregnant belly. My boyfriend, Mike, had torn all my things off the walls the last time he had beat me in there, and I’d decided to redecorate.
As I climbed on the counter to put up an aquatic border, I fell back, wracked with labor pains. Then I saw my reflection in the mirror and the sick reality that my addiction had tricked me again was apparent on my face. I would be responsible for bringing an addicted baby into this world. I felt like I would never be a good person. Well, I expected that kind of behavior of myself. It’s who I knew I was, and who I thought I would always be.
I never expected that, in the next 24 hours, my life I would be confronted with reality in a way that I could not escape.
Running to Drugs
At the time I was 34 years old and had been using meth and other drugs for more than 22 years. I already had three kids that I had been a terrible mother to. Joel was out on his own even though he was only 17. He worked and did well for himself. Jordan was 6 and lived with his father in Texas. Jazmin was 8 and lived with Mike and me near Seattle, Washington, but I felt like I didn’t deserve to have her.
I had been with Mike for about two years. When he hit me, I saw it as love. Abuse was a normal pattern for me.
With Mike, I got to pretend that I was all a mother should be. When I told him about all of the things that I wanted to do better, he seemed to believe me, even though I didn’t believe myself.
But meth was my real lover. It was what I always ran to. When I was high, I could sit around and talk about the things that I was going to do in my life. And when reality came knocking at my door…I just got high again.
The Lies I Told Myself
From a very young age I needed the lies I told myself to survive the abuse and sexual abuse I experienced. And once I started using drugs and alcohol as a preteen, I convinced myself they were right for me, even though I knew they weren’t.
Once I became a parent, I truly did not understand how I could be such a contradiction. I loved my kids so bad it hurt, but no matter how much I loved my children, I was possessed by the much greater forces of addiction and self-deception.
Sometimes I’d come out of my self-deception and feel like a liar and a thief. I thought, “Whoever this person is, it’s not Jackie.” But usually, I welcomed self-deception like a warm blanket on a cold winter night. I could be comfortable playing the victim on a permanent basis, and being angry at everyone except the person responsible: me.
When I realized I was in labor, I was dripping with sweat and terrified to wake Mike up. We had gone to the hospital the night before and he was furious when it was a false alarm. It had been a hellish day of begging him to love me again, and promising him things would be different when the baby was born. I had convinced myself that once Jalen was born, I would change into a good mother and person, and we all could be the kind of family that took holidays, ate dinner together, talked nice to each other, and stayed together no matter what.
‘I’m Going to Have Our Baby’
I could barely breathe as I crept into the bedroom. “Mike, honey, it’s time now. I am going to have our baby tonight.” Silently and very slowly he arose to get dressed. “This better not be another f-cking false alarm, bitch,” he said through clenched teeth.
I left the room so I could let my heart absorb all the hate I felt coming from this person I loved so much. I always left the room hoping he would follow. He never did.
I welcomed Mike’s hatred. Any emotion coming from him proved he still felt something toward me, and the pain made me love him more. I loved to hang on to the edge of sanity, feeling desperate; it was a reminder I was alive.
When we arrived at the hospital, the labor pains were so intense, I couldn’t stop crying. Mike said, “Just shut up, nobody wants to hear you cry,” right in front of the nurses. For the first time in my life, I talked back to him. “Leave me alone, or get out.”
I had our baby exactly 12 minutes later. We had a beautiful baby boy, Jalen. Maybe Mike would love me now.
Choosing My Children
We cleaned Jalen off, and after a while I was actually feeling somewhat peaceful. Then Jazmin flashed through my mind. Before she went to stay a few days at my mom’s, I had promised she would be able to watch the birth of her brother. Everything had happened so fast, though. I decided I’d better hurry and call her.
Picking up the phone, I knew that as soon as Mike knew Jazmin was coming he would leave. As sweet as Jazmin is, Mike loathed her and made her feel so bad about herself, especially when his own daughter came to visit. He kept us both down mentally.
As much as I wanted him to stay, I was choosing her this time. Far too many times I tricked myself into thinking she was better off somewhere else. Not tonight. I felt good about making the call. I hung up with a smile on my face. Jazmin was on her way.
Hours Went By
Mike was holding the baby then. He looked so gentle—what an amazing miracle. I loved him and the baby both so much. But a few minutes later when I came out of the restroom, Mike was gone. The baby was lying in the bassinet asleep. No goodbye, no thank you for having my baby, not even I love you, just raw pain where he had been.
Only moments before I had been positive his leaving wouldn’t affect me. But the way he left—he always had a way of cutting my heart to the core.
I tried hard not to show my sadness when my mom brought Jazzie-girl to the hospital to stay the night. She was so excited, and that made it a little easier to forget Mike and put on a happy face for a while. We had dinner, watched movies, and sat in the whirlpool bath. It was wonderful.
But after several hours, I began to feel sick to my stomach. My mind went into overdrive. I needed to leave this hospital and go find Mike.
The Terrible Beast Inside
My addiction to Mike was a terrible beast. I knew what Mike was up to, and I was sure it would rekindle his love for me if I caught him cheating. I felt that was exactly what I needed – for the cycle to start over.
When my cousin showed up, I asked her to stay with the kids and I went home. My daughter and my cousin were used to my obsession and knew they couldn’t stop me.
I could feel the warm July air on my face as I walked up the steps and let myself in. As I walked down the hall, the sound of someone I loved deceiving me again filled my ears. I was horrified and my knees grew weak, but I also welcomed the pain and the feeling of betrayal. I knew what would follow: promises and kisses. I loved the feeling of knowing he owed me. Creating a chaotic mess gave me something to do and a reason to feel like I was a victim, not responsible for my own life.
Mike finally saw me and jumped off the woman in my bed. He still tried to play me for a fool. He came out of the room naked and said he was just working out. I acted like I believed him because one part of me wanted his words to be the truth. Then the lie came running out of our room, scared and naked, with my favorite blanket wrapped around her.
Sick and Stuck
On the way back to the hospital, my sobbing threatened my safety on that lonely road back to my children. I felt like my sanity was slipping away with each breath I took. I knew it was wrong, but I felt I loved Mike more than ever now. I truly believed I could not live without him. I was a very sick person.
As I walked back into the maternity ward, I passed the nurses and smiled. They asked me if I needed anything. My mind was screaming yes, but I answered no, softly, and kept moving. Being back in the hospital brought me back to the reality of my own addiction. The feeling of impending doom was overwhelming me, and the buzz of silence created a surreal atmosphere.
I felt suddenly sure that the lies in my life were about to be discovered. I knew the hospital drug tested babies, and I felt my dream of becoming a good mother coming to an end.
“This is not real, I am not real, I am dreaming.” I began forming new lies. I needed to protect myself from the truth. I wasn’t ready for reality. I forced a smile on my face and walked in to greet my family.
‘Please God, No’
When I opened my eyes the next morning, I was startled to see a nurse standing over me, watching me. “We found drugs in your baby’s system; you cannot leave the hospital until child protective services comes to talk to you.”
Immediately I felt nauseous, I started to sweat, and I could barely breathe. My mind raced through all of the things I had done wrong in my life. I wanted to take it all back, right now. I said to myself, “I am so sorry, I won’t do it again. Please God, no. Somebody help me. I never meant to hurt my baby, or choose a man over my little girl. I love them with all of my heart. I tried so hard to stop using.” My head was a sea of promises, remorse and pleas. The doom had come. I feared losing my children, facing Mike, and not being able to use.
I decided I could never tell the truth, because I myself could not face the truth. No matter how ridiculous or unbelievable a story I came up with, I had to lie. My self-deception was on fire now. God help us.
How Could I Face Myself?
I managed to convince CPS that Mike was the problem, and that someone had slipped something into my drink without me knowing. They agreed that Jazmin, Jalen and I could go to my mom’s house, away from Mike, and that I would have to get my urine tested, get a “drug and alcohol assessment” and stay sober. CPS was being generous.
My family knew that I would keep getting high, but chose to play the pink elephant in the room game. As always, they bailed me out. They loved me and didn’t know what else to do. There was no way they were willing to let the children go into foster care–Jazmin had been through enough already.
It felt so good to tell everyone I wasn’t doing meth anymore. Inside, I wasn’t so sure. I told myself, “I have to do this for my kids. It’s the right thing to do. I am a mother.” But the hole I had dug myself into looked as big as the Grand Canyon. How could I face who I was, the paths I had chosen, or what I had done to all of my children?
I saw drugs as my only hope for sanity, my only hope to feel good again. I had no idea yet how beautiful sobriety could be. I had no desire to get sober. My desire was to hide from the truth, and the only place I knew to hide was in a drug-induced stupor.
The next few days I took painkillers to get through, but my body was screaming for the real high. I felt I could barely survive those days.
Released from Reality
Soon after I left the hospital with Jalen, I had my random drug test twice at the beginning of the week. I knew I could get away with it if I got high that day. The kids were at school and daycare. I told myself, “Just this once.”
On my way to get the drugs, my heart was beating so fast and I was sweating. I remember looking in the rearview mirror and wondering why I didn’t have the power to call someone and ask for help. I thought, “I’m a fake and a liar. Why do people trust me? Why do they think I could do all of what it would take to get custody of my kids again?” I didn’t think I could do it all. It was just too much.
I only wanted to hide from myself and the life I had created. And I knew how to do that. I went and got the drugs, then picked up my kids and waited for everyone to go to sleep. Then I woke up my monster again.
Jackie Crisp entered drug treatment a year after she lost custody of her children and has been clean for three years. She reunified with Jazmin and Jalen on her birthday, March 23, 2006.