My first day in recovery was Aug. 15, 2001. I will never forget it. Our daughter, who we call Little Mama, was already in foster care. Thatmorning, getting dressed, I tried to look normal. Then my husband and I got on the #6 train to 3rd Avenue. We didn’t even talk. I guess we were both nervous. I couldn’t believe we were finally going for treatment.
For so long I had never thought about recovery or had it in my mind to quit using drugs. All my life—ever since I was 12 years old—I had been on drugs. My life was just drugs. That’s all I knew. So my confidence was low. I was scared I wouldn’t make it and would use again or drop out.
Don’t Mess With Me
When we got there, my husband’s name was called first. Then I was by myself until a lady called me and we went to her office. I remember passing all these addicts. Women holding plastic cups to go to the bathroom. Women talking about relapsing—how much they used and how much time they lost toward getting their kids back. The worst was the women who had their babies or children with them at the program, while my baby was in foster care. That’s the biggest reason why I didn’t like Lincoln in the beginning—because I didn’t have my daughter with me and other people did.
And I hated all the positive faces. I mean, everyone wanted to hug you, shake your hand, try to make you have a sponsor and get you to speak in the meetings. I didn’t want anybody to mess with me.
My counselor’s name was Ms. Wint. She was African-American, wore dreadlocks and no makeup and was very straightforward. My first impression was that we weren’t going to get along. But soon I discovered she really was nice and ’til this day I call her to let her know I am doing fine and to tell her how Little Mama is growing.
Telling My Story
That first day she asked me a lot of questions, like, “What drugs do you use? When was the last time you used? How long did you use drugs?” I was ashamed to say I was a crack addict and the last time I used was four days before. I said, “I’ve been using alcohol, crack and marijuana since I was 12 years old. That’s about 21 years of substance abuse.”
I blamed myself for becoming addicted, but I had a lot of reasons to use drugs. My parents abandoned my siblings and me when I was 5, and my sister and I were adopted by a family that physically and sexually abused us. When I started running away to search for my birth mother, I got raped and ended up living in group homes and shelters. Drugs helped me escape from the reality of my life.
When I told Ms. Wint about my long history of drug abuse, it was like she’d already heard of stories of life like mine. But for me it was a relief, like weights lifted off my chest. It felt good accepting that I did really need help to stay clean.
Ms. Wint asked me why I was at Lincoln Recovery. I showed her a letter from ACS about Little Mama.
“OK,” she said, “We can help you as long as you do the program.”
I got my schedule for getting acupuncture, urine tests, Narcotics Anonymous meetings, meeting my counselor, going to parenting classes, relapse group and vocational training.
Then I could finally leave. I was so relieved to get out of there.
As much as recovery has helped me get a new life I’m proud of, I never did get used to treatment and I never did enjoy going there.
Acupuncture was an upsetting experience. We had to have five needles placed in our ears and sit in pink chairs for 45 minutes. That was just unbearable. It was supposed to be relaxing, but people in the acupuncture room would always be talking loudly.
NA—I never enjoyed that, either. Even when I had 1 1/2 years clean, I just never did feel right in the NA meetings. All of the hugging, oh my God. To me that was annoying. It was phony. And then I heard people talking about other people in the NA meetings, passing judgment behind their backs even though it’s supposed to be supportive and confidential.
Parenting classes weren’t that bad, mostly because I went with my husband. I learned helpful things about raising my daughter, but I did have a conflict of opinion about the advice the teacher gave. The teachers told me not to spoil my daughter, and said that giving her a real allowance—like $3 to $5—would give her bad habits. To them, 25 cents was a good allowance. I always disputed it, and to this day I give her a full allowance for the chores she does around the house.
The main positive thing I got out of parenting class was that the teacher gave us information about an organization called Golden Opportunity Inc. They help mothers with ACS cases who need housing. I ran to them with the information and did all of the steps necessary to get a section 8 voucher. I was ready to find an apartment big enough for Little Mama to come home to.
…But it Helped
As much as Lincoln annoyed and overwhelmed me, it helped me break my addiction to drugs. My first breakthrough came about two weeks after I started going to NA. It came time for people to receive their key chains celebrating their new sobriety. I had been to four meetings so far and I went up to receive my first white key chain. The leader asked me how many days I had clean. I said, “Fourteen days.” I felt so good that I was able to admit that I was a recovering addict.
When I stayed after the meeting to get a key chain for my husband, the NA chairman told me that we might want to tape a quarter to a phone number so if we have to desire to use, we can call somebody, especially another recovering addict with at least one year clean, to help us get through it.
Getting Over Crack Dreams
Those first few months were hard. I had “crack dreams” in the first two months of my recovery. Once I had a dream that I saw myself buying crack and hoped I wouldn’t get caught by my husband. In my dream I was putting the crack in the pipe. I felt my finger lighting the lighter and putting the glass pipe to my lips and pulling the white cloud in.
When I caught myself inhaling, I woke up—still sober, with my husband lying asleep next to me. I was grateful not to be in the dream. I was also glad that other recovering addicts told me that dreams like that do happen. That was to be expected.
When I had bad dreams or cravings, my counselor told me a lot of positive things, like that she was proud of me for sticking to the program. Ms. Wint was very motivating. I hated when we had to do random urine tests with our counselor standing in the bathroom with us. Ms. Wint made it easier.
A Sad Celebration
People around me would relapse and I always felt I was missing out on the excitement of getting high. But I never had a desire to relapse. My focus was on recovery, housing, school, and getting my daughter back. I knew I couldn’t use drugs because the system had my daughter. I needed to prove to myself I do this.
My husband and I made our first year sober in August, 2002. That’s when I really cried. It was hurtful to remember where I was and all of the terrible things I did for drugs: selling myself, lying, losing all seven of my children, including Little Mama, who was the last one. I had a chance to fight for her and needed my recovery to work. Not just me, but for my husband as well. We could fight together.
I was tired of my abusive life. I wanted my sobriety and my daughter returned home.
Positive Attitudes and Activities
To stay focused I kept my days full with positive activities: NA meeting, talking to my counselor if something was bothering me, working toward my GED in school and attending a peer education training. My life changed. I had positive friends in the program.
In my two years at Lincoln, I struggled to deal with the attitudes of new women and men being fresh and disrespectful to women. It stressed me out that I had to keep giving urine when they knew I was clean. When people asked if I used, I always told them, “I work hard every day to keep myself off drugs.”
I completed two years of treatment and took parenting classes twice. Now I have had four years in recovery. I never want to use any drugs again. My life is not easy, but I love my life and I love my husband and daughter. I never want to go back to the life of drugs. I suffered so long and all of my children suffered because I was being selfish and not wanting to be a mother.
I’m a Strong Person
I know now I am a strong person, and that I’m responsible. I have positive friends in my life who don’t use drugs. I have been able to keep in contact with my two sons who were adopted by the foster mother who also had my daughter for three years. Now my daughter is home and her foster mother and husband are my godparents.
I really don’t focus anymore on my past. I just live my life free from alcohol and drugs and negative people. I got my GED and I’m in college now. It’s hard work, and it’s not easy balancing what my daughter, my husband and I all need. But it’s better than living how I was before.
I love being with my daughter. I love her so much. I believe I will never fall back. I will just keep striving for new positive things.