Who walks away from their life? From their children’s lives, parents, family of any kind and friends? An addict does that’s who- an addict caught in the grips of addiction. What does an addict look like? Like any of us. I know because I am an addict in recovery named Christine.
Of course I didn’t start out when I was younger thinking to myself- I think I will grow up and become an addict. I had dreams as a young girl, I wanted to go to college, travel and be a teacher I remember. A third grade teacher. My third grade teacher made such an impact on me; I vividly remember making nail soup where all the students were tasked to bring in a can or bag of some kind of bean or vegetable for this concoction. What I know now is that was teamwork at its best. That was an act of all of us doing something for the common good- lunch. It also taught me that I could create something, something that tasted delicious.
By the time I was in sixth grade I was well on my way and already using something to change the way I felt. I didn’t look like it –YET. I would be able to hide my using for years to come. Things I could not hide were the self-inflicted scars on my hands and thighs. Gashes that I would gauge into myself with my own hands, clawing and scrapping with my finger nails until I bled or just couldn’t take the burning pain of flesh anymore. Pain was my friend for many years, pain was at least a feeling I could feel that took me away from feeling anything else long before the drugs ever did. Surprisingly enough no one ever noticed the sores on my body; I was always getting some scar from something I was doing so what’s another. No one really paid attention either- they did pay attention when the trouble began I noticed and trouble started happening young and wouldn’t stop until I stopped using. Imagine that.
This picture was taken after, after I had already had my children removed from me. After I chose drugs and the life that came with it over everything else. Can you tell I was so hopeless? I had come up for air a bit here so I did look somewhat cleaned up. I was just trying to hold on and smile for the camera. I was happy at that moment I am sure of it- of course I was; I was with my children. I remember we were at Mom’s house, those are her couches and that’s my Dad. Mom still had guardianship of all four of my children and dad was there helping out (they divorced when I was very young) – that would change soon. I would be arrested again and that is when the courts severed all rights to my then youngest child Anthony, not in the picture as he was in foster care; eventually he would be put up for adoption after a series of unfortunate events involving other family members who tried to keep him in the family but were addicts themselves. My oldest Niko and youngest Cassidy in the picture would stay with my mother and due to allegations the two middle children Marina and Alex would go to my ex-husband.
I didn’t know. I didn’t have any clue or idea that I would not see Marina and Alex for so long. It was just another day like any other. I was locked up on a 10 day hold, no bail. I never bailed out- total waste of money and if there was money to be had I needed it to get loaded with. However I remember being shuffled in chains to the family courthouse; I was a hot mess. The judge took a look at me and struck the gavel giving my children away. That was it- they were gone. I went back to my cell and slept. Not a care in the world. Drugs had robbed me of the ability to feel for real by then. I was emotionless and my only thought was counting down the days until my release. I had to get high, I had to get away- far away where no one knew me for a while. That was my excuse all the time, I just had to get away.
No one knew me really, not even those closest to me. At this point I had secretly given two children up for adoption deep into my addiction. One from a man named Albert whose only problem is that he loved me too much and it scared me so I left him. I would tell Albert I had a miscarriage and that the pain from that was the reason I never wanted to see him again. The other from a man who killed himself- Mike. I carried a lot of guilt from that for a very long time. Mike and I went way back, back to my runaway years- after the bust he went away for five years federal. Some people died then, some went to prison, and many I would never see again. I often thought if I had told Mike I was pregnant would he have killed himself that night? If I had let him take me would he have killed me too? If I had never given him that first one would this had happened? I mean why not celebrate after that high risk federal parole case finally closes with mounds of dope right. I remember how he said no he can’t and I did it all myself leaving him that night. It took him just a few short days to catch up to me, pass me up and get into psychosis for me to then close the door on his face that night. When they told me what had happened I just couldn’t do it, I couldn’t keep his child. Just another excuse to give away a baby that I couldn’t deny existed and no one had a clue of anyway, it was a girl.
Today marks 9 years since I walked out of the Sacramento County Jail, April 24, 2009 after serving 8 months of a year sentence. I wanted something different. I knew I was an addict now- I had evidence. Years and years of evidence. Years and years of incarceration, in some county, somewhere, always dragging me back to Sac County because I always had a warrant. I was actually supposed to be released on the April 23rd, but you know I caught an extra day. I couldn’t even stay outta trouble in jail! Had I gotten out on the 23rd who knows what would have happened- there was someone there waiting for me I might have actually went with. Instead I was released on the 24th almost missing my daughter Irene’s birthday on the 26th. I didn’t know how much extra time I was going to get- you never do. By the way that was no coincidence, that was a loving Higher Power intervening in my life one more time.
My moment of clarity happened locked up that last time for those 8 months in the county jail. I had the opportunity to see Marina and Alex again for the first time in 10 years. I was shuffled back to the family courthouse in chains. My children were now 15 and 16 years old, they were so big. Where had the time gone? It had gone the same place my spirit and soul had gone- to my addiction. When they took me back to my cell that day I had realized one thing and one thing only; I was in that same jail on that same floor 10 years earlier when the judge made the decision to give my children away. It was then when I knew I was an addict. That drugs had the power over me to turn Christine into someone she no longer wanted to be- I had surrendered.
Besides todays date my clean date, September 5, 2008; the day of my last arrest, September 4, 2008; the day I got my son Alex out of foster care at 15, February 10, 2010, my daughter Marina emancipated out of the system at 18 that December; the day I earned the right to have custody of my youngest girls Irene (who was born after all that under the craziest of circumstances that we just don’t have time for right now) and Cassidy, October 2, 2012 are some of the most important dates in my life.
I remember everything now- I never want to forget what I was like.
Life goes on and I have new dates that mean so much to me now too including good memories with those that I love and those that love me. I have my spirit and soul back, it’s been with me for some time. I am forever grateful for finding a new way to live and for that I give back what was freely given to me.
The Chicken Lady