Stolen Souls: Addiction, Pregnancy, and Motherhood
The drug crisis in Kentucky is consuming our communities, taking lives daily, and turning hopeful dreamers destined for success into prisoners of addiction. The worst part about this, is the effect on innocent children-both born and unborn. Mothers are dying in the streets from addiction leaving children behind with no mothers. Pregnant women are drowning in the throws of addiction, leaving newborns struggling with their own addiction only hours into their lives here on earth.
I’ve been trying to relate, trying to figure out just how this can all be, but I am always left wondering what it’s really like to be an addict. Why can’t these mothers stop? How can a mother, carrying a life within her womb continue to inject herself with heroin and meth knowing that she is creating the most horrendous complication for her unborn child? At what point in someone’s life do things get so bad that they have to resort to something so drastic, so all consuming, so deadly?
But then I met Monica, a resident at Lifehouse Maternity Home, and wow, how my eyes have been opened. I am honored to share her story…
Monica refers to her childhood as an envious one, a good one. She was raised by 2 loving grandparents. Her biological parents were alcoholics and were abusive towards each other. From early on, her grandparents stepped in to make sure she was being cared for properly, even driving over at night to give her baths when she was a baby. At the age of 2, Monica moved in with her grandparents.
Despite these situations, Monica’s childhood produced stable and long-term friendships, private schooling, and academic success. When Monica was 10, she and her grandparents (whom she refers to now as Mom and Dad), moved to Florida, and that’s when things started to change. She didn’t want to move. She said, “I had found a group of friends that understood my situation and had accepted me for it.”
Monica reluctantly started 4th grade in Florida. She said of her classmates, “They found out that my mom and dad weren’t around, and then I was made fun of for my weight, and I was pretty much shamed a whole lot from 4th through 6th grade.”Tired of the constant shaming, Monica took matters into her own hands. She recalls thinking, “I’m tired of being made fun of, so I’m going to change. So I stopped eating.” After losing weight, Monica received a plethora of positive attention. Her social life started to change, and she was feeling accepted. But, she said,
“I was a dressed up garbage can. That’s what I was. I felt awful inside, but I wasn’t getting made fun of anymore. They weren’t calling me fat. They weren’t making fun of me. This is what I have to do to be accepted.”
After Monica turned 16, her biological father died from addiction related causes. “He never attempted to get to know me. I had a bunch of mixed emotions. One of them was shame. Finding out what type of person he was-there was a lot of anger and resentment. I can’t believe I’m trash…that’s how I felt about myself.” Growing up, Monica did not know this man, but knowing he died having never tried to be a father to her, never trying to overcome his addiction for the sake of his daughter, and never showing up for anything weighed so heavy on her heart. All the while, Monica had ended what little relationship she had with her biological mother who had lied to her about her own recovery and addiction, and went on to not speak to her for another 10 years. Monica had defended her mother her whole life, and even still saw her as her hero, but she had to cut ties.
Monica returned to Kentucky for college, as her heart had remained here all of those years. She began dating a guy that she felt really good about, and decided to move in with him. Little did she know, this was something she would live to regret. Describing their relationship Monica confesses, ”Someone wanted me. Someone accepted me, and he gave me all this attention. Then we found out I was pregnant, and I remember the look on his face like ‘you’re not really going to have this baby are you?’ I remembered all of the fights we had had and they were very verbally abusive borderline physical, so I made the decision to terminate the pregnancy. After I did that I threw myself into things that would make me forget and the only way I knew how to forget was to drink or do drugs, so I didn’t have to think about it.
Because every time I would think about terminating that pregnancy I would just feel so much. I cannot explain to anyone what it feels like to terminate a pregnancy, because it is the worst feeling and you lose so much of yourself. And realizing you can never get that back-you can never make that go away. My son or daughter would be 11 years old today. It was a very selfish choice to make, even though it was done out of fear, it was not mine to make. The abortion played a huge part in my downward spiral.”
Pills, acid, alcohol, crack, and ecstasy became the rocks on which she fell. “I never had to think about what I had done. I never had to think about not talking to my mom. I never had to think about my dad who didn’t want to be a dad, who chose to check out. I never had to think about how unhappy I was because I was always numbing it, I was always putting stuff on it.”
After graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Kentucky, Monica met the “man of her dreams and was swept off her feet.” Three weeks before their wedding, Monica’s Aunt Sherry, who was like a mother to her, suddenly died, and Monica witnessed her lying in the bathroom floor, but knew she couldn’t save her. “I was so angry at God. Like how dare you take her,” Monica recalls feeling after her death. To make matters worse, just weeks later, her fiancé’s brother committed suicide.
Monica and her husband moved away to his job placement in the army, where Monica suddenly found herself without a job, at home alone for very long periods of time, and feeling the need to seek therapy. She was prescribed a cocktail of medications to take on a daily basis, and not only did she do that, but she took extra and drank heavily. Then, as if she needed another blow, she found out that her husband had been having an affair for 6 months out of their brief 10-month marriage.
Back home in Louisville after getting a divorce and facing what she calls, “the ultimate rejection,” Monica begins hanging out with an old guy-friend, who happened to be a heroin user. She was only snorting heroin at the time, and remembers claiming that she would never use needles. She was just trying to piece her life back together- saving money, getting her beloved dogs back, getting an apartment, and finding employment. But her drug use was escalating. Monica recalls, “I don’t remember what caused me to use a needle for the first time, but I will tell you that my son’s father was the first person who stuck a needle in my arm. And I don’t blame him, because it was a choice on my part as well, but he would always say, ’I would never show you how to do that.’
I was instantly hooked, and there was no turning back. No other drug grabs you like heroin. When they say you will lose everything, you will lose everything.”
Monica describes the next phase of her drug use as “incomprehensible demoralization.” She lost her brand new car, got the lights turned off in her apartment, got evicted, was held at gunpoint, would sleep in random places, and would steal to pay her dealer. “I went from a vibrant bubbly personality, to a shell of a person, to looking into the mirror and hating everything about me.”
It was during this part of our interview that I began to truly see inside the mind of an addict- to understand, even in the smallest way, what they really go through. Monica recalls, “The first time I got high was insane. It makes you feel super human, especially for someone who has felt so powerless for the majority of her life. I believed a lie my whole life that I was not good enough.” During our emotional interview, she recalls never feeling good enough for her biological parents, never feeling accepted by her peers, never getting over her abortion, and feeling the ultimate rejection by the man she gave her heart to in marriage. The countless stories she recalled of her biological mother coming in and out of her life, leaving her with empty promises of hope and recovery, only to leave Monica heartbroken in the end. The cycle of heartbreak and rejection were never ending.
There were 2 times during Monica’s heroin addiction where she was administered the life-saving drug, Narcan, which is used in overdose situations to block the effects of opioid drugs. Without the administration of Narcan, Monica would have died, or remained dead as she sees it. “I was ‘Narcanned’ the first time and I was furious. I was like ‘How dare you bring me back, what is wrong with you?’ I was mad at God.
I wanted to die. At that point my addiction had gotten so bad, that at every moment, that’s all I thought about was getting high. It’s a mental obsession. Your family doesn’t matter, your kids don’t matter, your husband doesn’t matter, and your friends don’t matter. Nothing matters except how you can get this thing. And you know that if you don’t get this thing, you’re not going to be able to function. You’re going to be a zombie- actually a zombie probably has a better life. You are a shell of an individual.”
Monica continued to use heroin and recalls the second time she was “Narcanned.“ “I had gotten that dope specifically because I knew someone who had OD’d on it. So I went to the drug dealer knowing what he had. I was living in a personal hell. “ She had also recently learned that she was pregnant, about one month to be exact. This time, her response was different.
“Instead of cussing God, I hit my knees and said ‘save me’ because at that point I was going to die, and I didn’t want to die. I was so far gone into my addiction, if I hadn’t known I was pregnant, I would have gone until the bitter end, because I had nothing to live for.”
She remembers praying, “Take this from me, and I will do whatever I can to make this right.” At that very moment, she found the strength to call her cousin to take her to rehab, where normally, you aren’t accepted if you’re pregnant. Monica refers to this as a “God-thing,” when she recalls that for some reason during her intake, they forgot to give her a pregnancy test, “ They asked me if I was pregnant, and I said no. I lied. Because I knew if they knew, they wouldn’t take me, and I was going to die.”
Monica will be 2 years sober on February 14, 2018. Her beautiful son is 10 months old; she has a full-time job, and is thriving. She is a sponsor to other recovering addicts, and has made her amends with people in her past. She is living at Lifehouse, where she and her son have their own apartment while Monica continues to learn and grow. At Lifehouse, she can stay for several years, so that she has constant access to support, counseling, and friends that have become like family. “I am living here at Lifehouse, and they have helped me develop my relationship with God- such a better relationship. I’m in such a good spot with God now.
The Healing Place gave me recovery, but Lifehouse gave me God back.
I love my life today. I’m happy. I bought a car. I bought it outright. I pay for insurance. I can be a daughter today. I can be a good daughter today! My family wants me around. People don’t pick up their purses when I walk into a room. That is rewarding! My son has a mom, and I am so blessed because so many women their addiction was so bad when they already had kids. God sat me down while I was pregnant and gave me a chance. My son never has to see me passed out on the floor. He never has to worry about finding his mother dead. He doesn’t have to worry about going hungry. He doesn’t have to worry about mommy leaving him alone. My son doesn’t have to worry about mommy getting locked up and going to jail. My son has a mother, and he wouldn’t have had that. It’s a good, good feeling…it’s a good feeling to be a productive member of society today. Even when people aren’t looking, I’m doing the right thing.”
Monica didn’t choose to be an addict. She did not choose that life on purpose or for fun. She made the decisions she made to cover wounds that needed healing. Monica’s wounds were deep, and salt was poured on them year after year, until she could not take the pain anymore. Heroin can steal your body, but addiction can steal your soul. If you know a mother suffering from addiction, I encourage you to share this story with her, and maybe, just maybe, she can steal her soul back.
For more information about how Lifehouse can help you get your life back after finding sobriety during pregnancy and motherhood contact 502-897-1655.