By Sherry Stevens, Editor
August is Recovery month for the MHA Nation and as a tribute to those who struggle to ‘Get Sober’ and ‘Stay Sober’, we want to celebrate with an honest and heartfelt account about an Anonymous Member’s journey to become and maintain sobriety. Below is an interview, in her own words, a gift from a recovering soul’s experience to fight the ‘Good Fight’:
WHERE IT STARTED
I grew up with childhood trauma in the home. My parent’s divorced and there was a lot fighting. Before the divorce, I had an alcoholic step-parent and a co-dependent mother. During this tumultuous time, she lost her dad at the age of 26 and she went into a deep depression. She was in grieving but unable to grieve in a healthy way. My mom wasn’t emotionally available to me and unfortunately, at that same time, I was experiencing some trauma which lasted from the age of eight to about twelve years old. I began to drink alcohol at age twelve. Alcohol is where I got the peace and a sense of belonging which I really needed. I ended up rebelling and ran away from home. I was a good athlete and basketball player but alcohol affected me at school and I was partying and instead, not going to school or studying. A social worker and a truancy officer had to work hard to get me back into school.
I didn’t have encouraging words growing up and my mom was so busy fixing her own life, she wasn’t learning how to express herself to me. Much of this was due to the generational trauma which comes along with our heritage but I yearned for her affection, and I didn’t get it. She was a good mom but didn’t know how to show love.
I was a supervisor at the casino when I started drinking hard again as an adult; not showing up to work and I got into my first bad relationship. I ruined that job and another as well.
Shortly after that, I started with the opiates, and that’s where my life began to go downhill quickly. I started off with a prescription which was prescribed to me, and now that I think about it, they [the Doctors] should have never cut me off as abruptly as they did. It was time for my prescription refill, and she [my Doctor] wouldn’t refill. After that, I began really bad withdrawals, (my first) and thereafter, I was introduced to the tougher drugs of morphine through family members. These were to help with the bad withdrawals.
That’s when I first turned to IV use, and I loved it. It was just like, when I did it, and used it that way — it was like everything in my mind — everything that was going on like, my memories about my trauma and the current trauma – everything that was always so loud in my head — everything I had always wanted to shut down, (but I didn’t know how to shut it down) … When I started using opiates through IV, everything got quiet. I finally felt the peace I was looking for. It was ridiculous. It just progressed so fast. I used hard drugs and eventually, I started using meth.
MY STAGE OF USING WITH MY UNCLE
One of my uncles had lost his fingers due to frostbite, and they [Doctors] gave him heavy painkillers, and unfortunately, I influenced him into using them that way – I introduced the drugs to him – because I wanted his drugs. It was because of my own selfishness. I was his nurse at that same time, and I was taking care of him. He used to call me ‘Nurse Ratchet. My uncle and I were really close; he was like a father figure to me – ever since I was a baby. My mom said he used to hold me and take care of me. Our addiction progressed together, and it just got worse.
MY CHILDREN CAME INTO THE PICTURE
Eventually, I got pregnant with my first child. At that time, I was able to quit using drugs, and I had a healthy baby. The first day I was out of the hospital, however, I was doing hard drugs again. Shortly thereafter, I got pregnant again, but this time while I was pregnant with my second child, my son, I was heavy into using and I wasn’t able to quit. I ended up using the entire length of the pregnancy. I got involved with social services, CPS, and ended up with dirty UAs. This was the reason I got caught up in social services and the system, because I was pregnant and I was using heroin.
My kidneys started shutting down, so I had to go to the hospital. Of course, they found the drugs in my system and CPS was notified, and I was officially in the system. From that point forward, they were watching me very closely.
THE GUILT TOWARD MY CHILDREN
One day they [CPS] showed up with a UA, and I wasn’t able to give them a clean one. They put me in treatment. Talking about this really brings back a lot of feelings and emotions. Guilt and shame that one day, I’m going to have to tell my son the story of how he was — when I was pregnant, and what happened when he was born – kind of ‘why’ he is the way he ‘is’.
Throughout my pregnancy, I was using both, heroin and meth. I actually gave birth to my son while on a drug-run in Minneapolis. I was probably using an hour before he was born. I don’t hardly remember my newborn son – or anything about that day. I don’t really even remember what he looked like when he was born. I just know I was using heroin in the bathroom while I was waiting for him to come back into my room. Child services here at home gave me a few days to bring him back. Henipen County was trying to keep my son, but fortunately, CPS here was able to get him here, instead of keeping him in the state of Minnesota.
SOME OF MY WORST MEMORIES OF USING
I used all the time, even on the way home with a newborn son and a one-year-old daughter. We stalled-out in Fargo and it was wintertime. We had run out of gas. I was with my uncle and a few other people including the drug dealer — we stalled out, and I had no formula for my son. I had a one-year-old daughter, and I remember them crying while we were parked in front of the gas station At that point, I considered panhandling to get my kids back home. I didn’t want to call my mom because she had already sent me money and I had spent it on drugs. Eventually, I was able to get some gas money, and we left out.
After I got home from Minneapolis, I went to my mom’s house, and there was a memorial dinner for my Grandma, Mary Jane. I handed my son over (to my mother under the guidance of CPS), and I didn’t come back. I was pretty much in and out of his life for the next few months. I was dealing drugs including heroin; I went back-and-forth to Minneapolis. I can’t believe the things I did while I was using heroin — it’s almost surreal it’s like a movie when I think back on it — things I would never do today.
I got federally indicted that summer. It was a divine intervention. It’s saved my life. That was in 2013.
NO LONGER A REASON TO LIVE
In January 2014, they [CPS] took my kids away, and they told me I couldn’t see them — no contact. They took them from my mom, she was heartbroken.
At that time, I felt like a complete failure, and I was probably on my fifth day of being up with no sleep, and on meth. I took a bottle of Tylenol and a bottle of Bayer aspirin because I felt like a failure. I felt like, “They took my kids, I am wanted by the Feds, I’m going to go to prison, and I can’t quit drugs — what is the whole reason to live? I have no reason to live anymore.”
I didn’t tell anyone that I had taken the pills until I got to my mom’s house. I asked to be dropped off there. I remember, I went into my baby’s room, and I looked around. It was empty and I was barely breathing at that point, and I went into my mom’s room, and I was looking at a picture of my kids and was crying, but I couldn’t breathe. The ambulance was called — I was so dehydrated, so unhealthy and undernourished from being on a binge of meth, that they couldn’t even start an IV on me. My body was shutting down and not responding to treatment. They had to drill an IV into my bone in order to get the fluids in me. It was painful. I remember, they had to Narcan me and put some kind of adrenaline into me.
I remember waking up for a bit, and the police officer took my mom aside and said I wasn’t going to make it — it doesn’t look good. I remember riding in the ambulance for a little bit, and the lady said, “You’re going to go into cardiac arrest,” because my blood pressure was so high, “we’re going to have to stick a tube down your throat.” I remember looking outside the window of the ambulance, and I remember thinking, “What did I do? I don’t wanna die. My babies!” I remember that night at the hospital when they told my family I wouldn’t make it through the night.
PLEASE, I WANT TO LIVE!
I know that feeling of wanting to live. I had never gotten it before, but when a family member or friend tells you, “Fight! Fight to live! Don’t give up! Stay strong!” I know that feeling, and it’s hard to explain. It’s unexplainable.
From there, the federal marshals picked me up from the hospital, and I went to jail. A Godsend actually. When I think of being in jail, it’s kind of crazy; I was in Rugby for months, I was actually quite happy there. I was finally sober and in the right sense of mind. I actually have good memories of being in jail. It’s crazy. Probably the most stable I had been in years.
PARSHALL RESOURCE CENTER
I wanted to be sober, and I wanted to see my kids, and luckily, I got into Parshall Resource Center. I hate when people knock Parshall Resource Center and say, “Oh it’s not a good treatment center,” Parshall Resource Center is a good treatment center. It helped me to get in touch with my spirituality — to help me get a sense of who I was, on a spiritual level. To get in touch with that part I felt was missing — that little piece of me, that I was missing. Parshall Resource Center helped me to find it. There are very good people there — awesome people. I really learned a lot from it.
RELAPSE AND MY UNCLE
I did complete treatment at Parshall, but once again, I was only sober for a few months, and I relapsed again. That relapse was a pretty tough one. It lasted for months. I was selling, and I was dealing.
In 2015, my uncle **** died. He was the one who was part of my journey, and he was the one that I struggled with. It was hard. He died suddenly. The sad thing about it is my uncle died because of complications from his years of drug use. I’m going to let people know that when you choose to do drugs, when you choose to snort drugs or you choose to shoot them up your arm, those toxic particles from that drug, they have nowhere to go. They will settle in your lungs. A lot of people who do drugs have problems with their lungs. Problems with breathing, and that’s what happened to my uncle. I hate to say this, but it’s the truth, he suffocated to death.
When I was told he died, I was at an AA meeting. A family member told me. Not even two days later, I relapsed. I was high during his funeral and I was high for a good while after.
This was in October, and I was set to get a sentence for my indictment a few months later, in January of 2016.
PRISON TIME WAS THE BEST TIME IN A LONG TIME BECAUSE I WAS SOBER
In January of 2016, I was sentenced. That was a tough one as I had waited three years to receive a sentence. It felt like a set up for failure. The ‘fear of the unknown’ for three years. A lot of people who got indicted from the incident were sentenced quickly. For me, because of my particular case, it took longer. It was really hard on me.
I felt like I was stuck in life with that indictment hanging over me; I didn’t know if I should get a job, I didn’t know if I was going to go to prison, and I didn’t know what was going to happen next or before I went to prison. For those three years, I was in limbo — I didn’t know what was going to happen. Eventually, they sentenced me. I had to sit out the rest of my sentence, which was four months.
BLACK BOX – THIS IS SURREAL
Jail was surreal — going from jail to jail — county to county. To be handcuffed, shackled. I never imagined my life would end up like that or that I’d be living that way; sitting in a van waiting to be transferred to another jail with other people, men and a woman, who were convicted of serious crimes. I was ‘black box’. I didn’t know what black box meant but I soon learned it is for serious offenders. I remember going to Des Moines, Iowa and thinking, “This is real, this is really happening to me — this is where my life is taking me.”
I sat in Iowa for a month. I met a lot of good people — a lot of good women that could probably have been doing a lot of good things in their life but unfortunately, because of addiction and drugs, they were stuck in jail.
They took me down to Leavenworth, Kansas and I was down there for another month and a half. I was locked up with women who had murdered their companions. Women who were looking at being sentenced for 20 years — who needed to be transferred out. Crazy, but this is where my life has lead me.
THIS IS NOT WHAT I WAS MEANT TO DO
Even before I got sentenced, I remember I had never really been to jail. I never got in big trouble. So, for me to be transferred like this in a patty wagon, shackled up, it was a lot to absorb.
My mom actually drove all the way down to Kansas to pick me. The feds gave me two days to be back in Fargo at the women’s center there. Once again, because I was in a structured environment, and because I was somewhere safe, I made a lot of good memories. I was with a lot of women who had addictions like I did, and they had the potential to live good prosperous lives. I hope they have done that — since then, you know? But their addictions have ruined them, if they haven’t.
A lot of these women had children. Throughout my journey in those cells, I heard a lot of women crying. In the middle of the night, you could hear them crying in that jail. They would cry and sob. I was one of them. I could not stop thinking about my kids while I was on that journey and locked up.
EARLY AWAKENINGS AND ANSWERED PRAYERS
In 2013, I remembered waking up at a trailer, and there was a lot of drug addicts, dealing and selling. None of us were doing anything with our lives except using drugs. I remember waking up that morning and there were people sleeping on the couches, and there was people crashed out in the back room. I remember waking up, and my kids were probably six houses down from me, and I remember thinking, “God, I just want my babies — I want my kids. I just want a home for us. I want to be sober,” and I imagined them, playing in the living room, right there in front of me and I prayed — I prayed at that time that I would have that. Today I have that.
PROSPEROUS LIFE AND CONTINUOUS BLESSINGS
In 2016, I was able to finish my time in the Center For Women, and I came home. I was so driven. I so wanted that life of sobriety. I wanted it so bad! I attended all the AA meetings; I went to sweats, I got a job. I was very driven.
We did the sacred fire movement. It was so beautiful — with the help of ****, ****, ****, *****, ****,****, **** (anonymous members). So many people came to help; the Women’s VFW, the police officers even the federal agents came. That fire lasted for 30 days and we kept that fire going.
One windy night, the earth lodge started on fire. That was our fault. It was windy, and we had that fire going, but luckily, we were able to keep that fire going, and we continued keep it burning and alive. ****(anonymous) got the ok to bring it back to the earth lodges. We finished it — It was beautiful.
The purpose of the Sacred Fire was to bring people from darkness into the light; drug addicts, people who went through trauma, domestic violence, and suicides. We had sweat lodge almost every day. We had women’s talking circles. We had lots of good things happening out there. Crazy, because it happened from October to November. And after it happened, I felt so emotionally drained because I gave my everything to it.
Afterward, I slipped into a deep depression, and I was in a really ugly relationship at the time. [An Elder] saw me at the grocery store, and told me that in the spiritual realm of addiction, there is a spiritual warfare going on — if you think about it. I have basically put a target on my own back for that bad drug spirit to easily seek me.
In 2018, I relapsed again. At first, I kept it hidden and this went on for about six to seven months. Eventually, all went loose again; I started stealing from my mother, my brothers, and my sisters. I was back to burning bridges and hurting my kids again. The lying and the chaos. All of that destruction and ugliness, I did it all over again. When you jump back into addiction, you start right where you were. Headfirst; you pick up where you left off.
7 TREATMENT CENTERS IN 7 YEARS
Luckily through the tribe, I was able to go to Scottsdale Recovery Center. Man! Was that a good place! I think that was my seventh treatment in seven years. I was able to learn a lot about myself. Luckily, that place was so open-minded, and there was a Director who was with the [tribe — anonymity preserved]He was so helpful with my recovery. He was very supportive. He’s the person who actually got me the sweetgrass and sage while I was there.
I was the first person they allowed to go out to a sweat lodge down there. It was cool because I went to the sweat lodge in downtown Phoenix. It was at one of the treatment centers down there. I was amazed that I would be able to even do something like that. I remember waiting in line to get into that sweat lodge, and I remember standing in line, thinking, “ I am meant to be here and learn from this.” I eventually came home.
MY COMPANION IS SOBER BUT UNDERSTANDING OF MY JOURNEY
I met my companion who I am with now and he has never done drugs. He’s understanding of it but he’s very stern in his ways and self-disciplined.
Since being with him, he has taught me a new way to live. Last year, I relapsed and my mom had a heart attack in February. On the way to pick up my companion to go to the hospital, she wouldn’t let me drive because she didn’t trust me as she knew I was high on drugs. That was eye opening. During that relapse, of course, I started up with all the same behaviors again. This time though, my partner stuck with me. I never thought he would — I kept telling him he was too good for me, “Why are you with me?” (I would think and say these things because of my own feelings and lack of self-worth).
I never thought I would be with someone who could love and respect me. Again, this was because of my own self-esteem issues and how I looked at myself as a woman.
Since then, I’ve really grown, and I have self-worth, and I know I deserve a lot. Going on a year ago, is when I got hired to work at ‘The Door.’ The Door is a safe place to go and attend meetings and be yourself. I was determined to get a job, and I waited outside of Northern lights for Dr. Mayer. I waited there because I so badly needed a job. She pulled up, and I went right to her window, scared as heck, I said, “Doc, I need a job.”
The first thing she said was, “Are you sober?”
I said, “Yes, I am.”
I showed her my car because I had bought a new car and because of recovery, I had a house and bills I needed to pay (responsibility). She shook her head and said, come tomorrow, and I’ll start you at ‘The Door.’ I was shocked, and in disbelief, I couldn’t believe I got hired.
I started working in September of 2019, and that job has been an absolute blessing for me. Things happen for a reason. The Creator makes this happen for you. If I didn’t have that job, I don’t know where I would be right now.
THAT JOB IS A BLESSING
That job has kept me accountable. That job has allowed me to go to meetings every day of the week. That job has allowed me to work with women and people in recovery. People who are trying. I see myself in them sometimes. I see that hurt and them wanting to be sober — because of my journey and what I have been through. I have been through a lot of hurt, and I have been through a lot of shame and guilt.
On the other part, I did that to other people too. I did that to my family. My family has stuck by me the whole way. Maybe mad at me at times, wanting to give up on me; especially my mom, but I am so blessed to have my mom in my life.
I know a lot of people can relate to me, and how we treat our family members in addiction. As natives, we are really a big family — cousins, brothers, and sisters, and little do we know, we have a huge support system. We think we don’t have anybody, but in a native community, we have a big support system because we have big families. Most of us come from huge families. I come from a very big family.
WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT
To those moms out there — those women out there who are lost; we have so many cases with social services and they are swamped down there. There are a lot of meth babies born these days. A lot of opiate babies. Sometimes I see they have a hard time placing these kids somewhere. A lot of moms are losing their babies because of addiction. I talked with a girl — she felt like it was hopeless. She felt like she couldn’t get her kids back. I had to remind her that I’ve been through it too — I lost my kids too. I didn’t get my kids back for two years, but I jumped through the hoops they gave me. I did not give up. I got my kids back. It is possible to get your babies back. You may feel like it is not at times. You may feel that maybe you’re not ‘worth’ getting your kids back — or you may feel like you’re not ‘able’ to get your kids back. You may also feel like, once you get your kids back, you’re not going to be able to take care of your babies, and I want you to know and remember, being a mother is natural. I want to encourage mothers to keep going as I did.
COME TO THE DOOR
Please come down to ‘The Door.’ We are open Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 (COVID hours). Wear your mask. We have coffee already made. We have love and laughter down here. We have meetings, pool table, air hockey, tv, computers. If you just wanna stop by and visit, we are here for you guys who are struggling with addiction.
Don’t feel alone. Sobriety is possible. You just have to want it — absolutely want to be sober.
I am really thankful for Dr. Mayer’s openness and compassion. She is supportive and gives addicts a second chance to build their lives. I am thankful that she looks at us as human beings and she doesn’t lose hope in us.
To my mother; as a mother, and throughout the years my mom has developed the ability to grieve in a healthy manner and she is able to now, express herself without inhibitions. I am truly blessed that my mother never gave up on me and loved me unconditionally.
By A Grateful Member
This article has been transcribed by audio file. We are able to ascertain words according to the clarity of the audio and how it’s interpreted phonetically. Although we have edited this article for content and checked for errors, we apologize beforehand if a word is misunderstood and recorded in error. Let our editor know if a name was misspelled or a fact misinterpreted and we will correct the error in the next issue. Thank you,
Sherry Stevens, Editor. – [email protected] –