Community Advocacy and Support by and for Young Mothers

Giving Up Addiction

Giving Up Addiction
By Kaitlin

I was 17, homeless, scared and sick when I decided to enter drug treatment for the third time. I didn’t want to get clean, I just wanted a break. I wanted to think for a second, to be able to feel my skin again. When I got there, and the doors locked behind me, I felt anything but relief. I was there 3 days when I was called into the nurse’s office where I was told I was pregnant. It was the second time in 2 years and much less scary than the first. With my first pregnancy, I knew immediately that I was unprepared and unwilling to be a mother, I chose abortion and never regretted it. I felt an intense connection to this pregnancy though, a spiritual connection as if it were a gift. I knew from the beginning that I would continue this pregnancy, and that I would do whatever I could to be a good mother. Everybody thought I was crazy--everybody.

I was a heavy IV drug user, high school dropout, irresponsible criminal, and nobody thought I could do it. My mother begged me to get an abortion; she thought I was trying to win a power struggle, or throw another obstacle between us. The counselors I worked with thought I was using the baby as a crutch, a reason to stay clean and that it would never work. They all urged adoption or abortion. The father of the baby, also a heavy drug user and supplier, did not want to slow down and wanted an abortion also. I was so conflicted. Nobody was telling me I could do it, nobody was on my side. I felt totally unsupported and that I was too much of a fuck-up to ever be able to raise a child. I felt like nobody expected me to succeed so why even try?

Finally I made a decision, knowing that having my baby could mean losing my family and the man I loved. I told everybody that I was not going to change my mind and either they were on my side or they weren’t. Eventually the comments slowed, and people stopped feeling the need to express their unwanted opinions. I graduated the program and moved back in with my mother. She slowly began to accept my decision and eventually became my number one support source.

It was really hard for me to stay healthy after getting out of treatment, so I entered an outpatient program to maintain social support. I stayed away from everyone and everything that made me want to use. I went to NA meetings even though I thought everyone was full of shit. I started doing things to get in touch with my baby, learning about infant massage, labor, and birth. I learned to crochet and made him pretty blankets. Anything I did that was not drugs was good. I started to get my shit back together too. I went back to community college, put money in the bank, and took care of my responsibilities. My baby was born in January, and I remember waking one afternoon and realizing I had never felt happier.

If you are pregnant or a mother, know that whatever lies people tell you, they are wrong. They will say you are no good, that you are wrong, selfish, immature, or stupid, and even though it can be so easy to believe, none of it is true. You can be a good mother and still be a drug addict in recovery. You can fuck-up, relapse, go to jail, overdose, burn your kid’s mac and cheese, and then decide you want to do it right. You can do it. I came from a really hard place, and the road was rough, but I made it and if you want to, you can do it too. I am a good mother despite the scars on my arm and my past, and mama, you will be too if that’s what you want.

This is your checklist for getting and staying clean:

-Call an outpatient or residential program you feel comfortable with
-Show up and listen, even if it is crap.
-Think about things with a clear head and heart. If you relapse you will remember these thoughts.
-When you get out, stay away from things that make your heart skip. Stay away from things that smell like your drug of choice. Stay away from songs that make your lip tremble. Stay away from any friends you ever used with, whether they are using now or not.
-Form a network of people who will support you. Whether it’s your family, an outpatient group, an internet community, counselors, etc., find people who believe in you and will be there for you when things are rough. Eliminate from your life anyone who won’t support you.
-Focus on your pregnancy. Attend free childbirth, breastfeeding and infant care classes. Read every book at the library. Make crafts and go to garage sales. Bond with your baby. The more connected you are to your baby, the less likely you will be to relapse.
-Put some good energy into your outlet instead of bad.