Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I don’t know who looks back at me
Terry is a 42-year-old married grandmother of two, who grew up in a small town in what she considers to be a close loving family.
Terry married her high school sweetheart just out of school and for the next nine years traveled with him in his military career. Terry spent most of her time as a stay-at-home mother to two daughters. Most of Terry’s life is not unlike many others from her age group with the one exception. Terry is an addict.
I never thought this would happen to me
After traveling to various Army bases around the United States, Terry and her husband separated while living in Texas. Terry spent a year hoping that her marriage could be salvaged. After giving up, she moved back to her hometown to try and start again. Terry said a combination of loneliness and frustration and an unexplainable emptiness led to her first involvement in the use of crack cocaine. Terry found herself 28 years old and an addict.
At first, Terry would just use occasionally. She was convinced that she would be able to use when she wanted to and not become addicted. It was not long before she was using crack cocaine every day. Terry’s mother and sister would comment to her that they thought something was wrong, but she was convinced she had them fooled. The more that Terry used, the more affect it had on her and her children.
I still thought I was in control
It was just a matter of time before Terry’s drug use began to take its toll. Some of her family members told her ex-husband what Terry was doing. Terry’s ex-husband took her children to live with him. With her children gone, the only thing she had to do was find more drugs. Finding drugs was never difficult for Terry. She found family members that were also using crack cocaine, and they began to share that life together. Within a few months, Terry found herself with limited skills and unable to find any job that could support her, much less support a drug habit. Terry began to do what she described as “anything I could to get crack cocaine.”
Like being in a dark pit, not able to see the sun
As all the money she had was soon gone, as well as everything of value she had to sell, Terry found herself broke and homeless. But she still chose to use crack cocaine. Terry began to go through alleys looking in dumpsters for anything of value that she might sell to buy her drug. Terry was able to move into a garage apartment behind her mother’s house. She spent her mornings looking for anything of value to sell and her afternoons using the drugs she had bought from whatever she could find, only to start the entire process again the next day.
The only people who Terry saw or went around were people who could help her get drugs or get money to buy drugs. She tried to avoid her mother and other family members who might call her out on her drug use. Terry’s daughters refused to come visit or call her.
I just kept digging deeper
When Terry had more trouble finding anything of value to sell, she began to steal anything she could find. At first, it was things from the neighbor’s yard, from unlocked cars she came across, and soon, from houses that she found unlocked. At one time, she was in her mother’s home and took all the cash that was in her mother’s purse. Even this was not enough to keep her in the drug that she needed.
Terry convinced her mother’s Aunt Libby to let her come over to clean her house. Terry began immediately telling Aunt Libby that she was fighting depression from the loss of family. Aunt Libby was a very religious person, and Terry was able to use that to her benefit. Terry would sit with Aunt Libby reading from her Bible and ask Aunt Libby to pray for her that she would have the money to take care of her needs for the day. Aunt Libby began to have extra money that she would give Terry to help her out. Within a few months, Terry was able to get thousands of dollars from Aunt Libby. When other family members found out, they demanded that Terry not go back to work for Aunt Libby again.
Terry was now back to where she started again. She had no money, and she still needed to buy her drugs. Terry knew that Aunt Libby was not going to give her any more money or let her work for her again, but she still went to visit her. It was during these visits that Terry began to steal Aunt Libby’s jewelry. In just a few visits, Terry had stolen every item of value that Aunt Libby had.
I no longer knew who I was
When the money once again ran out, the drugs ran out as well. With nothing to sell and not being able to steal from other family members, Terry was out of options. She described the first time it happened as if it were just another event in her life. It started with a neighbor who she had asked before for money. The neighbor suggested that he would not give her money but that she can make money if she were to have sex with him. With no other options, Terry went back to the neighbor. In her mind, it was not that she was having sex; it was that she was getting money for the drugs she so needed. That seemed to make it easier. And the second time was easier than that. It was not long before Terry was having sex with anyone she came into contact with for money.
Things are getting clearer
Terry had no idea how long she had lived this way. She did know that when she saw her daughters, they both looked so grown up, and she realized how much she had missed. With the image of her daughters in her mind, she began to imagine the possibilities of not using crack cocaine. That image might have faded had it not been for another close family member that overdosed and died. The realization that she could no longer live that way became very clear. Terry was convinced the first thing she should do was tell her mother that she was an addict. As she sat in her mother’s living room, wiping tears from her eyes, she told her mother of her addiction.
Her mother looked at her and said, “I know.”
Terry had thought she had hidden her addiction from everyone around her, when in fact, they had all experienced it with her.
I am digging out of the pit
The next few months were a series of victories and defeats. Terry would have one week, two weeks, three weeks of sobriety, only to fall back into the old habit again. Terry began to surround herself with people who could encourage her and help her as she fought her addiction. Terry’s daughters began to contact her daily, encouraging her and doing everything they could to help her. When Terry had completed her first full month of sobriety, her family celebrated with her. As one month turned to two and soon to six, she began to feel like her old self again.
While working through the sobriety process, Terry knew she had to make amends to some people she had wronged. One of the first she had to make amends to was her mother. And the one she wanted to the most was to her Aunt Libby. Unfortunately, Aunt Libby had passed away a few months earlier. As Terry spent time apologizing and trying to make things right with her friends and family, she realized there was something missing. It seemed to all come back to her in a rush of memories, all of the things she had done to get money to buy drugs. As she felt the shame and guilt, it was hard to even look at herself in the mirror.
After having been clean and sober for five years, Terry met someone who she felt like she could love. But first, she had to tell him what she had done while an addict. Terry knew unless she was honest about who she had been, the two of them could never be together. With his acceptance of her and all she had been through, they have now been married for seven years.
Terry has been clean and sober for 12 years. She is not proud of the things she did, but she is proud of the fact she overcame them. Terry now has a relationship with her daughters and her granddaughters. Terry also knows she is just one “hit” away from reliving all of her addiction again.