Dear Mom,

Dear Mom,

Sometimes I wonder where you are

You hurt me bad and it’s left a scar

 

I don’t think you care and that’s okay

If there is a will, there is a way

 

I lock my heart in hopes of relief

But there is no escape for all this grief

 

I hate who you are and what you’ve done

This weight I bear feels like a ton

 

So many times that you have missed

I don’t know why I still get pissed

 

You weren’t there then and you’re not here now

You’ve broken every single vow

 

I remember the nights of fallen tears

For wanting all those broken years

 

I wish I could say it was long ago

I’m working on me and trying to grow

 

But I can’t shake this anger deep inside

“I love you, Chrissy Marie,” you lied

 

I should be big enough to move on

But my patience has been overdrawn

 

Someday I will tell her what you did

But I’ll be careful because she’s my kid

 

I won’t do to her what you did to me

Forever my baby she will be

 

I’ll hold her and raise her and never let go

And my love for her she’ll always know

She Was Supposed to be Their Grandma…

When I was younger, I imagined my life much differently. And I’m not saying my life is bad now, it’s just… harder. 

No matter how many times adults tell you to appreciate being young and that “adulting” is hard, you’re still not quite ready for the reality of life once you’re out on your own.

There’s one thing that I specifically remember thinking about when I was younger. My future family. Young girls love playing house with make-believe husbands and children, and most toddlers can be seen holding a baby doll around the house. I was no different. I imagined having a family surrounding me and my kids.

But now that I am actually starting a family, things are just a bit different than I imagined…

First things first, as a child you never really know how expensive it is for your parents to take care of you. I’m a lot more poor than I thought I would be when the time to start a family came. Now here I am wondering how the hell anyone can afford children!!

Second, I feel a lot more alone than I thought I would.

Growing up I always dreamed about the day I could surprise my parents with the news of them becoming grandparents. Becoming a grandparent is exciting to parents!

But with the history of my mom and I’s relationship, the story is a little different. I told her and she was excited… cool. But she failed to mention that she got caught with meth again and is now facing 20 years. There goes any hopes of her meeting or getting to know my children. I thought the news of her future grandchildren would be enough to keep her motivated to stay off the drugs and out of the streets.

I guess I thought wrong.

There’s been no one out there that’s given her more chances or believed she would change than me. Now my time has been wasted and my dreams crushed.

In the light of so much excitement, there is so much heartbreak.

She was supposed to be their Grandma…

 

 

 

An Argument Against Incarcerating Drug Addicts

I was originally assigned to write an argumentative essay in my composition class last semester, and I thought here would be a great place to share what I found. Drug abuse in the United States is a huge problem. If we have any intent to change this epidemic, we need to stop incarcerating drug addicts with no treatment or rehabilitation to help fix their problems.

Did you know that 60% of adults in federal prisons are serving their time for drug-related crimes? Did you know that on average, substance abuse costs our nation over 484 billion dollars every year? Did you know that there are more people with some sort of substance abuse problem than there are people with cancer? To be exact, there are 1.5 times more substance abusers than people with all cancers combined.

To make an educated decision on this matter, you must first understand just how big of a problem drug use is in the United States. For starters, most drug users try drugs for the first time as teenagers.

In 2013, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that there were about 2.8 million new illicit drug abusers, and 54.1% of these abusers were under the age of eighteen.

With this information, I’ve come up with a key question: Is incarcerating someone this young going to increase the chances of them doing something worse once released? I’ll leave that for you to think about yourself. Aside from that, 460,000 deaths were associated with the use of illicit drugs in 2000. According to a 2013 survey from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly 24.6 million Americans reported that they had used an illicit drug in the past month. That is nearly 9.4% of America’s population! 80% of crimes committed that led to incarceration in the US involved drugs or alcohol, and 60% of Americans arrested for any crime tested positive for illicit drugs at the time of arrest. Still not convinced?

More people use prescription opioids in the United States than use tobacco.

Not only is drug abuse a national health crisis, it also has a tremendous effect on economic productivity and the way we spend our money. In healthcare costs, costs to the justice system, and lost economic productivity, substance abuse disorders cost Americans 484 billion dollars every year. That’s far more than the annual cost to treat diabetes! The problem with drug abuse goes even further. Substance abuse also contributes to America’s top social problems, such as violence, child abuse, homelessness, and crime. Nearly half of the people arrested for homicide, theft, or assault were under the influence of illegal drugs. Two-thirds of those in drug abuse rehab centers reported that they were sexually abused as adolescents, and 31% of homeless people in America are addicted to drugs or alcohol. It cannot be argued that there is not a problem with illicit drug use in our country.

We often times may think that locking up drug offenders is the best option, but what really happens to drug addicts once they get out of prison?

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the entire world.

In 2009, the United States’ prison population exceeded 2.3 million people. That’s more than a quarter of the world’s prisoners. In fact, more than half of all Americans that are serving time in prison are there for nonviolent crimes, such as drug-related offenses. On top of that, more than five million people are on some sort of supervision such as parole or probation. This correlates to one in every 31 adults in the United States is in prison, jail, or some sort of supervised release.

40% of felony probationers are rearrested for a new felony within three years of their release to supervision.

The statistics prove that incarceration does not help drug addicts or prevent them from committing crimes after release. We are foolish to think that locking these people up is a solution to the drug crisis that is happening in our country.  Nearly 95% of addicts that get incarcerated will return to drug abuse after their release from prison, and anywhere from 60-80% of these addicts commit new crimes.

There is no doubt that incarceration is ineffective in preventing drug addicts from returning to the habits that got them incarcerated in the first place. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 77% of drug offenders get arrested for a new offense within five years of their release from prison.

Substance abuse disorders have a significant effect on the brain. They affect a person’s ability to make good decisions, responses to stressful situations, and the reward circuits within the brain. Nonetheless, addiction should be treated with the same compassion and urgency as any other disease. Imprisonment does not address the problem that underlies criminal behavior.

In our country’s prisons, 65% of inmates fit the diagnosis of addiction, yet only 11% of these individuals actually receive any sort of rehabilitation or treatment.

Not only are incarcerated addicts not being treated, those that are, aren’t getting adequate rehabilitation. A majority of those that are in charge of these programs don’t care about the program that they are in charge of. If we are serious about rehabilitating drug-addicted criminals (that also want to make the change), we have to offer them a good support network. After completing the poor drug recovery program that is offered in America’s prisons, they are then released back into general population where they can then be exposed to drugs that are smuggled into the prison. Ultimately, any progress that they may have gained from the program is lost.

So what is the solution? I will be the first to agree with the argument that drug addicts that commit crimes deserve to be punished for those crimes. That being said, we can do better to rehabilitate those offenders so that upon their release from incarceration, they can be productive members of society that are much less likely to return to crime or drugs. In the long run, drug rehabilitation of criminals would save Americans thousands of dollars.  In 2006, the annual cost to incarcerate someone was anywhere from $24,000-$40,000. Multiply that by the 2.3 million inmates in America’s prisons, and the annual overall cost is STAGGERING. Since we’re talking money, let me make my argument even stronger.

Out of every tax dollar spent by the government on drug abuse, only 1.9 cents are spent on addiction prevention and treatment.

If we put in the time, money, and effort into proper, satisfactory treatment, the number of repeat offenders would go down; therefore, saving the government money. Initial drug treatment is much cheaper than incarceration and fewer arrests leads to lower court costs, the list of benefits goes on and on. If just 40% of addicted prisoners were given treatment instead of jail, the savings could be nearly 12.9 billion dollars. We need to give addicts the option to receive a thorough treatment. If not in place of a prison sentence, then along with their prison sentence.

There are also prevention methods we can use on adolescents that can help prevent even the experimentation with drugs, in hopes that future incarceration is not likely. These methods include teaching kids healthy ways to deal with everyday stress instead of resulting to substances to cope. Stress is one of the biggest reasons anyone turns to drug use in the first place. We can also teach today’s youth effective ways of refusing illicit drugs when offered them.

In conclusion, I want to personally address an opposing argument that often comes up in the discussion of whether or not addicted offenders deserve proper rehabilitation after committing a non-violent crime. Many people are likely to jump the gun and say things like, “Drug addicts are breaking the law and deserve to be punished” or “People that do drugs are going to commit crimes.” Whereas sometimes those statements prove to be true, there is a deeper issue that needs to be confronted. How many families in the US are directly affected by substance abuse? I haven’t done the research to answer this powerful question, but I want to answer it with an eye-opening personal experience that tells why I am so passionate about the topic in which I am writing. In 2002, I was taken from my mother by Child Protective Services because of her addiction to illicit drugs and alcohol. My mother has struggled with her disease my entire life, and to this day I still do not have much of a relationship with the woman that gave birth to me. She has been in and out of federal prisons ever since. The course of my life since the day we were separated has changed substantially, as you can probably imagine. Reflecting on the result that her addiction has had on me, I have just one grudge. Had she been given proper rehabilitation upon her first stint with the law and the use of illicit drugs, I could have been reunited with the woman I so dearly want to know. Because of the lack of treatment and care for her disease, my family was left torn and without a woman that truly is a good person when not under the influence of hard drugs.

We are wrong to assume that drug addicts are bad people.

They are mothers, fathers, aunts, brothers, daughters, and friends.

They deserve love, compassion, and for someone to aid in and believe in their recovery.

America has got it backwards on how we deal with substance abuse, and we can do better.

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Information and statistics found in this article can be found at:

 

The Crazy Thing About Addiction [Part II]

To read Part I of this blog, please visit The Crazy Thing About Addiction [Part I].

The only goal I have in writing such a deeply personal story is to spread awareness and share my story with others. Many times growing up I felt as though I was the only little girl with a mother in prison. Growing up, I found that like me, many other children were dealing with the same circumstances.

In fact, 1 out of every 28 children grows up with an incarcerated parent (Pew Research Center).

There are a few things we should acknowledge when reading that statistic.

Our parents’ actions do not determine our worth or capability of success. Looking back now, had the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services not intervened, who knows the person I would have become or what I would be doing. I can guarantee I would not be sitting in front of this computer sharing this with all of you. In any situation, whether it involve drug addiction or not, children can find themselves unhappy with who they are simply because of the opinions and interpretations of how other people view their parents. You do not have to lower your own standards because of what you think other people think about your family. It’s your decision and your decision only on who you want to become, the values you uphold, and the people you associate yourself with. Don’t like your alcoholic father? Don’t be one. Don’t like your addicted mother? Don’t be one.  Use your experiences to be the person that you always wished you had.

There are a lot of families that are affected by drug addiction. We have to end our preconceived opinions about addiction. Not everyone’s background or home life allowed them the easy choice of avoiding illicit drugs, and if you’ve never seen them used, this probably doesn’t apply to you. Imagine growing up in a home where you see drug use happening everyday as if it is a daily occurrence. People are much more likely to engage in that lifestyle when that’s all they know.  I’m not making excuses for addicts, I’m simply stating that we don’t know every addicts’ story. There are far too many people impacted by addiction for us to disregard the reasons as to how the addiction started and why it has not been fixed. I could have had a childhood with my mom had she gotten the help she needed. Now I understand that’s a pretty bold statement, considering that she could have been offered help, and just chose not to accept it. It is a two-way street. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Nonetheless, shouldn’t we at least try? 

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It would be ungrateful of me to leave out the special people that molded me into the person that I am today. I grew up in a family of nine, which included my aunt, uncle, their five children, my sister, and me. Every family has their share of ups and downs, but overall I like to believe that I was raised in a household of love, support, and good values.

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My Uncle Sam and Aunt Jodey with me on my softball senior night
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My great-grandma Elizabeth and I before my senior prom

Although my sister and I were not with the parents that gave birth to us, our aunt, great-grandma, and uncle did an outstanding job of taking us in and treating us with the same standards, commitment, and belonging as they did with their own children. Aunt Jodey and Uncle Sam, I am forever grateful for the home you always welcome us into and the belief you always showed in me. My aunt was always the one to advise me, help me go dress shopping, and get me ready for big events like proms and interviews. You got me in my first pair of heels and taught me what a polite young lady looks like. My uncle was my best friend, so-to-speak. We played catch out in the yard and watched football every Sunday. You introduced me to my love of sports and most importantly, set the example for what a father should be when mine walked out. Most people in our small town know my grandma as the woman that wears the big hats and drove the station wagon. I see her as much more. Grandma Elizabeth, you taught me so many lessons that I can’t even begin to explain. You wrote me letters nearly every single day I was away at basic training, and you always made sure Gabby and I had everything we needed. You are absolutely, without a doubt, the wisest person I know. Without the three of you, I would not be the person I am today and I believe that my world is a much better place with you in it.

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Front: Samantha holding Matthew (Rabecca’s son, my nephew), me, Gabby Back: Joseph, Andrea, Victoria holding her daughter Morgan, Aunt Jodey, Rabecca holding her daughter Rose

I have never thought of my five cousins as anything other than my siblings. I’ve always considered every one of them as my sister and brother. You guys were never reluctant to share your life with two people that had a different story. None of you ever pressured me about my mother and all of you were always ready to listen to my frustrations, talk me out of my anger, and console me when I was upset. Rabecca, Victoria, Andrea, Samantha, and Joseph: I love you guys with my entire heart and I consider myself enormously blessed to have grown up with you guys. The bond we share is no different than that of those that share the same parents.

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Gabby. When I was old enough to understand what happened to us, I always took you under my wing. I have always seen it as my duty to love you, support you, encourage you, and stand up for you, more-so than anyone else in my entire life. We walked through the storm and made it out together, strong as nails. I will always watch over you and push you to become the woman I know you can be. Thank you for being my motivation and the sole reason I chose forgiveness. You were always the compassionate one. Some may think you didn’t get bitter about our mother because you didn’t understand what was going on, but I disagree. I genuinely believe you were just a far more loving, forgiving person than I ever thought I could be. You taught me hope. You taught me the meaning of perception. You led me to forgiveness. You are my rock.

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I wanted Part B to be the positive side of the story. I do believe it is, but what I want to end this series on how it relates to the words in which I chose to title these entries. “The Crazy Thing About Addiction.” Yes, it’s a messy and saddening story, and some parts I left out or didn’t tell in full detail, but that is not the route I wanted to take.  I wanted to share my perception of the beauty in something that is the result of what has caused me the most pain in my life thus far. Just because something is negative, doesn’t mean that there cannot be beauty contained within it. I gained five siblings that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I gained the experience of a real father’s love. I gained countless relationships and friends that I probably never would have, had my life gone in a different direction. I gained empathy, passion, and motivation. But most importantly, I gained the liberating understanding of what it’s like to forgive someone wholeheartedly, and there are very few things that are more beautiful than that.

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My mother and me, since amends have been made

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The Crazy Thing About Addiction [Part I]

I’ve seen a post circulating around Facebook that drives me nuts to no end, so I thought it would be fun to give my side about addiction.

We’ve all seen the “addiction is a choice” posts, talking about how calling addiction a disease is only enabling the addict and therefore allows them to feel sorry for themselves… Please.

Now before you sigh, roll your eyes, and stop reading this post, let me say that I am absolutely not in complete denial of those arguments. Yes, the moment someone decides to stick a needle in their arm, they are making a choice, and in some cases, I’m sure it does give addicts an excuse to keep using; however, to broaden the statement to apply to an entire group of people without consideration of how they were raised, why they made the decision to abuse these drugs, and what exactly does go through an addicts’ mind, is ignorance in its purest form. Let me begin by sharing my story.

For those that grew up along side of me in school, you probably have heard bits and parts of my story and know that drug addiction is a topic in which I am extremely passionate about. If there’s one thing that I hope to accomplish in my life, it is to speak out to those that are affected by a loved one’s decision to engage in such a damaging, heartbreaking addiction. I want you to know that you are absolutely, 110% not alone.

From my childhood, I remember cuddling up with my mom on the couch to watch Oprah every afternoon. I remember trying to squirm away from her as she tickled my feet. I even remember the way her thin, beautiful blonde hair laid against the back of her leather jacket. I loved this woman. I don’t doubt for a second that she loved me, too. We all have times in our lives where we have regret for the choices we have made, and that is part of the reason I have grown to forgive, cherish, and move on.

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I don’t have much of the paperwork on what happened, nor do I even really care to see it. Out of respect for all involved, I’m going to put this into the most courteous, easygoing way that I can. The paperwork I do have shows that on August 27, 2004, a “safety plan” was put into place by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. For lack of better words, our mother was struggling with addiction and my father was never in the picture. I was only seven and my little sister was four. This “plan” stated my sister and I were going to move in with our great-grandmother under the care of herself and my maternal aunt. To this day, I am grateful to these women for taking my sister and I in, keeping us away from the struggles of the foster care system. By November 15, 2004, the official order appointing guardianship to our great-grandmother was finalized.

As you can probably imagine, two kids at the ages of seven and four wouldn’t really understand the severity of what was happening. So my sister and I moved to a new school and started completely different lives. We started living with our aunt, uncle, and five cousins.

For a long time, the change wasn’t something that kept me awake at night. When I was old enough in school and big life events like first dances, recitals, and games began to roll around, I realized that something in my life was very different than a lot of my schoolmates. My mom was never in the stands during basketball games. She was not the woman to get me ready for school dances, and she was missing out on all of the great things I was accomplishing. I grew bitter. How could the woman that gave birth to me not care about me enough to be there for something so important in a child’s life?

My mother was in and out of prison throughout all of my elementary, junior high, and high school life. There were periods of times when I so badly wanted to talk to her that I had her write letters to my friends’ addresses from prison, in fear that I would get in trouble for talking to her. In her letters, my mother often denied the responsibility of us not being together, and this would send me into a rage. I eventually stopped responding to her letters, swearing I was done with all of the hurt and anger that she had put me through.  My friends and teachers that were oblivious to this situation made jokes or comments at school about hearing someone with my name being arrested for meth (My mother and I have the same name). Two of the times I found out about my mother’s arrest was because a teacher at school made a comment to me after hearing my name on the radio or television. I was nowhere near being able to get away from the pain that addiction had caused me.

It was somewhere along my junior or senior year of high school where I decided I was done being angry. Holding onto the resentment and despise that I had for my circumstance was only holding me back and keeping me from truly being happy. I honestly believe that if you want to be truly happy, you have to forgive those that have hurt you, and move on. I decided to see her off and on, and she even made it to one of my softball games my senior year. That was the only time she ever saw me play a sport. After long debate, the day before I graduated high school, I decided to call her and invite her to my graduation.

My mom saw me graduate high school.

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Throughout my entire life, seeing her in the bleachers that day stands out to me as just a truly beautiful, incredible moment of forgiveness, love, and progress. Although addiction has many downfalls, there can always be beauty found in something so ugly. No matter what an addict struggles with, we shouldn’t be so quick to turn our backs on them. You never know if you could be the one person that strikes the chord that leads them to recovery. Everyone on this earth has a purpose, no matter what mistakes they have made in the past. Take it from me, forgiving someone that has caused you pain is hard. It’s incredibly hard, but not impossible. The only way we can truly be happy with ourselves is to lose ourselves. Lose anger. Lose resentment. Lose barriers. Lose anguish.

Choose love ♥

Continue reading “The Crazy Thing About Addiction [Part I]”