‘I discovered cocaine in my mom’s purse while we were shopping. She had it hidden in a mint case along with a razor blade and a straw. Then she married her drug dealer.’

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“My mother’s life was anything but ordinary. At the age of 16, she became a teen mom and gave birth to me, her daughter. She parted ways with my father when I was 2, leaving my mom to raise me as a single parent.  At the age of 19, my mom was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that left her with severe pain, fatigue, and depression. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Crohn’s disease. Her disease was so bad she required multiple abdominal surgeries which eventually led to her needing and ileostomy to save her life.

Teen mother with Crohn's holding daughter in a blanket when she was a toddler
Tiffanee Parrish

In 1995, my mom married the man who became my stepdad. Their marriage was anything but happy, very rocky in fact. They were both verbally abusive to one another and constantly picking fights over things that didn’t matter. During their marriage, my mom struggled with her disease and weight gain due to large doses of steroid use. She had very low self-esteem and always criticized herself. She weighed well over 200 pounds and was unable to lose the weight no matter how many diets she tried or how much she worked out. During their marriage, my mom had her final surgery that left her with an ileostomy for the rest of her life. After the surgery she fell deeper in to depression causing more tension on their marriage. Eventually, their marriage ended after 9 years.

Daughter sits smiling with mother who has Crohn's
Tiffanee Parrish

It was after their divorce that my mom began living the ‘single life.’ She was a teen mom who never got to have freedom or experience what it was like to go to parties and hang out with friends. She was too busy raising me as just a child herself. A few fun nights at the bar and hanging out with ‘friends’ turned into several nights she didn’t return home, and several phone calls she refused to answer. Our family started noticing the weight that my mom was shedding. She had lost over 100 pounds in a single year. She blamed her disease for the weight loss to masque her drug habits.

I had discovered cocaine in her purse one day while we were shopping. She had it hidden in a mint case along with a razor blade and a straw. When I confronted her about it, she denied it and immediately placed the blame on others. I was a junior in high school at the time and was forced to tell my granny and my aunts about what was going on. As a family, we were very concerned for her safety and her bizarre behavior. Staying out all night and not answering phone calls was not like my mother. My mom was a caring, nurturing, and loving person. She cared about everyone. Perfect strangers, friends, family, and especially me, her daughter and my children, her grandchildren. She had this way about her that made people feel welcomed and they confided in her. She got to know people on a personal, unforgettable level. She was there for everyone, even when people weren’t there for her. My mom was the type of person to give her shirt off of her back for a stranger, lend rides to strangers, and give money and food to the homeless. She never missed any of my school functions, track meets, or volleyball games. My mom never missed a beat, she was always there. This is how we knew something was wrong with my mom, terribly wrong.

After several discussions and accusations, my mom finally admitted to trying cocaine. She told our family it helped her pain caused by her disease. As years went by, her cocaine habits weren’t able to fulfill her needs any longer and she turned to methamphetamines. Meth was her drug of choice. She has said several times that it’s the only thing that ever completely took her pain away. Prescription pain pills and medication trial studies from her doctors never helped ease her pain or symptoms. This left my mom in chronic pain and feeling hopeless. She spent many days unable to get out of bed and take care of herself. So, when my mom turned to drugs, the days spent in bed sleeping wasn’t anything too out of the ordinary. She was able to masque her problem for a while, until she attempted suicide.

My mother has attempted suicide approximately 10 times over the course of 13 years before finally being successful. We knew after the first time she attempted suicide it was time to get her help, and her problem was much deeper than what my family thought. She was in and out of psychiatric facilities because a rehab facility wasn’t in the budget. Our family desperately wanted and needed to get her the proper treatment she needed, but money was holding us back from doing that. It crushed our family because you can’t put a price on the life of your loved one. My mom relapsed several times and each time she did, her meth addiction became worse.

Daughter who found drugs in mother's purse stands hugging mother who is sitting at restaurant table
Tiffanee Parrish

My mother’s habits were so bad she began stealing from family. She would pawn my granny’s jewelry and other family heirlooms just so should could have money for drugs. She became very paranoid and always thought the world was against her and wanted to see her fail. She would take pictures of strangers and write down license plates of people she thought were following her. Her mind, AKA the drugs, were playing tricks on her. My mom caused her mother to lose her job working at the police department she had for over 15 years. She stole radios from the police department and got pulled over when she was high and was caught with them. When police asked where she got them, she told them that her mom gave her the radios. She knew that police knew her mom and she was hoping to get out of trouble by throwing her mom’s name out there. This didn’t help her situation at all, it only caused it to worsen because my mom went to jail. The media got a hold of the story and eventually everyone in town knew. She was on the news and in the newspaper with her mugshot plastered everywhere. This tore our family apart even more and this was the point where our family had to intervene again.

Family and friends rallied around for my mom and helped raise the money to send her to Home of Grace, a faith-based rehab in Mississippi. She was there for almost 6 months. She called home several times and said how much she loved it. She wanted to stay longer to get more help. We thought this was a turning point in her life. She found God and was saved at this facility. She gave her testimony to several hundred people before a congregation. She told our family she was changed and even wanted to take college courses to become a guidance counselor to help people get their lives back on track who have chosen the same path as her.

Woman who has struggled with drug abuse stands smiling with two granddaughters
Tiffanee Parrish

Two weeks after being home, my mom relapsed. She was back to her old ways of being gone, stealing, and getting into more trouble. She violated probation countless times and eventually her drug habits, habitual stealing, and countless probation violations sent her to prison. Before her court date which was set to determine if she would be sent to prison or give her longer probation, she married her drug dealer. We did not see this coming because he was an older man in his 70’s, and my mom was just 47. He was older than her own parents. My mom married him out of desperation in hopes the court would see that she’s trying to change her life around. Unfortunately for my mom, the court didn’t see things her way and she was sent to prison for 18 months.

Before she left for prison her husband became physically abusive. He fractured her ankle at one point, scolded her skin with a boiling pot of hot water, and left her with multiple bruises and black eyes. She stayed with him because he was always “sorry.” He never meant to hurt her, so he says. But the main reason she stayed with him was because he was her supplier. He fed her addiction and she would do whatever it took to get her next fix. Being with him meant she had an unlimited supply of drugs. He enabled her and encouraged her to smoke knowing that the meth made her have physiological effects. Every single time she ever attempted suicide, she was high, and meth was always found in her system. She was very scary to be around when she was high. The drugs changed her personality and it was like night and day being around when she’s clean and sober. Every time she ever attempted suicide, she sent out a family group text saying she was sorry to be such a disappointment and she told everyone how much she loved each and every one of us. That was our cue to find her and see if she was ok. Nine times out of 10, she had taken pills to overdose, cut her wrist, or nearly jumped off of a bridge.

After my mom returned home from prison after being gone for 18 months, she relapsed within 2 hours. She told me and my kids she didn’t want us to pick her up from prison. She wanted her husband to because she wanted a vacation with him. My family knew immediately what was really going on. As we all thought, she relapsed. Her erratic behavior came through and it was a huge disappointment to the family. We all had high hopes for her changing her life around. She spoke several times about how she wanted out of her marriage and how scared she was but didn’t know how to leave. She was afraid for her life. She did what he asked and listened to every word he said because she wanted to avoid the consequences and retaliation.

Woman who has abused drugs and been to jail stands smiling while leaning against wooden fence
Courtesy of Tiffanee Parrish

The night before my mom committed suicide, she and her husband were in an argument where police were called to their house. After police left, she called my aunt and told her how scared she was. She feared she was being set up and thought her husband was trying to get her arrested which would mean my mom going directly back to prison. She locked herself in the bathroom for hours making several phone calls to people pleading for help.

The next morning after their fight, my mom was found dead on the bathroom floor in her husband’s house. He and the house keeper found her at approximately 7 a.m. and called police. The officers said there was no evidence of foul play, but found empty pill bottles on the bathroom counter. The autopsy result revealed she did in fact have meth in her system at the time of death, but she had a lethal dose of Benadryl in her system that caused her organs to fail. She has always said that when she dies, she wants to die on the operating table so she won’t be able to feel anything. To her, this was probably the next closest thing to not feeling anything. She was always very sensitive to Benadryl and taking one dose would be enough to make her sleep a full day. I think she wanted a painless death, so to her; taking a bottle of Benadryl would cause to her sleep and never wake up, which is exactly what happened. It’s hard to say or know if she truly wanted to die or if it was the meth. She struggled with depression for most of her life and the combination of drugs was lethal.

Daughter sits on couch kissing mothers cheek who has since passed from drug use
Tiffanee Parrish

People who commit suicide aren’t doing it out of selfish means. They’re fighting a constant battle that we can’t see. My mom chose to kill herself because she believed the flames were worse than the fall. I don’t know all of her battles. I never will. But we never know how many battles she had won and how many times she was at that low point and pushed through. We can’t remember her for the last decision she made and the battle she lost, but for all of the times she won and we weren’t aware. Because she did win some battles. And I can’t help but think that if she had won some in the past, she could have won another.

Woman who has since passed from drug abuse sits on stone wall smiling
Tiffanee Parrish

Taking one’s own life is not an unforgivable sin. Nowhere in the Bible does it say it is. The only sin in which can’t be forgiven is the refusal to believe in God. There are many stories in the Bible of people taking their own life but the word reminds us that they didn’t have to end the way they did. They could have chosen a different way. God shares with us in story after story that He will never waste the pain we struggle through in this life, but He will turn it around for good somehow and use it to strengthen us and to help others. Jeremiah 29:11 reads, ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to help you. Not to harm you. But to give you a hope and a future.’

Hold on to hope. Depend on each other. Remember that even though you may get lonely, you are never alone. Instead of looking down on things, look up. God is always with you and he’ll be with you through your darkest.”

[If you’re thinking about hurting yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help is out there and you are not alone.]

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tiffanee Parrish, 31, of Bandera, Texas. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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