‘Gunner was born a happy, healthy, beautiful baby boy. And we all lived happily ever after. I wish.’: Mom overcomes years of addiction to regain custody of son

More Stories like:

“I was pretty much convinced it was all I’d ever be. A junkie. Forever. It was really the only thing I was good at, and if I was honest with myself: I was pretty terrible at that, too. But I definitely wasn’t going to be honest with myself. I was living in a great big steaming pile of denial every day of my life. I was homeless, spiritually bankrupt, alone, and defeated. But, by God, I was damn sure going to keep trying to successfully use drugs without having to reap any of the consequences. I’d certainly been using long enough at that point that you’d think I’d have it all perfected by then. Plot twist! I didn’t. Years of drug use off and on, from the age of 16 until I was 24, with short bouts of sobriety mixed into it all, and I never quite figured out how to master the art of using drugs without getting in trouble.

I spent a year in prison; as a matter of fact, I turned 22 while I was there and did my last stint in rehab there. (Yeah, I said last. There were many) To put things into perspective for you, I’ll say this: between the ages of 18 and 22, I spent one year in prison and took 5 trips to drug rehabilitation facilities, some long – some short. Some forced – some willingly. I also had countless invitations to stay at the glorious Atchison County jail here in my small Kansas town. I suppose they weren’t necessarily “invites,” but that’s beside the point.

It’s safe to say I never do anything half-assed, including using drugs. There was never any sort of: ‘I’m just gonna get kinda buzzed tonight, guys.’ I started with marijuana, and I’d never do just a little and then go home to go to bed for school the next day. It was hours of extensive marijuana smoking, with some cough syrup abuse, maybe some alcohol mixed in, and a few dabbles of cocaine. All my friends were having a blast, but usually I was starting to throw up or black out long before my comrades were even really getting started. No one ever seemed to be too concerned with it, so I just assumed they got on my same level at some point in the night. In hindsight, I suppose they had just gotten used to me and my brother doing everything in excess. Us Bilderback kids were always down to try anything once if it was going to change our frame of mind.

Side by side of junkie mother who lost custody of her child
Brooke Bilderback

In high school, I had a very dear friend overdose on methadone and Xanax one New Years while I was with him; actually it was the same night I got released from my first 30-day-attempt at rehabilitation. I used with him, and still to this day I don’t understand how I survived. An experience like that will scare any person straight! Any sane person, that is. And I was FAR from sane.

I started to use more heavily. More frequently. At my high school, when I felt like going, I’d crush pills on my desk in the in-school suspension room and snort them with the teacher right behind me. There were multiple times I was taken to the office at the high school, so the nurse could check on my well-being. They were being ridiculous. Everyone was overreacting.

Fast forward a few years, and 2 rehab stints: I’ve managed to piece together 3- or 4-months clean time, land 2 jobs, and my own apartment. I was doing quite well, for a short while. I had tried drugs intravenously on a few occasions in the years prior, but never thought it was really that appealing. I was dating a guy I met in the rehab and trust me… it was true love. This is one of those times where I give you permission to laugh at my misfortune. Hindsight is 20/20, you know.

We started using meth together, and my jobs were getting in the way of my drug use, much like they usually did. The boyfriend ended up in prison and I began running with some very seedy characters. IV use became a regular occurrence, multiple times daily. It didn’t take long for me to lose my jobs, my car, and my apartment. I was out of money and had the drug habit of a 250-pound man. I began stealing and trading whatever I could get my hands on for any number of drugs I could get. I even got mixed up in stealing vehicles and running around with thugs who were carrying guns and selling drugs. At one point during this run of meth use, one of my drug dealing boyfriends ticked off another drug dealer and I was held hostage in someone’s basement for 24 hours.

This was when I was picked up on a warrant and taken to prison for a year. The judge was tired of me, he’d given me at least 10 chances. I was 21 years old and had shoplifting charges, trafficking of contraband charges, a criminal use of a deadly weapon charge, and not to mention the many things I had done that he was sure I hadn’t got caught doing. Fast forward.

Mugshot of junkie who was arrested for multiple charges
Brooke Bilderback

I get out of prison in June of 2013, healthy and happy. I land a job and my own place again. Then I’m off to the races. It was like the money I was making was burning a hole in my pocket, screaming to be spent on drugs and shot into my arms. I kept this job a bit longer than last time, but sometimes spent an hour at a time in the bathroom trying to shoot up. Or did drug deals out of the drive-thru window. Did I mention I was dating another drug dealer? No? Oh, I was dating another drug dealer. You can possibly guess what happens next right?

‘I’m pregnant.’

This is where my story gets a little emotional for me, maybe for you, you might grab some tissues. I had decided I did not want to stop using. I wanted to abort the pregnancy, so I could continue using as much as my selfish little body could handle, and I didn’t want a baby making it any more difficult. Hey, we’re trying to be honest here right? Don’t judge me yet. My cousin messaged me and ripped me a new one, she told me if I was going to abort my baby then I needed to at least give it a name. There was something about putting a name to it that breathed life into the notion that I had a responsibility for this little bitty baby in my belly, and that responsibility was to protect it. So, I changed my mind six hours before my scheduled abortion. And I quit using immediately.

Gunner was born a happy, perfectly healthy, beautiful baby boy. And he was everything I had ever dreamed of. All I’d ever need to help me keep my life on the straight and narrow, my little 8lb 2oz savior. And we all lived happily ever after.

I wish.

Woman lying in hospital bed with her newborn who will one day lose custody of him
Brooke Bilderback

Gunner was about 15 months old when I started using opiates heavily. I’d like to leave some parts out, but I won’t. I owe it to myself to remain as honest as possible. I was also breastfeeding for an extended period of time while I was using. Another one of those twisted denials in my mind. And I’m not going to try to explain it away, either. I’m going to own every bit of that heavy s#!t, because if I don’t I will head right down that road of denial that takes me back to the needle every single time.

I started using opiates intravenously and it was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. The first time I mainlined opiates, I felt this warm, fuzzy feeling deep inside my soul… THIS was true love. It was all I had ever wanted, the emptiness and guilt that rode on my shoulders day in and day out had dissipated instantly. It wasn’t long before I gave up custody of my son and signed him over to the care of my aunt so that I could, ‘get better.’ Instead of trying to get better I fell into a giant bowl of self-pity and stayed there as long as I could. Only leaving long enough to get more drugs. My boyfriend and I were robbing people and shoplifting as if it were a 9-5 job. But the cash flow couldn’t keep up with the price of opioid pills on the street.

[Enter stage left: Heroin]

Opiates and heroin were unlike anything I’d ever used, it was like a giant monster on my back with huge claws gripped in. And H was controlling everything I did. I rarely thought about my son, I rarely thought about anything besides: How are we going to get our next fix? We often found a way. Amongst the arguments about money and dope, my boyfriend would become abusive. I took it. I was nothing but a low-life junkie. I abandoned my sweet, sweet boy for a life of misery and pain.

Mother who became addicted to drugs in selfie of her body
Brooke Bilderback

I was stripping to support our habit and he was arrested soon after. It wasn’t long before I started selling my body to get whatever money I could to fuel the haze that kept me right outside the stinging pain of reality I called my life. Luckily, that didn’t last but a week.

One day, I had used way too much and passed out in my car at a gas station. My body just gave out. I had to have slept there for several hours before someone called 911 to check on my well-being. I had 150 syringes in my car, 10 spoons, everything I owned, Gunner’s baby books, his favorite toys, basically what little I had left after selling things and being robbed. I had lost my child, my home, my dignity… thank God for the person who called the police on me. And thank God to the officer who ignored my pleas to just let me go. I’d have never been able to stop on my own sheer willpower. I remember begging God the night before to please help me stop myself, please help me get out of this hell. Once that back door of that police car slammed shut, there was a moment of panic. Then a rush of relief, something I had never really experienced before. God had answered my prayers.

I was done using. I just knew it deep down. It was like I had been stumbling around in a dark room for 12 or 13 years and suddenly a light came on. Everything was so clear, it was as simple as that. That was my moment… in the back of a cop car. 90 pounds soaking wet. Exhausted. Dirty. Broken. In a gas station parking lot, no less… this was where my life changed forever.

Mother before and after getting clean
Brooke Bilderback

I started taking responsibility for my actions. And after a lot of hard work, I started focusing on a solution rather than focusing on my problems. Some great people taught me to just keep doing the next right thing and things will continue to get better, maybe not right away… but soon. I can’t count the nights I cried myself to sleep after that, wishing Gunner could be with me. But I went to bed with the notion that I was going to wake up tomorrow and keep making good decisions. 6 months later, a judge placed my son back at home with me. 6 months!

Close up of son on carousal with mother who regained custody of him after getting clean in background
Brooke Bilderback

I don’t shoot up and throw up anymore, I suit up and show up. I am a full-time single mom, I am the director of a company, and I am attending college to become a drug and alcohol counselor. My family trusts me, and I have all this extra money in my pocket. It still burns a hole in there, but for other things, like McDonald’s. (Don’t you judge me). And I still have problems. A lot of them, actually. But they will never be enough for me to throw away everything I have by using drugs.

I went from a hopeless dope fiend, to a dopeless hope fiend.”

From podcasts to video shows, parenting resources to happy tears – join the Love What Matters community and subscribe on YouTube.

Mother smiles in selfie with son she regained custody of after getting clean
Brooke Bilderback

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Brooke Bilderback, 27, of Atchison, Kansas. Have you overcome your addictions? We’d love to hear about your journey. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

Read more stories like this: 

‘I had a C-section. What comes with a major surgery? Pain meds do. The day after we came home, I went for a pain pill. They were gone. ALL OF THEM!’: Woman slides into deeper addiction at the hands of her boyfriend

‘I begged my husband to come back, but he was done. He lodged our separation and took sole custody of the kids.’: Mom’s journey to heal her family after struggling with addiction

‘I began filling my coffee mug with wine and volunteering in my children’s classrooms. I kept it my secret. I was a closet drunk.’

Provide hope for someone struggling. SHARE this story on Facebook with your friends and family.

 Share  Tweet