“To tell you the story of how I ended up where I am today requires a lot of authenticity and visibility. I will start with just a brief synopsis of the early days, because believe me when I tell you, I could literally write an entire book three times over and the details would still be lacking. So, my name is Sarah. I was born to an alcoholic, manic depressive mother, and a wonderful Cherokee Indian father, who also had his shortcomings (but I was and remain a daddy’s girl, so I’m biased). Their love was fast and furious. Mama fell pregnant within a month of meeting Daddy, and they wed ten whole days before my birth. My childhood was split between coastal Georgia and Appalachian North Carolina on the Cherokee Indian reservation. I went through a lot of things that challenged my self esteem, lost a core provider at age seven when my Papa lost his battle with leukemia. I was tormented and bullied for being a blonde-haired, quarter breed on the reservation. I was also jumped at the bus stop and beat up by a cousin so badly the whites of my eyes turned red.
When we returned to Georgia, on the eve of my 13th birthday, everything changed. My once madly in love parents drifted apart and my mother fell ill with congestive heart failure. I had a three-year-old brother by this time and, instead of standing up and protecting and providing for my family, my Daddy left Mama for another woman and I was left to pick up the pieces. Now, mama was bed-ridden, depressed, and relied heavily on AA meetings for comfort and escape. You may say, ‘thank God she wasn’t drinking,’ and I understand that. But to me, at fourteen, they were one and the same. Each thing took her away from me and left every single hardship squarely on my shoulders. I was my Little Brother’s mom, dad, caretaker, friend, and sister. I was Mama’s counselor, coparent, assistant, and Daughter. And I was nothing to Daddy at this moment, as he was off buying Camaros and dating young women.
The fun ended for Daddy when he was beaten and robbed during my 18th year of life. He was in a coma for three weeks and emerged a shell of a man he once was. So, now, I had a bed-ridden Mama, an eight-year-old Little Brother, and a brain-damaged Daddy. I had lost him, ambiguously. He was still here physically, but everything about him changed. It took him years to restore memories and it was so sad to see my strong and able Daddy be so beat down and sorrowful. He moved back in with us, and Mama tried so hard to fix him. She thought now, by the grace of God, our family was in tact, but that just wasn’t so. So, at eighteen, I had the entire world on my shoulders. Two jobs, college, and a whole family. It was at this time Mama began her journey with pain pill addiction. Before I even knew the power of opiates, she was taking Oxycontin and Percocet daily. She once gave me half of an Oxycontin for period cramps, and I remember feeling like I was dying and also loving it. I said I would never take another.
Time marched on, as it were, and some things got better. But most things got worse. Mama lost both her legs and Daddy moved his girlfriend in. I was busy keeping up appearances and trying to pretend I wasn’t gravely depressed. By now, Mama was sharing her Percocet with me regularly when I would help move her from the bed to the chair, and the chair to the shower. Daddy wasn’t going to do it, but Sarah would. So, ‘here Sarah take this’ was a commonly uttered phrase, and I loved it. It was the only thing that felt good. It was still occasional, but magical. I was trying to fill a void. Mama’s manic depression was rearing it’s ugly head at this time and I was barraged with verbal and emotional abuse. She called herself a ‘rageaholic,’ and she was addicted to the highs and lows of belittling me and then apologizing. In a sick way, my brain was addicted to it as well because the apology felt so good. I have read now it is called a ‘trauma bond.’ I had nothing I really enjoyed. Everything was centered around what she needed and wanted, period.
Love & Addiction
As the internet would have it, MySpace paved the way for a wonderful man to enter my life. We will call him T. T sent me a message that captivated me, so I responded! Messages turned into paragraphs, and then essays, so we started text messaging. Texts turned to books, so we started calling. He was a truck driver, so our relationship was all over messages and calls for a couple of months. One day, he was passing through my area at around 4 a.m. He called to let me know he was going home to rest and would come over the next day, but that didn’t happen. We were so eager to get our arms around one another that he showed up on my doorstep by 5 a.m.!
Our romance took off and we planned a trip to Disney in December, just a couple of months away. Much like my parents, we were pregnant very quickly and had our first son the following September. Life was good. I felt happiness for the first time in my adult life! I can’t say I let myself be truly happy, though, because my mom used a lot of emotional blackmailing to keep me miserable. If you can imagine being bed bound and alone in a house because you have pushed everyone away and your husband is a total jerk… I almost don’t blame her now. But I had no idea how to deal with it, and I thought she was my responsibility. I felt I wasn’t allowed to be happy if she wasn’t.
Not long after my son’s birth, I injured my back. I remembered thinking to myself, this was the perfect chance to get a prescription for pain pills and boy, did I. I saw a doctor who would just refill if I gave her a call. I was always a functioning addict. No one ever noticed, at this point, I was popping a pain-pill to be present and feel happy. But things would get much, much worse. I was able to stop for a period of time and became pregnant. I gave birth to my second son exactly two years and two days after his brother! And again, I should have been happy. Let me remind you, I picked the most amazing man to be their father. He has the best parents and support system in the world, and he is a wonderful provider. God was looking out! After my second son was born, I really doubled down on addiction. I was seeing several doctors and buying illegally. My partner didn’t know most of what was going on, but freely gave me money because he saw the massive pain I was in. At the time, I think most of it was manifested by me, but I do have legitimate joint issues that cause real pain. As you can imagine, what once was a comfortable life for us turned into pure hell. I ran our finances and family right into the ground.
Several years into this, after many moves and attempts to keep up appearances, and after my mom passed away, I was darker than ever before. We were more broke than ever before as well. We had to leave our home and move our family of four in with his parents. This is when T and his mom came to me and said, ‘Here’s a little money, you have to leave and find yourself.’ At the time, I was angry. I couldn’t see what I was doing wrong and I took it for granted that I was being ‘kept’ and provided for. I was lost in the depths of depression and I was killing the joy in everyone around me, even my kids. There were times when I would pawn their game systems for pills and I am absolutely ashamed of that fact. They remember mostly good times now and for that I am thankful, but it was all because of T and his family. He sent me on my way at just the right time. He protected my kids from the version of me which wasn’t good for them and he protected their image of me as well. God, that man is a good one.
This departure led directly to my homelessness. A LOT happened at this juncture, and if you care to know I would love to share more about it, but this entry literally cannot be a book. I spent all the money I was given on drugs and a hotel for one week. During this week, I used a needle for the first time and somewhere shortly after I was introduced to heroin. Heroin invited meth, meth invited fentanyl and pretty soon, it was just one big, drugged out party of hell. After the hotel, I slept in my car until the wheels fell off, junked it, and sold it for drugs. Remember, I am skipping a LOT here. I ended up losing my license anyway and got a ride back to my hometown and almost never left. This small town in coastal Georgia got a hold on me that almost claimed my life. I was sleeping in abandoned houses, porches, outdoor elevators, dumpster enclosures, and sidewalks.
Some may be wondering how I continued to afford drugs. Well, my friend, let me tell you! Every day, I would crawl out of the hole I was sleeping in, or would wake up from the coma I was in, and make my way to a local department or hardware store. I would load my bags and pockets with merchandise and walk right out. In the beginning, this was simple. Right under the radar. But, as time went on and drugs took their toll, I was spotted a mile away. This turned into arrest after arrest. At some point, however, the cops wouldn’t even take me to jail. I ended up with an open wound covering my entire upper back due to infection and uncleanliness. It was even on my neck. They wouldn’t touch me. They would call an ambulance and I would end up at the hospital and then I would run. I never stayed for treatment because the drugs were calling my name. Eventually, the hospital treated me like a joke. The local treatment center wouldn’t take me for the same reason. I was a liability. It was a vicious cycle.
Journey To Sobriety
I was so sick I couldn’t take three steps without stopping. A store I shoplifted from daily spotted me trying to cross the parking lot in the rain, came out with blankets and jackets, and let me sleep outside their door overnight. Everyone I came in contact with basically paid me their respects because it was obvious I was dying. I had boils all over my arms and legs, and the wound on my back was highly infected. I smelled like death. God moved for me, though. He spoke to Daddy and he came looking for me. He had to come three times, and on the third time he asked me, ‘Where’s your dope man?’ I was scared to answer, but I did and he drove me there, bought me drugs and said, ‘I’ll give you this if you come with me to the hospital two counties away.’ Of course, I agreed. Once I got there, the hospital put a hold on me so I couldn’t leave. I was completely septic, which means the bacteria was in my blood stream. My breast bone was septic, which meant the bacteria had entered my bones. I had yeast (fungus) in my blood and a parasitic infection in my wound. I stayed for six weeks and received IV antibiotics. I am a walking and talking miracle. God has more for me. When I came to Daddy’s house after the hospital, I still struggled with sobriety, but I cried out to God and he changed me. He cleaned me out and put me back together and here I am today!
‘Where is here?’ You might ask. Well, I am happy to tell you! Today, I am several months sober (I don’t count, it scares me!). I am in my OWN APARTMENT! My kids just spent three weeks here with me! And to top it off, their dad just took us all to Disney! To say I am blessed is an understatement. I can’t tell you the times I was ready to just give up and be done with it. I never thought I would see my kids again, let alone welcome them into my home and share it with them.
For those who are lost in addiction and think the are unworthy of anything good, let me tell you, I guarantee you I was worse than you and God did it for me. Please just keep trying. The most important thing I tell people is you need a group of cheerleaders. Whether it’s your family, or just people you find in recovery or at a treatment center. You cannot recover alone. You need to be selfish at first. It has to be for yourself. Your kids and your spouse and your mom and your dad will come later, but you can’t pour from an empty cup! Beyond all else, it IS possible. Please reach out to me or someone. You are not alone!
There are so many more intricacies to this story. One thing I don’t want to leave without telling you is, before I got sober, T lost his mother unexpectedly. She was a guiding light in my life. If I were to fashion myself after anyone, second to Jesus, it would be her. I was so ashamed of myself and so sad I never got a chance to make things right with her. One day, not too long ago, my youngest son said to me, ‘Mama, you know Nana prayed for you all the time, so you would get better and come home.’ Writing that still gives me chills. She never gave up on me and her prayers sustained me when I didn’t even know it. God is so good y’all. Thank you for reading, I hope you are inspired to keep trying or to have patience with an addict in your life. If love cured addiction, we would have no dead addicts, remember that. I love you!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sarah Jumper of Waycross, Georgia. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Facebook, or her town’s homeless outreach program. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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