‘My brother is homeless and struggling with addiction. Every single day I cry for him, knowing the pain he goes through. I search for him ALL the time.’: Mother details sober journey after being prescribed pain pills

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“I was fifteen years old and pregnant. I was a competitive fighter. My whole family trained in martial arts at Red Dragon Martial Arts Academy. My dream was to grow up and be a professional fighter—my father was the president of the FLMA, my brother was sponsored by Pepsi, and my uncle was on the Paul Mitchell team! This was my dream, but it was not the case at all. I was nine months pregnant with my son, Brian. On April 3, 2003, I was hit by an 18-wheeler Mack Truck. And through all the insanity, my first thought was to protect my stomach because I could not bear anything happening to my child. The car flung me around—I was wedged under the dashboard with my knees all the way up into my shoulders. When I woke up, I had a broken nose, had fractured my left arm, shattered my pelvis in eight places, and fractured my neck. I was petrified.

I was rushed to the hospital, but all they could think of was I was fifteen years old and pregnant. I was liability, so they were petrified to do anything. They made me walk with a broken pelvis and do a drug test. My family was going crazy—they couldn’t believe what was happening—but once they realized there was absolutely nothing in my system and it was the other driver’s fault, they wanted to do an emergency C-section. I absolutely did not want this to happen, so I went home with all these broken bones. I was a little girl. I was scared. I was in pain, and I didn’t know what was to come. On April 14, 2003, I had my son with two epidurals, two Demerol pain shots, and a lot of coaching. I pushed him out in 37 minutes.

Courtesy of Ayla Gabriel

All I knew was I was in so much pain, and now I had this little life I was responsible for. At the time, the doctors knew I needed pain medication. I was not going be able to get through all of these broken bones without it, so we agreed to it and it was all that could be done, because at the time I couldn’t even walk. I couldn’t take care of my son for eight weeks by myself, so thank God my mother worked 12-hour days and my mother-in-law’s family at the time came and to take care of me and my son while my mom was at work. When my mom came home, she was a full-time nurse, and when she woke up in the morning she was a manager of a health club. I couldn’t repay her for what she did for me, and I love her more than words can explain. But, in all that happiness, there was also a lot of devastation.

I went into a deep depression. I was in so much pain—I lost 40 pounds, postpartum weight. I couldn’t hold anything down, and all I was doing was just trying to be a mother. So, as everyone knows, the doctors put me on pain medication. Through the next ten years of my life, I struggled with addiction. It was the worst thing to ever happen to me. In one moment, all my dreams were shattered: I wasn’t able to competitively fight again, I couldn’t be the best mother because of how much pain I was in, and now on top of it, I was addicted to pain medication. I lost hope for a very long time. I maintained taking care of my son, and my son’s father at the time was a wonderful father and he did as much as he could. We were not perfect in any way—we were young parents, and we depended on our parents. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was so scared, and now I was addicted to pain pills.

Courtesy of Ayla Gabriel

Trying to fight this addiction took the best out of me. I lost many battles, and I never felt strong enough to walk away from it. I ended up getting in trouble and being in and out of institutions, hospitalizations, and mental institutions at the end, because I was just so depressed and so devastated with what my life had become. I started a fight, I started to win my battle, but many times I lost again. Relapse was always a part of my story. My family, though, never turned their backs on me. My mother was always my biggest cheerleader, and my father was a very strong man who expected me to be a very strong woman, because that’s what he raised me to be. Sometimes when I wanted compassion from him it was not what I got, but this was the way of his teaching and he taught me many lessons—God rest his soul. I was fighting an addiction placed upon me by my doctor. (Did he wonder how I was going to get away from it? When I’d be able to wake up in the morning and be OK? When I’d be able to function as a mother, as a hard worker, and at the time, as a student?)

There were so many obstacles I had to overcome, and through time I overcame many. Five years ago today, I started on a new journey. I started telling myself no matter what happened, I was going to stay strong and I was going to be a wonderful mother to my son. Now, my son is a senior in high school with a 4.4 GPA, and he can pretty much pick whatever college he wants to go to. I wish I could take all the credit for this but I absolutely cannot—his father was a knight in shining armor. In 2018 I had my second son, Xavier, on October 14. He came on his due date, and he came out kicking, just like he did in my belly. I wanted to be the best mother to my children, and now Xavier is two years old, has the brightest smile in the world, and thinks he’s ready to take on the world. But about six months ago, I came into a situation where my anxiety started to get the best of me. I did not ever want to take another medication again, having my sobriety, and it was the main thing in my life.

Courtesy of Ayla Gabriel

I didn’t know what I was going to do. At the time, I was fighting with my son’s father I felt completely hopeless. All I was doing was working, coming home, being a mother, cooking dinner, waking up, and doing it all over again. I lost myself in the midst of all of it—I forgot who I was. I didn’t do anything anymore that made me happy, so I went to a psychiatrist and they started giving me alprazolam for anxiety attacks. Well, all I can say is no doctor has any business giving somebody who has been off of all medications for four and a half years this medication. I thought my family saw what it was doing to me, and it was devastating. They refused to let me lose everything I worked so hard for those last four and a half years, so I went into a treatment facility and I got off of them. I told myself I was a fighter; I had no business ever giving away my will in my life over something that controlled me this much.

Courtesy of Ayla Gabriel

So, every single day I continue to fight. I found God—I went on a walk with my higher power, knowing no matter what struggle or what obstacle got in my way, I was going to overcome it with blind faith. I have a beautiful relationship with my whole family, with both of my children; their fathers are very supportive and good fathers. We all struggle sometimes with going through things people don’t understand, in my case it was my anxiety. But I overcame all of it, I have a wonderful position now at my job, I go to church every Sunday, I have two beautiful boys who literally light up my whole entire world, and I have my father, my angel, who watches over me every single day. I know he would be so proud of who I have become.

Courtesy of Ayla Gabriel

Addiction will take anybody—at the moment, my brother is struggling with addiction and is homeless in Boston, and every single day I cry for him, knowing the pain he goes through and how much he misses my dad and how alone he feels, but I go out there all the time to search for him. I have many people who do the same. So please, as you are reading this, if you have ever felt hopeless, defeated, unable to maintain, like you aren’t a good mother or person, look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself you are a strong, beautiful woman, and you will get through anything. Today, I am so proud of who I am. I am so proud of the woman who looks back at me in the mirror. I am so proud of the little 16-year-old girl who got hit by a Mack Truck and overcame it all. I am not a victim anymore; I am a survivor.”

Courtesy of Ayla Gabriel
Courtesy of Ayla Gabriel

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ayla Gabriel. 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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