‘Our daughter has been placed in protective custody,’ my husband said. ‘We will deal with that later,’ I remember replying. Because first, I needed to get high.’

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“‘I will never be like you,’ were the words I snarled at my mother. I was 16 years old and had spent the early years of my life living with abusive foster parents, being surrounded by drug addicts I never wanted to be like, and in situations I would never have wanted to be in. I had lived with my mother for 6  years. She had gotten off meth, heroin and whatever else long enough to gain custody back of my brother and I after 10 long years.

My life was different than my friends, who had both their mothers and fathers. Their parents were successful and they had it all. I was envious of their lives – so I did my best to fit into that mold. I was popular through high school, I had great friends, I worked hard and had potential. I so badly wanted a life I had never had.

When I was 19 years old, I met my now husband. Soon after we started dating, we would be welcoming our first child into the world, Lily. I was so excited. I would finally have the chance to provide for my children a life I never had. I would give them everything they deserved. I would never be the parental figures I had throughout my childhood. Mark my words.

Courtesy of Sarah Smith

My daughter was born in May – she was beautiful. I finally felt like my life was complete.

Three month later, my brother-in-law took his own life. I had never experimented with any sort of drugs before in my life, but I couldn’t sleep – and I found something that helped me with that – oxycodone. Not only did it help me sleep but it helped me move forward with our lives while ignoring the pain that came with watching my husband lose his brother.

At that point I had no idea how addictive oxycodone was – but I likely wouldn’t have cared. I felt good, on top of the world, really.

Courtesy of Sarah Smith

Addiction crept into my life so quietly I didn’t notice until it was far too late. I first recognized there was a problem when I would drain the money from our bank account to buy more, and more, and more oxycodone. The bills were left unpaid, excuses were made and money was borrowed. Eventually the pain medication ran out and I was so sick – a sickness only oxycodone could take away. I was hooked.

This went on for years while I maintained a good-looking life on the outside. I graduated from college, got an excellent job, was taking care of my daughter. But I was keeping a huge secret. I was leaving work to snort oxy on my lunch. I would rush home to get high. Late night trips to pick you more. It was so far from normal.

Courtesy of Sarah Smith
Courtesy of Sarah Smith

Eventually I couldn’t hold a job anymore. Calling in sick because I had run out of pain pills was starting to happen too often and I couldn’t have anyone knowing I was using drugs, so I quit the job I had worked so hard to get.

Through buying drugs illegally, you meet more people just like you. I was soon presented the offer of heroin, and in a moment of weakness, withdrawal accepted.

Sweet relief. It was like I had met my soul mate. I was complete. I would never need anything else again. I had never felt so good. This was it.

Eventually I lost everything I had. I couldn’t pay my rent so I was evicted over and over again. During a routine traffic stop heroin was found in my bag. My 3-year-old daughter sat unknowingly in the back – so innocent. She cried as I was taken away in handcuffs. I spent 36 hours in jail. My husband was on the other side of the door when I was released. He said that the Department of Human Services had placed Lily in protective custody.

‘We will deal with that later,’ I remember saying. Because first, I needed to get high. This would be the first really painful loss and many more come.

Courtesy of Sarah Smith

My daughter would spend the next 8 months living with her great grandmother. She was better off without me. I knew this whole heartedly, but I still pretended to be clean for as long as it took to get custody of her back.

From shooting up in the bathroom while my daughter bathed. Dragging her along for hours-long drug runs that would mean she sat in the car for hours and hours waiting for my drug dealer to show; my daughter wasn’t safe with me anymore. For the most part, her great grandmother protected her from more hurt by offering to watch her, which I would gladly accept. It was easier for me to get high without having to deal with my own child. And I knew she was safe in the care of that angel.

Courtesy of Sarah Smith

I’m doing probation violation after probation violation with extended stays in jail for providing dirty drug tests. In June 2016, I find out I’m pregnant. I’m deep into my addiction – 95 pounds and shooting heroin multiples times a day. I know I need to get help. I have a child inside me I’m hurting now. But stopping using still doesn’t come easy. I continue. I find the smallest amount of courage I can, and I tell my OBGYN I am a heroin user. This was a rock bottom plea for help. I am set up to see a high-risk OB in 2 weeks. Within that time, I am arrested again. While in jail I am mandated into a Drug Court treatment program. I spent a week in jail that time, and for the first time, I felt the weight of the world lift off of my shoulders. I had nothing. Nobody expected anything from me anymore. I was a drug addict who had continually let everyone around me down.

I had one last glimpse of a better life during that week in jail. I cried on that medical jail cell floor thinking about all the ways I had become all the things I never wanted to be. I was just like my mother – a drug addict who had abandoned her children.

Courtesy of Sarah Smith

From that jail stay forward I stayed clean, one day at a time. I wasn’t 100 percent sure I wanted to commit to being clean, but I was willing to go one day at a time. Pretty soon I had 3 months clean. My pregnancy was progressing and I was healthy. My daughter was in my care. She was happy. My family could depend on me to do what I said I was going to do when I said it.

Courtesy of Sarah Smith

I’ve come so far from the broken person I was all those years ago. Today I am a contributing member of my community with a successful business. I am a doting mother, involved in my daughter’s school. My son was born weighing 9 pounds 4 oz. and was drug free. My children both live in a loving home with parents who are present, healthy, and safe.

Courtesy of Sarah Smith
Courtesy of Sarah Smith

I always say life rarely affords you life lessons so painful they change who you are to your core. It may sound cliché, but I would not be the person I am today had I not had to fight for my life for 5 years. My addiction wants to kill me. Had I continued using I know for certain I would be dead today. I will always be fighting against it, but today I am strong. I am empathetic because I have lived the hell of drug addiction. I am forgiving because I have been forgiven. I show grace because grace was shown to me when I least deserved it. I am thankful for every single thing I have in my life because I have had nothing but the heroin in my needle.

On March 3, 2019, I celebrated 2.5 years clean. We DO recover.”

Briana Batey Photography
Britt Nichole Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sarah Smith. You can follow her journey on InstagramDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

Read more empowering stories of women overcoming their addictions:

‘I went to see my OBGYN, cried over an evil man being the baby’s father, and screamed about my sobriety. She calmly sat next to my hospital bed, and handed me the ultrasound pictures.’

‘I remember screaming, ‘What part of no don’t you understand!’ He looked at me shocked, and asked if I was ‘okay.’ ‘She’s harmless,’ he said. I had no idea what he had. I’d never seen it before.’

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