“I wish I could tell you my childhood was full of sunshine and rainbows and that I grew up to be an honor roll student who graduated high school and went into college, but unfortunately that’s not what life had planned for me. Although my dad tried his hardest to give my sisters and me the world, my mom had been consumed by a monster named heroin. My mom’s addiction had left my young self to raise my sisters, and even though I was just a child, aged 9, I had to play mommy and cook, clean and care for my sisters. From baths, dinner, laundry, potty training to homework and bedtime; I was expected to do it all so my dad could work full time and support his family. It made for a lonely childhood. I had to be home playing mommy and had no friends due to parents finding out about my mom and taking it out on me, even when my mom wasn’t around at all.
My pre-teen years were difficult. I was depressed, filled with suicidal ideation. I’d spend days locked in my room self-harming. It was the only way I knew how to cope with my feelings. Growing up I was familiar with DYFS/CPS, the police and therapy. I became familiar with the neighborhood my mom obtained her drugs in and I also became customary to visiting jails and prisons when my mom got locked up. She was sentenced to a few years and came home when I was 14. She managed to stay clean for a while, but that slowly changed. I resented her so much, I failed to understand how someone could continue to choose drugs over their children despite knowing the consequences and pain she put us through. Around the same time as my mom coming home, I was entering my first long term relationship, which was also a very abusive one- verbally, mentally, emotionally, physically and sexually. However I wanted to be loved so badly, that I failed to accept he didn’t love me. I also wanted a relationship with my mom so badly, that I began using drugs with her. It started off with weed, then ecstasy, then crack and cocaine.
My relationship with drugs started off at a young, ripe age of 14. I had parties at my house with tons of children my age drinking and using drugs. My mom was shooting up with my friends and teaching us to cook crack out of cocaine. My mom always said, ‘I’d rather you be home using drugs than out using them, at least I know you’re alive.’ My drug use spiraled out of control and eventually ended my high school education at age 15. I dropped out and my dad signed me into night school, where I eventually got kicked out of for poor attendance. My abusive boyfriend was supposed to be driving me to school with my dad’s car and he refused to, but threatened to kill me if I told my dad he wasn’t taking me. We would take the car to get high at a friend’s house. Thankfully that relationship came to an end right before my 17th birthday. My drug use continued heavily until I was 17, when I got pregnant by my newest boyfriend of almost a year while on birth control. I immediately stopped using all drugs but unfortunately my baby stopped growing at 12 weeks. I didn’t find out until I was around 16 weeks. I had to have a D&C and the loss of the baby ended my relationship with the father. Shortly after I got pregnant again on birth control and went on to have my first daughter at the age of 18. Two years later I had my second daughter, a year later my third.
Shortly after having my third daughter, I was going through some severe postpartum depression and my mom took the opportunity to offer me some heroin. She told me, ‘It will make you feel better. It will numb your emotions.’ Due to my poor state of mind, I took her up on the offer. I didn’t think I’d ever become addicted, after all, I hated my mom for what she did to me as a child and I was always able to just stop using when I wanted. How naive was I!!!! Within a week of using, my mom offered to shoot me up. ‘Snorting it won’t work forever. You’re getting used to it, that’s why you aren’t feeling it anymore. If you want, I can shoot you up, it’s so much better.’ I gladly accepted her offer, and that was the moment I never looked back. I was now the person I hated most as a child; my mother. I’ll never forget that day. Standing in my mom’s bathroom as she looked at my arms for a vein until she found one. The rush was amazing. It was the most intense feeling ever. I was instantly hooked on shooting and knew I’d never look back. My addiction progressed fast, I slowly lost interest in life and taking care of myself. I slowly sold all my belongings and was deep, deep into addiction. I was losing everything I had and slowly destroying my life and my family.
Every day I would pray for things to change and get better. Every day I’d pray for the will to stop using and be a better mom for my kids… but I couldn’t do it, no matter how much I wanted it or how hard I tried. The withdrawals would send me crawling back to the needle. Every time. I remember walking down the street with my dad one day and he told me, ‘Just stop Bri, it’s not that hard.’ And all I could think was, ‘I wish it was that easy.’ I remember being a child and saying the same to my mom, ‘Just stop!’ If only it was that easy. My fiancé and I tried several times. We would lock ourselves in a hotel room and try to sleep through it. We never made it 24 hours. One of us would always break. Not because we didn’t want it, but because we weren’t ready or strong enough at that time. Every day we told one another, ‘I’m sick of this life.’ But we failed at changing.
Throughout the beginning of my addiction I was able to maintain the look of a stable life, but that slowly changed, as did everything else in my life. My mom started selling drugs, which made our habits really bad. My fiancé and I were spending almost all of his paychecks on drugs on top of what my mom gave us for free. Day by day our addictions got worse. My mom ended up getting a really bad abscess on her leg, which started to rot away at her leg, but getting high was mort important to her and she continued shooting into it. Eventually her leg got so bad she had to go to the hospital. They told her if she waited another day she’d have lost her leg. While she was in the hospital we were evicted from our home and my daughters, my fiancé and I started living in hotels, then eventually a friend’s house.
While staying at my friend’s house, I had gotten arrested one night which led to them calling DYFS because I admitted to having children. They ended up getting involved and removed my children from my custody. They were placed with family and the pain I felt from what I had done made me use even more. You’d think something so soul crushing would push me to get clean, but no, it did the complete opposite. I hate admitting that, but anyone whose dealt with addiction understands unfortunately our thought process when using drugs isn’t the same as it is when sober. Sober me would never leave my kid for a minute. Before losing my kids, they never went more than a couple hours without me. I couldn’t handle them being gone. It truly broke me. My fiancé and I ended up living in our car, using drugs heavily and getting lost in our addiction. There were times I went a week or longer without eating because getting high was more important. We would go to the state park to take showers and would nap in the car in any parking lot we could find. I was constantly getting arrested, picking up warrants from skipping court and picking up new charges. By the time I was sentenced I had over 13 arrests that needed to be handled.
I’ll never forget my first time in jail. My dad came to visit and I still remember the look on his face. His eyes filled with tears. ‘Bri, you’re so much better than this. Don’t take the path your mom took, please. You saw what it did to her.’ I cried back, told him, ‘I promise I’m going to change. I don’t ever want to come back here, I don’t want to do this anymore.’ I spent 3 months in jail, left and I overdosed one night after relapsing. Unfortunately relapse IS part of recovery. Unfortunately we forget too easily how quick things get out of control. I woke up in the hospital surrounded by at least 15 nurses and doctors. I had a nurse tell me, ‘Sweetheart, you were dead. Your lips were blue and CPR did not bring you back. Please don’t get high again.’ My clothes were cut off and they were charging the defibrillators in case the second shot of Narcan didn’t do it’s job. Thankfully it did and they saved my life. I was given a psychiatric evaluation to make sure it wasn’t intentional and released. I walked out of the hospital, to my car and got high immediately.
Eventually my fiancé and I were placed on probation and they remanded my fiancé to jail and rehab which forced him to get clean, yet I couldn’t do it, even when he’d call me crying, ‘Please Brianna, please let’s do the right thing, this isn’t the life I want for us.’ However I was my worst yet. Living in a hotel and shooting nearly $500 a day in heroin. I felt guilty and lied to him while he was away, but once he got home I was honest as I didn’t want to mess up his sobriety. I sent him a message saying, ‘I love you and miss you, but unfortunately I relapsed and have been using again and I don’t want to risk your sobriety.’ He chose to come around me anyway telling me, ‘I love you and I wanna see you. We will work on getting you clean.’ So he came around anyway and managed to stay clean. One morning while in bed sleeping, there was a knock on the door. The police had come to pick me up on a warrant. They searched my room and brought me in. During my intake the nurse at the jail came out of the bathroom with a serious look on her face, asking me, ‘Hunny, when was the last time you had sex?!’ I didn’t realize she had taken a pregnancy test, so I nonchalantly answered, ‘this morning.’ She then asks me, ‘Well, have you been sexually active a lot lately?!’ I explained to her that my fiancé had just gotten home from jail about a month ago, so we’ve been having sex since then. She went on to tell me my pregnancy test was positive. I immediately broke down in tears. How?! I hadn’t had a period in over 5 years. I’m using drugs heavily. How could this happen!? (Yes. I know that’s naive to think or say— and yes, I know how it happened!) The nurse did a second test to verify the results, which of course came back the same; pregnant. She tried to console me, saying things like, ‘It’s okay, this is your opportunity to do the right thing. Don’t cry. Go back to your cell and call your family. It’s going to be okay.’ Of course I felt like it would be everything BUT okay.
I immediately went back to the intake cell and called my mom and fiancé. My mom picked up the phone and I immediately screamed, ‘Mom! I’m pregnant, I’m pregnant, what do I do!’ She said, ‘Brianna, I know you don’t believe in abortion, but that’s what’s best in this situation.’ I hung up the phone in tears, feeling worse than I did before I called her. I immediately called my fiancé who was happy and said to me, ‘This is good Brianna. This is your chance to get clean and do the right thing. I finally get to be a dad, please don’t cry.’ I cried and cried all night. I felt so guilty for all the drugs I put in my body while pregnant. I was released the next day and immediately sought out the help I would need to get clean while pregnant. Upon being released my fiancé picked me up and we talked about what needed to be done. He said to me, ‘Brianna, this is it, we need to do the right thing for our baby. I’ve always wanted to be a dad and this is my chance. Please do the right thing.’ I also had another warrant which I turned myself in for so I could better myself. The county jail had placed me on methadone maintenance as they cannot allow a pregnant woman to detox due to the dangers and risk of miscarriage. The jail’s drug counselor helped me get into a long term mommy and me program where I had my son. I was in jail and rehab my entire pregnancy as I had thankfully found out I was pregnant very early on (4 weeks) and I successfully completed the program when my son was two months old.
While in the program I learned a lot about myself and addiction. I learned I struggle with severe general anxiety, social anxiety, agoraphobia, PTSD, hyper-vigilance, PTSD induced amnesia… and a few other things that are related to PTSD and trauma in general. I struggle to remember a lot of things in life. I remember the things I’ve been through, but as far as memories of days or situations go, I have very few. I forget everything and it’s something I deal with on a daily basis. It’s tough and upsetting, but I have to accept it for what it is and move on with things. All I can do from here on out is hope for the best.
The program I was in really opened my eyes to a lot of things in life, one being how quickly addiction takes lives away as several of the girls I was in the program with had left, overdosed and died before I even completed the program. I also had a couple friends pass away while I was in the program. I was also shocked with the way some staff had treated us. After having my son, I chose to exclusively breastfeed. I had started struggling at the program due to the poor diet they had us on. I asked several times if I could have my fiancé bring me food or money so staff could take me shopping. I was told, ‘I know you didn’t eat good on the streets, so I don’t know why you suddenly care about eating better now.’ I was shocked. Disgusted. Appalled. Blown away. These words came from the mouth of a counselor at a drug program who’s supposed to help us learn to live healthy again, and yet she’s putting me down for my past and basically expressing that my desire to exclusively breastfeed my son wasn’t important. I was already struggling to be there as it was dirty, lonely and once my son was born, they didn’t allow his father to visit until he was 2 months old. Not to mention I just had my 4th c-section and had to go down and back up 4 flights of stairs every morning, carrying a newborn to get my medication.
Today my husband and I are at three years clean and we live a beautiful life with our son. My dad has custody of my daughters and he gives them the best life he possibly can. I’m still a part of their lives and do the best I can to be there as much as I can for them. I still struggle with lots of anxiety and of course guilt, but I do the best I can to keep moving forward. I have a beautiful relationship and bond with my son and he’s a daily reminder of why I need to do the right thing and stay clean. He’s full of love, life and energy and can make anyone smile at any given moment. We spend our days at the local park where every other kid in town knows Alex and get excited when they see he’s at the park with his toys. He loves sharing and it’s the sweetest thing to see. It makes me so proud when other parent commend me.
Throughout my recovery I’ve been often asked, ‘How can you have another baby after losing kids and go on to live a normal life?!’ I’ve been put down for it and been made to feel like the world’s biggest piece of crap, but I refuse to let that bring me down. While I can understand where others come from, as I hated my own mom before experiencing addiction for myself, I still wish people would take the time to think before making such harsh judgments. While I wish things were different and that I made better choices in the past, that isn’t the case. I can’t change my past, all I can do is move forward and make my future better; for myself and my children. My son was an accidental pregnancy, but I chose to keep him and I’m so thankful and blessed to have him in my life. He gives me strength to push through my days and gives me a reason to continue staying clean.
Unfortunately depression and drug addiction go hand in hand and when put together, they can be deadly. They will change you into someone you never imagined you’d be. I am by no means a bad person or a bad mother. I’m incredibly loving, caring, giving and selfless. Although I’ve made incredibly selfish choices in the past, those were the drugs making those choices for me. While I take full responsibility for my actions, I like to put it out there that drugs really do change you. My addiction may have started out as a choice, but it didn’t continue that way. Addiction is a disease and it changes us for the worst, but today I’m blessed to say I’m stronger than my disease and I don’t use it as an excuse to destroy my life anymore. Today I am clean and sober and I live a beautiful life. Today I am able to go shopping and not have to add up what I’m spending or worry I won’t have enough. Today I’m able to eat when I want and what I want. I’m able to take my children out and buy them things. I’m able to wake up and not be sick or worry about how I’m going to get money. Today I have a bed to sleep in and a shower of my own. Today I am proud of who I am and how far I’ve come. Even though there will ALWAYS be someone judging me and putting me down.
Today I am sober and clean, today I love myself. Unfortunately my mom is still lost deep in her addiction and I pray she finds her way out before it takes her life. Today I have a beautiful relationship with my one sister, Sydney, and a very strained, non-existent relationship with my other sister. Today I’m able to celebrate birthdays and holidays at home. Today I am still on methadone and I’m no longer ashamed to admit that, thanks to an amazing Facebook group (MoMATS) I joined for moms on MAT (Medication assisted treatment) that helped me see IT IS OK for me to be on it until I’m ready to come off. I’m not alone. IT DOESN’T mean I’m still using, I don’t abuse my medication, my dose is stable and I do NOT get high from it. It got me off heroin and keeps me away from it, so I think that’s the better choice. I truly hope one day the stigma around MAT gets better.
If you’re currently struggling with addiction, you are NOT alone. Please seek the help before it’s too late. There IS help out there. If you’re in recovery, I’m proud of you, whether it’s been one day, one year or twenty… I AM PROUD OF YOU!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Brianna Genovese of Rockaway, New Jersey. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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