Trigger Warning: This story contains details of pregnancy loss, depression, and drug use that may be triggering to some.
“I never dreamed I’d become an addict. In hindsight, it wouldn’t have been so hard to imagine it would be me one day picking through the bathroom carpet, next to the toilet, in search for remnants of drugs amidst the toilet residue, just to find enough to consume to give me the will to live for a moment.
I grew up an honor roll student, athlete, and writer who would graduate early, with an advanced diploma. I had dreams of becoming a writer, an artist, a counselor, and maybe even one day, a public speaker. I never knew that was exactly what I’d become, but for a much different reason.
I was 16 when I went for a standard tonsillectomy… only to find a family member drank my medicated cough syrup. Another family member purchased Vicodin off of the streets for me and it was over from there. I fell in love. There in my hand would be the answer to every question I’d ever asked, a solution to any problem I’d ever encountered, peace in the painful moments.
Opiates became both my freedom and my prison. I wasn’t new to the idea of using something to escape my own skin, as I had smoked copious amounts of marijuana to get me through each day, dabbled with alcohol to soothe the memories of my father’s absence, and tried many hallucinogens to figure out exactly what reality was. But opiates created a new world, one I was very excited to explore. I’m not sure exactly what makes a person have the need to escape their own life to cause them to go to any length to do it, be it trauma, or discontentment even. But for me, I know it what something specifically dark. I spiraled into drug addiction for 3 years.
At 19 years old, after blacking out drunk each night, using Percocet my mother and I would buy from the neighbor and snorting Adderall in the morning to be able to get up and go to work, I met somebody and my entire life changed.
He would soon become the god I’d leave my family, current boyfriend, and everything I knew behind for, in the pursuit to be with him. It wasn’t long into our relationship I quit using, drinking, and seeking out drugs. I was clean, miraculously. I loved him in a way that was both beautiful and extremely dangerous. I’d would’ve given up anything to follow him. And I did.
Months into our relationship, my feelings of infatuation only deepened and blindly, I trusted him with my life. We even planned on having a baby. One night, I had a very vivid dream I was alone in this empty apartment, holding a baby and I was alone with the knowledge that he left us. I woke up heartbroken, telling him of the dream and he told me, ‘The dream was from the devil. I’d never do anything like that to you.’ It was only about a month or so later we would have a small fight and I went to my mother’s house for the weekend to cool off.
Before bed on that Saturday, he texted me to tell me how much he loved me and wanted me to come home. That Sunday, I arrived at our house to half of our belongings packed. He said he’d found a new woman he was going to live with and asked me to take him to her house.
I will never be able to describe the bewilderment of that moment. My entire reality shifted into this new world of betrayal where every horrible thing was possible. I couldn’t believe how blind I had been, how trusting I allowed myself to be… how stupid I never knew I was. The next morning, I woke up, vomited once, and was instantly terrified. I never threw up. It couldn’t be. God wouldn’t let this be possible. My brother drove to our local Dollar General three separate times to get three separate pregnancy tests because what I saw seemed impossible.
Two pink lines. Again, I’ll never be able to describe the true feelings I felt knowing I was carrying the baby of a man who left like I never meant a thing. I texted him over pictures and called. He answered to hear the news. He said, ‘That’s not mine and you’re not my own anymore.’ Empty. Shattered. Alone. Lost. Pregnant with a baby I only wanted because he wanted one. That night I drank, a lot, and relapsed on cigarettes as well. We still worked together. Reliving that trauma daily, I’d walk into work and look over to his desk and he’d be laughing. Every single time.
His laughter permeated my spirit and a hatred I have never known before consumed me. For months, he’d laugh daily and I would draw closer to that deep hate until one day, it swallowed me and our unborn child. I told my co-worker, ‘Today, something is very different, I’m not okay.’ I walked down the middle of our warehouse, to the bathroom in the back corner, and began bleeding profusely. The toilet filled with blood and I yelled for my mom, who got me the job in the first place, and she rushed me to the E.R. while yelling a slew of profanities to the back of the warehouse at him.
In the E.R. the doctor told me I was having a miscarriage, the baby was a boy and in 3 days, I would bleed him out of my body. Much of this is a nightmarish blur. The doctor must have felt pity and sent me home with countless Percocets. I knew she gave them for emotional pain because the amount wasn’t clinically necessary. Almost a ‘Here, take these, they’ll help you forget,’ and I did take them. The first two Percocets covered me in a blanket of warmth, a comfort I hadn’t felt in such a long time. Everything was going to be okay. Nothing mattered. The blood leaving my body, my son, lifeless. Nothing.
It would be a couple of days later I stopped bleeding, halfway through my prescription, and headed for a sonogram. Just to check he wasn’t there anymore. I don’t know how to explain this moment because it’s a fog. There he was on the monitor, alive and well. They said he miraculously made it and I must have had some sort of hemorrhage. How was this possible? I was high and there he was. Alive. But now, I couldn’t stop. The pills, the drinking, the emptiness without them again, it didn’t end. It should’ve ended, but I couldn’t stop. Every night, I’d pray over my stomach to protect him from what I was doing. I hated myself. With the same kind of hate that I hated his father with.
A couple of months later, my brother would total my car, with me in the back, 5 or six 6 pregnant, and I would seek out a script of opiates, which turned into several scripts, which then turned into a pain management doctor and endless scripts. I couldn’t have an MRI to confirm the ‘pain’ in my back because I was pregnant, so the scripts kept coming and my doctor was surprisingly happy to give them.
In February, I went into the hospital to be induced into labor. I was under the impression no one knew I was using. I wasn’t only using my prescription of Vicodin, but my grandmother’s Percocet and my grandfather’s pills as well. I’d been given a urine test and a nurse came into my hospital room to ask what medications I’d been taking. I told her what I was taking. I sincerely thought nothing more would happen after that.
Hours later, my epidural fell out and I was on Pitocin (the labor-inducing medication). The pain became horrendous. The nurses that came into my room were very short and very mean to me. After an hour of writhing in pain, a nurse came in and gave me a pill. 20 minutes later, my pain became increasingly worse. At this point, I was sobbing and crying out for help and the nurse came back in and said, ‘That was enough to knock out a f*cking horse,’ in a snide tone, referring to the medication she gave me.
I have no idea what she gave me, but it counteracted the pain medicines I was on and I had a severe adverse reaction. The pain became unbearable. I begged for a c-section because I wasn’t dilating and finally, after hours of writhing, they came in to prepare me for the c-section. I will never forget the way those nurses treated me, with such judgment and disdain. All except for the one who collected my urine, but she must’ve left her shift because she was no longer there. Part of me can’t blame them. I was a pregnant junkie, but part of me still has a hard time accepting people can treat others with such hatred.
My son would be born, miraculously, perfectly healthy. An anomaly. No withdrawals, no health complications, nothing. Just a perfect little baby, tragically born to an imperfect, drug-addicted mother. Between CPS paperwork and countless conversations about the medication I was prescribed, it turns out because I had a prescription of Vicodin, CPS couldn’t take him from me, though the hospital tried everything they could to get them to.
After months of pregnancy appointments, I came to find during each appointment, they were collecting my urine, fully aware I was using during my pregnancy. Instead of intervening, they documented my use to notify CPS the day my son was born. In the following months, I would continue getting high because, without the pills, I would become very, very sick. I couldn’t afford to be in withdrawals and take care of a baby. Post-partum depression mixed with drug addiction almost killed both my son and myself. I’d have vivid thoughts of ending both of our lives because I couldn’t care for him and I couldn’t care for myself.
I have never shared this part of my story before. This is very hard to do. I had planned on killing us both to escape this hell. I never knew of post-partum depression until years later and I lived with the guilt of those thoughts for a very long time and still do. By the grace of God and nothing less, I never acted on those thoughts.
On my first Mother’s Day, I would try heroin. I vividly remember pouring on the dirty bathroom counter at the house of the girl who gave it to me, looking at this gray powder, and then looking up into the mirror and saying, ‘This can kill you. You have to be ready to die.’ Then I rolled up the bill and snorted it, with fear and desperation.
I just couldn’t be sick. I’d give anything, even my life, just to not be sick anymore. I’d sit on Walmart benches, watching people as they walked by, imagining and wishing for their lives. How perplexing, how absolutely incomprehensible. They could just do anything they needed or wanted to do without being high and I couldn’t even wash my hair or body without having a drug in me to do it.
It was around August or September of 2014 after I had purposely crashed my car in the hopes to get a script of pills, after I had gone to countless emergency rooms across different counties in search of a doctor who would ‘believe’ my pain and prescribe me something, after losing my jobs, my apartment and almost everything I had, I finally had enough. I was a broken shell of a human being who only existed to get high and did nothing more. I was a ghost, living inside the person I once had so many dreams for. I wasn’t a mother, I wasn’t a daughter, I wasn’t a friend, I wasn’t human. I was something much darker.
I kept hearing this voice inside me, begging me to pray. Actually begging, audible. The voice was persistent and hurting. Every single time I heard that voice, I heard another saying, ‘You don’t want to pray. What if you do and God takes everything? What if all the drugs really do go away? You’ll have nothing. You’ll have fun again, life won’t be worth living, you get so sick, you can’t do that.’ I prayed. ‘God if you are real, take everyone out of my life that gives me drugs.’ 15 words that would change my life forever.
My grandmother, my biggest enabler, who had been on numerous painkillers for 30 years, came to me and said, ‘Chanda, I want to get off of these pills and see what my true pain level is without them.’ If she got off the pills, I thought to myself, what will I have? She was my greatest supplier, not my only, but the one I could manipulate and get the most out of, the best. She meant it. Her withdrawals lasted months, but she stuck it through and has been clean for over 6 years.
My grandfather, who supplied my Vicodin, both knowingly and unknowingly, found I had stolen his pills and called the cops on me, cutting me off completely. Frantic, I drove to town to my dealer a couple of days later and upon arriving at his house, he said, ‘Chanda, I’m not doing this anymore. My mom found me a 3-year rehab and I’m going to get some help.’ I didn’t know how this was happening. It was my worst nightmare. I didn’t want him to get clean, he couldn’t, because I would be sick. But he meant it. Soon after, I would drive to his house and his girlfriend would come to the door to tell me he went to jail.
The emptiness I felt was unbearable. I was sick, lost, forsaken. My world came crashing in around me. What do I do without drugs? After realizing this was it, I tried a last-ditch effort. Desperately, I drove to Grandpa’s house and told him that I was an addict. I remember he went into his back room, through the hallway that led out of the kitchen to make some calls. While he was but eight feet away from me, I quietly opened up his drawer that always had his pills in it and noticed all he had was Dilaudid. He must have hidden his Vicodin. My heart was racing, as at any moment he could’ve looked around the corner of the wall to see me, stealing his pills as he was on the phone trying to get me help.
That was it. There wasn’t any help except our local hospital and no one could keep my son for a month while I went to rehab. The only person who could keep my son for a few days turned out to be my very Christian cousin who I hadn’t talked to in years. There before me sat an opportunity. Not a grandiose one, not a luxury rehab, not a qualified therapist, just a decision to get away just long enough to figure out this life I had.
I decided to go to my mother’s house 4 hours away and get through the sickness. By this time, everyone knew I was an addict. All my drugs, gone, suppliers, gone. It was day three, at my mother’s house, sick, it all hit me. Everything. The guilt was overwhelming, the pain, the reality of what I had done, everything. My beautiful, poor son, who never had a mother, was all I could think of. How could I have done this to him?
He spent so many days alone because I was too sick or too high to hold him, to love him, to take care of him, and here I was, abandoning him just like my father and his father abandoned me. It was then I knew what I had to do and I had to fight for our lives. I packed all of our belongings, left my boyfriend at the time, and moved myself and my son into my mother’s house. I knew if I stayed in New York, in that apartment, near all the places I used to get high, I’d never have a chance. I picked up a part-time job in a pizza shop and felt clean, but hopeless. I felt like a failure, 21, who had nothing to show for her life. I didn’t even know what I was going to do with my life, so I just assumed I’d live with my mom until my son was grown, because there didn’t seem to be anything in store for me.
Then one day, I prayed another prayer. I knew God was real now and I wanted to find Him. ‘God, send me a Pentecostal church like the one I grew up in.’ A little time after that prayer, I was in a Dollar General parking lot and a man came up to the car, tapped on the window, and told me, ‘The Holy Spirit led me to tell you that a new Pentecostal church opened up two blocks away and God wants you to come this weekend because you’re destined to lead a great ministry one day.’
I went. I prayed. I was baptized and on the third day after my baptism, I woke up speaking in tongues and was given a vision I was meant to share my story with as many people as I could, and one day, hundreds of thousands, if not millions would hear it.
Today, I am 6 years in recovery from the opiates that almost took my life. I have three incredibly beautiful, healthy children and an amazing partner who is in recovery himself. I have traveled all across the U.S. sharing my story as a public speaker. I am a poet and a rap artist, I write music about my mental health, addiction, and all things in between. I am a daughter, a mother, and a leader.
Millions of people have heard my story and hundreds of thousands of people follow me on social media, supporting and growing from my journey. To know I would’ve never made it out of this without the supernatural power of God is humbling. I stay in a place of humility daily because I know without God, I wouldn’t be here to write this. Through my journey, I have been blessed to have helped thousands of people make it into the doors of drug treatment and thousands of others have been inspired to stay clean by the works God has done through me. I am a broken vessel, empowered by something greater than me I won’t ever forget that.
To anybody reading this who is stuck in the brokenness I once was, I want you to know this: The very prison that seems impenetrable to you is nothing more than a wet, soggy cardboard box in the eyes of God. Nothing is too hard for Him to deliver you from and with Him, nothing will impossible for you. The chains that bind us are very real, though unseen, but just remember, at any given moment, you can stand up, reach out your hand for help, and those chains that have bound you for so long, can be broken.
I never dreamed I’d become an addict. I also never dreamed through the darkness of a nearly deadly addiction, God would use every ounce of that brokenness to help me fulfill my actual dreams. Today, I am a writer, an artist, a public speaker, and though not a counselor, I’m a leader who through each dark experience I have had, guides many. Nobody is too broken, too lost, or too dirty, to be saved. There is always hope.”
Read more stories like this:
‘A guardian angel called 9-1-1 as I convulsed in a coffee shop parking lot. At 18, I’d lost 20 jobs and been arrested 14 times.’: Man 13-years sober after long battle with addiction, ‘We’re not meant to live in darkness’
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