‘Is my mom ok? Will I ever get to live with her again?’: Woman shares mother’s alcohol addiction, experience in foster care

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My Mom’s Addiction

“Growing up, life always felt normal but looked a little different from others. With a father that was never in the picture, I was raised by a single mother. As a kid, I did dance, played soccer, and did cheerleading. Life was as good as I knew it to be. I would spend the weekends playing outside and shopping with my mom, doing what moms and daughters love to do together. As an only child, I longed for siblings but also lived life to the fullest.

Single mom struggling with alcohol addiction pushes baby girl in plastic swing.
Courtesy of Scarlet Stearns
Single mom battling alcoholism celebrates first birthday with only child.
Courtesy of Scarlet Stearns

One evening, when I was 8 years old, my mom sat me down to tell me she was going to be leaving for a period of time. It was explained in the only humbling way you can share your struggle with addiction with your child. Confused and worried, I didn’t understand why she couldn’t just stop drinking. In fact, I posed that question to her, and in response she said, ‘It doesn’t work like that,’ and took another sip.

Biological mom takes picture with young daughter wrapping arms around her neck.
Courtesy of Scarlet Stearns

Living With Family

A few short weeks later, my dream of having siblings came true and I moved in with my aunt and uncle. Siblings weren’t as awesome as I thought they would be. It turned out sharing was something this only child wasn’t the best at. During this time, I’m 9 years old and wrestling with emotions no child should wrestle with. Is my mom ok? Will my mom be free from addiction? Will I ever get to live with her again? I started attending church with my aunt and uncle. Growing up, I never believed in fairytales, but when I heard about Jesus he sounded like a fairytale to me. In my chaotic life, I heard about a God who could bring me peace despite the circumstance. I decided to take him at his word and choose to believe he held the end of my story no matter what it looked like at that moment. On November 4th, 2010, I proclaimed my faith as my own.

Young girl takes picture sitting on porch swing with cousins as she stays with them while her mom goes to rehab.
Courtesy of Scarlet Stearns

After I made this decision, life went on and I had the opportunity to live with my mom again. In this, not only was the drinking worse, but I was exposed to the fact the life I lived as a child was far from normal. Going to parties with my mom, surrounded only by adults, in the constant atmosphere of drugs and alcohol, men in and out of our home, a mom trying her hardest to provide but looking in all the wrong places for the tools. I remember feeling like I had no true home, feeling alone, uncomfortable with the abandoned around me.

When it was found out my mom had relapsed, I was immediately removed from her care and next, I would try living with my grandmother. I think living with your grandmother at 10 years old is every kid’s dream and surely was mine. My grandmother is someone who is always constant in love and support. She has been my best friend, someone whose number I had memorized at 3 years old because she knew I would need it. I remember the uniqueness of us navigating between the role of granddaughter/grandmother vs. daughter/mother, because although relational she had played that role, now she was physically filling that role.

Little girl takes Christmas picture with grandma who she lived with for a time after her mom relapsed.
Courtesy of Scarlet Stearnsv

A few months after living with her, she invited my aunt and uncle over for dinner. I remember thinking this was odd because my cousins always came with them. As a child that had to grow up fast, I was basically 10 going on 25 and knew something was up. We finished dinner and my uncle led the conversation. He said, ‘Scarlet, she’s supposed to be your grandmother, not your mom,’ and as soon as these words came out, I was overwhelmed with complete fear from head to toe. I just kept saying, ‘But I want to live with y’all!’ over and over again. What they didn’t know, was that two years prior, when my mom had first told me she would be going to get help, she explained it to me as if because of my actions, I would possibly have to go live with strangers (which I now know to be foster care).

Grandma, aunt, and uncle drop young girl off at her first foster home.
Courtesy of Scarlet Stearns

A New Life

My mind immediately went back to that moment and I remember not understanding what it was that I kept doing to deserve being abandoned, to deserve people walking out of my life. I sat there and tried to make sense of what my life had become. For so long, I loved the thought of helping children in need, and there I was, the child in need.

My grandmother handed me a magazine from a children’s home called Big Oak Ranch. The moment I looked at the faces of other children like me, God overwhelmed my heart with peace and excitement. Feelings that don’t match hearing news like this, God was faithful to give me the eyes to see the storm our family was going through as an opportunity for him to do big things. The next day, I went to school excited to tell my friends I was moving to a new place, sad to leave them but excited for what was to come. I was excited to have a mom and a dad, to have brothers and sisters, and to have my own room in a big house. I prayed the family I got to live with would have a baby, and God was so sweet to bless me with just that. Looking back, he was so kind to bless me in the sweetest ways with answered prayers.

Young woman in foster care loves having a baby brother and sits on the couch sharing a blanket with him.
Courtesy of Scarlet Stearns

On November 5th, 2011, I moved to Big Oak Ranch. Excited and nervous, I felt as many emotions as you could expect for a 10-year-old moving in with a new family. It was harder than expected. I can remember I would smell my clothes when I got sad because they smelt like my grandmother’s laundry. When life was hard and discipline happened, it was really easy for me to get upset and want to immediately call my grandmother, but just as life was hard, it was also really good. I had a family full of laughter, love, and light. I had sisters to look up to, sisters who I got to make the best memories with. I felt surrounded by people who loved me and supported me.

Teen girl takes family picture with her first foster family.
Courtesy of Scarlet Stearns

During this time, I was having visits with my mom. They were filled with Saturday visits of her doing my hair, cooking lunch, and occasionally shopping. I felt like life couldn’t get better. Everyone around me was ok, life was sweet, in the midst of joy and peace. This lasted for a few years. I was in the middle of starting travel volleyball and I got a call that my house mom wasn’t going to be picking me up. A little alarmed, I figured one of my sisters needed to be picked up somewhere also.

Another Life-Changing Moment

That night, I was informed my house parents would be leaving. Shocked would be an understatement. We had previously found out our mom was seeing another guy, but didn’t think it would result in affecting our whole family. I was hurt because I thought I had found a forever family, people who wanted to walk with me for life. They always describe house parents leaving like death, because abruptly you lose the people you love the most. There’s one goodbye followed by a year of no contact.

In a matter of a few days, my reality changed. I was in a new home with new faces. Still hurt by my house parents, I had no desire to get close to my new house parents. I was entering the stage of being a teenager and spent all my weekends with my friends. I was visiting my family, but the visits with my mom began to go downhill. In between sports, friends, and biological family, I didn’t care to become close to this new family. I called them mom and dad because I figured that was what I was supposed to do, but in no way did I feel like I had one.

Teen girl takes picture with her second foster family.
Courtesy of Scarlet Stearns

A year went by and I felt as if I was just spending my nights at a friend’s house. This is when you are comfortable enough to go get a snack from the pantry but you can’t relax, because at the end of the day, it’s not your home. I was still having a hard time missing my old house parents, but suppressing my feelings on the inside.

During this time, my biological mom got really sick over a short period of time. Our visits had slowed down and as a result of the alcohol, she began to make irrational decisions. She suffered from liver cirrhosis as well as side effects in her brain causing the decisions she was making. Within a month, she went into the hospital and never came out. I remember sitting in her hospital room. I had seen movies of kids whose parents had passed away, but never thought it would be me.

Foster teen takes picture with fellow volleyball teammates standing on the court in front of the net.
Courtesy of Scarlet Stearns

Finding The Good

I sat by my grandmother and she said, ‘The Lord has to bring something good out of such a terrible situation.’ It was at that moment I was reminded God would never take us through something hard just to leave us there. In fact, we all go through hard seasons, it’s a part of life, but we get to choose how to grow from it. God revealed to me he promises to heal, but he doesn’t say whether it will be in heaven or on earth. My mom was healed that day, and as a result, I learned the purpose of every hard season I had walked through. There is purpose in the pain we walk through.

Two months later, my house parents left, one month later my third set left, and three days later, I moved in with my fourth set of house parents. I had a heart that was content with just me. I didn’t care to have another parent. At this point, my friends had been closer family to me than anyone. I was closed off from receiving love from anyone else, so much so I told my parents they wouldn’t last more than 6 months. Annoyed by all they did, my new mom and dad showed me love no matter what I did to push them away.

Young adult woman takes picture with foster mom who never gave up on her.
Courtesy of Scarlet Stearns
Young adult woman takes picture with foster dad who never gave up on her.
Courtesy of Scarlet Stearns

They showed me the true heart of God, that no matter what we do, no matter how hard we push away, he loves us for who we are. God loves us as we are, broken and hurting. He takes a hard heart and gives it life. He takes a broken story and restores it to the way he intended it to be. God took my lonely heart and surrounded it with people. He took an abandoned child and placed her in a family. Not only did he do these things, but he blessed me with joy that is never-ending, a perspective to see him as he is, and a passion to share his goodness with other people.

There is power in sharing your story, and I hope that mine got to be a blessing to you today.”

Former foster youth celebrates with girlfriends at party.
Courtesy of Scarlet Stearns

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Scarlet Stearns from Birmingham, Alabama. You can follow her journey on Instagram and on her blogSubmit 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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