Tell me the story of your child’s addiction.
I'll start with my older daughter first. Her name is Riley and she's currently incarcerated. Right now her out date is October 15th, 2020. Riley was always a rebel. Even in kindergarten she always hated school but she loved being popular, and she was very outgoing. She was a cheerleader in junior high but she just liked hanging out. I was always trying to get her to be more active. When she got to high school her grades were failing and failing.
She just didn't like school. As soon as Riley turned 18, Riley went into the dean's office, quit high school and came home. She didn't have enough credits to graduate. I was beside myself. I knew it was coming. She told me she was going to do it. I made her leave home and she went to stay with her cousin for a little while in Mishawaka and then she came back. She came back home and said she would take her GED. I figured she was smoking pot, but back then I was like pot is just not that big of a deal.
She had a lot of anger problems – like the one time when she was a juvenile, I had her arrested because she threw a glass of orange juice in her sister's face. She was just obstinate. And she went to juvie for it. She's so bold that the next morning in court she was kicking me under the table. The judge had her shackled up and taken out of there because she was trying to get me to not say stuff. She was saying, "Shut up. Shut up. Don't say that." And this was before it even started. So when the judge first spoke he said, “You know what? You are out of here. I'll just talk to your mom.” Now they have Obstinate Defiant Disorder. If anybody had it, I would think Riley did. It was so difficult to manage.
I took her to take her GED. She didn't study. She didn't do anything online. She just walked in and took the test. I think we had to go there two times for the testing. I can't remember now. And at that point, Riley's not at home anymore. She's just drifting around, living here and there, partying and having a great time. She got an honors GED. She only missed a few questions on the entire exam. She's brilliant.
This is just horrible parenting on my part, but Riley would show up at my house with friends and they would stay the night. I could tell everybody was high, and I didn't want them to drive anywhere so I would let them stay. That's when a lot of my stuff like my jewelry was all gone, except for what I wore. Things like my grandmother's engagement ring and Doug's dad’s one-carat diamond ring were also taken. I never thought to hide things. And then money was missing. You know, 20 here. 20 there. "Can I have a 20?" That's their favorite line. “I need 20.” And 20 again. I need 20 for gas. Or, “My friend and I didn't have any money and they paid for me and I need 20 to pay them back.” They beat you down. They're so relentless with the harping that you finally just say here is 20. Because it's that bad. They won't leave you alone and they're just nipping on you.
Bailey stole from her grandmother and she stole Grandpa's wedding ring. Bailey was so sad that she did that. It broke her heart that she would do that to somebody like Betty. Bailey wanted to make amends. Bailey was devastated when Betty died. One of the things she kept saying was how she always wished she told her about that ring. When I was going through Betty's rings, I found his ring. Bailey must have taken a different one.
It was obvious Riley was high all the time. She was moving around a lot. She eventually got an apartment in Indianapolis. That apartment was a pit and there was traffic in and out of there. There'd be big piles of pot and a lot of cash. It was Riley's apartment and it was horrible and heartbreaking. Riley's sister Bailey was staying with her for a little while.
Riley got arrested a few times along the way. One time she was here at home and leaving and it was getting dark. She was driving somebody's truck that didn't have a headlight. The police pulled her over. I wasn't a witness to any of this but they had her outside of the car, handcuffed and sitting on the ground. With dogs. I don't even remember what the charges were but they kept her over the weekend in jail. And you'd think she would learn from this stuff, but no.
So Riley ended getting arrested a couple more times and then the third time she got probably nine months in the Marion County Jail. I would never bail her out. And that's an awful experience to have. There was a point where she said, "Mom, I'm probably eventually going to go to prison. It would be better than being in a county jail like this." She got out of jail and went straight to this horrible house and lived there.
One time Doug, my husband, was over next door in the garage having a beer with a neighbor and I was having a board of directors meeting for parents of recovering addicts here in my house. All the seats were full. I was sitting just like I am now and the people across the counter sat where you are sitting. We all looked out the window to see these cops come in and block off our street. A couple of them came walking right there looking in all the cars. Doug thought I must have invited some police to our meeting because that wouldn't be unusual. Then Doug realized they're looking in cars and they have their guns drawn and that they're not here for a meeting. I answered the door. They said they had a warrant for Riley. Well at that time, Riley was living in a halfway house in North Carolina. We had gotten permission from the courts and from the probation department for her to be able to go there. But then when she got to North Carolina, they wouldn't reciprocate with Indiana. A warrant was issued for her. And so the police were here looking for my daughter. I told them the judge knows all about it and everything is OK. And she's currently in treatment. They said they needed to search the house. I told them that was fine and to make themselves at home. I ended up giving them all snacks and cookies and cheese and crackers. That was insane.
My girls have iPhones and I have an iPhone. I pay for their phones because that’s just some kind of a lifeline from me to them. And if they are going to have a phone, they have no choice - they have to have Find My Friend on it or I won't pay for it. I've turned their phones off before.
When Riley got back from treatment, there was one time when I dropped Riley off at a methadone clinic. Riley had an appointment with a counselor. It's a horrible place. They do the best they can but it's just horrible there. And you're herded like cows. It's degrading. Everything about it is horrible. But if you're going there and you're doing things the right way and not using heroin, I'm okay with it. So I dropped Riley off at the clinic and I asked her if she wanted me to wait for her. She said no and that she would get a ride. She was really ugly then and spoke to me in a hateful way. After I dropped her off, I was looking on my phone and could see she was at this Phillips 66 gas station on the west side. She was there for a long time. And then I get a call from Riley's cell phone. Apparently Riley had overdosed in the gas station bathroom and her friends had left her.
Riley got all kinds of charges and then that was the end of it. She went to prison. And she's coming out hopefully early next year or by next fall. October 2020 is her out date. She's done time cuts and she's done a lot of good things while in prison. She does so much to help other offenders. She spends a lot of time in the law library at the prison and she'll help people file things or appeal their charges or whatever they need. She's really good.
If someone would have told me Riley would do this, I would never believe it. She has mad crocheting skills in prison. She made this for me. She's made a lot for a lot of people. She made a beautiful blanket for her new baby nephew. I've sent her pictures of the baby – I don't know if the prison approved of them yet. The prison has to approve pictures in emails before she gets it.
She'll have good letters from people in the prison. She's real good [about] going to Mass in prison. She gets people to go to Mass and to Bible study with her. I hope she means all that and it's just not faking a sell out to get out of there. But I believe it. It's hard not to believe in her because she's not where she can do anything she shouldn't.
She's amazing. I have high hopes for her. Doug, her stepdad, he's been in her life ever since she was 6. Doug visits her every other Saturday. I visit her every Thursday. It was hard on him to see the way I was treated by her. Because when somebody is high, they're awful.
Riley was born in ‘89 and Bailey was born in ‘92.
So I guess I'll move on to Bailey. One day during high school, Bailey shattered her big toe. She and her boyfriend were chasing each other around in the living room. Our coffee table has a granite top it weighs a ton. Her toe hit the corner of the coffee table. It was horrible. She had surgery. She had pins. She was in a wheelchair. And she just complained about the pain all the time after her surgery. She was a bright kid. She was academically great and athletically great. Bailey never gave me any worries or troubles. But after that accident, she wasn't able to play volleyball anymore.
And then things were different. She kept complaining about pain. Kept complaining about pain. She had a boyfriend that was constantly spending the night. Why did I ever let that happen? It was my house. But by now I was deep up to my knees with Riley. I just noticed things weren't right and she was just hollering in pain. All of her pain pills were gone. Bailey would just be upstairs hollering. So Riley told me she had some medication that would help Bailey. I said whatever. Just quiet Bailey down. Bailey was relentless, and I couldn't do anything about it. I asked Riley what medication she had and I think she told me she had opioids. I'm like OK well that should be good because that's what is in the pain pills.
Bailey and Riley don't have a relationship right now, and that hurts me a lot. But I understand. Riley wants to have a relationship with Bailey but Bailey doesn't want anything to do with Riley. I think she will as she's going through the steps. I just kind of have to step back from that. It's not like we're having holidays with everybody.
I'm sure Riley didn't intentionally think she was getting her sister addicted to heroin. And Bailey didn't know what she was doing. I just feel like there's some fog in the understanding between the two and what all went down then. But bottom line is Riley did give Bailey heroin for the first time, not to have her sister become an addict. Riley is my child that will take care of anything with a broken wing. I'm sure Riley was thinking that she could make her sister feel better.
For Bailey, heroin was instant for her. That whole summer and into the fall, things weren't right. Bailey was spending a lot of time in the bathroom. She wasn’t getting anything done. She was sleeping all the time. She wasn’t accountable for anything. Money was missing. Things were missing. Anything you can think of that could be pawned was gone.
Here's your aluminum foil, cotton, spoons, dirty towels and tissues. These are all giveaways. Check the bathroom where they're spending all their time. Look under the cabinets. Look everywhere. I found all kinds of stuff wadded into little makeup bags with all this burned stuff. I used to get these big aluminum foil packages at Sam's and then I switched and would only buy these little bitty packages because I knew it was going to get stolen.
Right before that Thanksgiving, I was doing Bailey's hair. She was standing in my dressing room and I said, “Something's going on with you and I don't know what it is. I’m just so worried. Do you need help?” Bailey started bawling and she said, “Mom I can't stop.” So I told her we would get her help.
Bailey meets a lot of boys at these treatment centers. The boys latch onto her, especially this one boy who is dead now from a heroin overdose. Sadly he was camping with his parents and he overdosed in the tent. He was doing really good and everybody was excited about his camping trip and he overdosed and died.
Bailey was such a mess and it was her birthday. I bought two packs of cigarettes, and I went to Riley's apartment and Bailey had locked herself in the bathroom and she's like I don't want to see you right now. And I said well it's your birthday and I have the right to give my daughter a hug on her birthday. She's like, “No, Mom. I'm not going to come out.” I told her I have two packs of cigarettes and I won't leave them here. “You can come out give me a hug or I'm leaving with no hug and you won't have any cigarettes.” And she came out and it was horrible. Bailey was a mess and she had become sick. Very sick. Bailey had MRSA but we didn't know what it was. I talked to her pediatrician and she said Bailey has got to go to the hospital.
This is Bailey. This is what she looked like. And that's what Bailey looked like with MRSA. She was in the hospital for 21 days or so. It was a long time hospitalization. Her scars did a really good job of healing. And look how horribly thin she was. She was in a room down the hall from the nurse’s station. I was there and I was so tired.
When Bailey is using, when she's really in the depths, she'll do some meth. She's going to die if she doesn't stop. Each relapse becomes more and more dangerous. She's never overdosed that I know of.
We sent her to Tennessee. She did 30 days inpatient and then we got her in a place called Sober Living in Delray Beach, Florida. So she went there and she was doing really well. My sister and one of my best friends and I flew down to visit Bailey. Then we meet this guy J that Bailey had been talking about and he is obviously no good. And he's not even attractive, and he's little and Bailey's really tall and he's obviously manipulating Bailey. All three of us were upset about it.
Well, while we were in Florida, I got really sick. Bailey was staying with us and she and I were sleeping on a futon together and I just couldn't catch my breath. Something was wrong. I woke everybody up. They drove me to the hospital. I had a whole lot wrong. It was all my heart. Then they did a cath to see what was going on. I had a blood clot. So this was Friday and then I didn't have surgery until Monday. Surgery was a big deal. It was a triple bypass. I was fifty-eight. I'm pretty young and fit.
So I came home and find out Bailey is moving to New Jersey to be with J. Before all that happened, Bailey asked me to call her because J had already started beating Bailey and chasing her down alleys. And she's in love with J and she wants to move to New Jersey with J and his parents. I think J’s dad is definitely an opiate addict. He's on disability and takes pay most of the time. I'm not judging them, but there are just some crazy things. I tried to become friends with his mom and honestly, I think she just needs help. I try to be kind, but I sure wanted to choke Bailey plenty of times. I'm like – wake up!
Bailey was in New Jersey for Christmas. I ordered presents for Bailey. I got her a winter coat and shoes and a pair of boots and gloves, hat, scarf, maybe a couple of pairs of jeans or leggings. I had it all shipped here to my house so I could cut the tags out of the clothing. I've learned some things. Cut off all the tags and labels out so they can’t be sold. And then I paid to ship them to her, which, in this day and age is ridiculous.
Bailey would let me know that she needed some lotion and cream rinse and shampoo deodorant. I used to send her money. Well, I learned that if you order online at Wal-Mart for something to be picked up at their store, whoever picks it up cannot return the item for credit. Wal-Mart will only give credit back to the credit card originally used. So I started doing that. Then you always feel good as a mom that you are getting your daughter shampoo and lotion and cream rinse and throw in a couple boxes of macaroni and cheese.
Bailey eventually left J and came back home. We got her to go to the methadone clinic. The next thing I know, J is moving here and she and J got an apartment. It was for less than 30 days. He was awful and she was terrified. One day I went over to their apartment. My son, Joe, and his wife, Ashley, went over there. Bailey wanted her stuff and wanted to leave. It was crazy. J was crazy. It was like some stupid reality show. J grabbed Bailey and had her against the wall.
Bailey then started staying with a friend. One day when I was going to work at the Renaissance fair, she called me and said she wanted to come there and hug me goodbye. She said J was here and that she was going back to New Jersey with him. For real. And I said you know what, I'm working and this is going to upset me and I will get hysterical so let's just say our goodbyes on the phone. Bailey then starts this dramatic “I don't care enough” thing.
So they went back to New Jersey and she was back in New Jersey for over a year with him. Things were horrible. He raped her. He beat her. He burned her with cigarettes. In the meantime, I'm back in the hospital a whole bunch of times. I had so many surgeries in those few years. One day Bailey called me and she told me she was afraid. We had talked a few times when I was in the hospital. She said she was just so afraid. And I said you can come home and we'll help you get home. She said she was afraid to leave. And I said, “Well listen, I'm in really bad shape and I need you. Can we tell him that I need you to care for me?” We agreed she would talk to him that morning. Then she called me back and said she just talked to J and she's terrified. And I'm afraid. I said, all right you just have to listen to me. I told her to get her purse. I told her I’m going get an Uber to pick her up and take her to the airport, and I'll see what I can do about getting her a flight out of there. Bailey is hysterical. I get a text from the Uber driver that they're there and that they'll wait 5 minutes. I texted back and asked if they can please give me a quick call. It was a woman Uber driver, and I said “I don't even know how to explain this but here's the story. The person you're picking up is my daughter in New Jersey. I am her mother and I am in Indiana. We need to get her to the airport and I'm going to fly her home. This is a domestic violence situation. Please help me. Please help me.” And she says to me, “Oh I know all about domestic violence. I will not leave here without your daughter.”
God is good right? So she went in and talked to Bailey. This woman gave her a water bottle and a package of crackers and some things for the airport because at this point we don't even have a flight. And this woman talks to Bailey. They've actually become Facebook friends. I wrote a thank you note to her. Bailey keeps in touch with her. This Uber driver witnessed her father murder her mother.
We couldn't get a flight until the next morning. Bailey was terrified because they wouldn't let her past security, and she was afraid he'd come to the airport looking for her. So we pretty much stayed on the phone together all night. We had an early flight out for her. And she was screwed up. She was fully addicted. He would control her with heroin. She was a mess. I texted a friend of mine at the clinic and she was very helpful getting Bailey started. She has relapsed I don't even know how many times since she's been home. I'd be on the sofa and I could watch her in the kitchen and she's slumped against the counter falling asleep standing up. It's just horrible. It's heartbreaking. And it's been hard. It's just been hard.
Bailey started school but it was just too much. She had great benefits. They got insurance for her. Her insurance has a lot of downfalls but it has great coverage for addicts. And so we got her to go to treatment. I was hoping she'd get the Vivitrol shot. She goes through this whole treatment thing. When I took her to Fairbanks, there were some real hang-ups in the whole admission process. An example is they wanted me to have all of her medicine. And I'm like - she is a drug addict. She's got pills spilled all over the place. I don't even know what goes to what bottle. They said they couldn’t do anything until I brought her medicine in. I was able to bring them pills of whatever drugs I could find. That's a ridiculous rule – when you have a drug addict sit there and wait while her mother is trying to figure out her medicines.
I contacted a friend of mine who works at Fairbanks. She's just amazing. She's in recovery. She's been sober for probably 30 years. I reached out to her and also to my neighbor and both of those people helped Bailey get an appointment. Bailey did the inpatient treatment. She started out good but that didn't last. We spent an hour with a psychiatrist talking about all these different things. He explained to me that he wanted to keep her on Suboxone. But I am sick of Suboxone. I'm sick of how she freaks out about prescriptions because it is hard to get, especially when you only have one day of Suboxone left. These doctors don't call back. The clinic is overwhelmed with patients and excuses.
So the psychiatrist said with Bailey's drug use, she has to go get off Suboxone first to go on Vivitrol. And that’s about a 10-day period. He said he didn’t feel that she's safe to go the 10 days and that she needed to stay on Suboxone. Suboxone could be very long term for her. So we decided to do that. And she was still getting outpatient treatment and it wasn't 60 days in and she was in a full-blown horrible relapse. She wrecked her car but she said she wasn't high.
It was February 11th and I'm coming home and passed a bunch of businesses. I looked over and there's all these cop cars. Standing in the middle is my daughter. So I pulled over and said I'm her mom. The cops said she's high. I said, well, I'm not surprised. I said I could show you my phone and that we've been texting and you can see that I kept saying to her that if she could just come home, we’d get her to treatment. I said I'm just two more blocks this way. And the police officer said they’ve heard that before. And I told him I would be taking her to Fairbanks and he said no, they’ve heard it before too. Then I said you know what, you do what you have to do. And so they ended up arresting her for possession of a syringe. It's crazy to drive up on a scene like that and to see your daughter high with all these cops.
The police had received a couple 911 calls about her driving and she had pulled over into the parking lot for whatever reason. I don't even know why she was in that parking lot. The police saw her car. So they didn't catch her moving, which hopefully will help her case. They arrested her.
She asked to come home. And I told her she can't come home. I told her her options: we can go to Fairbanks, Gallahue, I can take you to a shelter, or if you really want, I'll take you to your drug dealer's house. Whatever you want. She said, "You're just going to make me do whatever you want me to do anyway so why don't you just decide." I was really praying like “Holy Spirit help me here. Guide me.”
I decided to take her to Fairbanks. They are most aware of what's going on right now. I dropped her off at the door. Parked my car and walked up to the entrance to find Bailey walking out to tell me they're full. And I said, “Well they're going to go make room then.” We went back in and turns out they weren't full. We had to wait a little while but it wasn't even that bad of a wait. And wouldn't you know … God sends you these signs … they took us back for assessment and truly by the power of the Holy Spirit, standing right by her door was that psychiatrist we had been working with.
He didn't know she was there. I'm like, "Hey remember us?" And he said yes. And he said to Bailey "Oh - you're feeling pretty bad” and she said, “Yeah, you know I'm really sick right now.” And he goes, "Well let's get you in here and we'll get you well. We'll see what we can do.” So we went through the first part of the intake with the social worker. Bailey was just such as snot. She kept falling asleep and she'd wake up and complain. She was just mean. That's just how they are.
Right then, my girlfriend texted me and asked if I wanted to get something to eat. I told her sorry, I'm in intake in Fairbanks. I let her know it’s been a tough day and that I had an appointment to get my nails done that day but I couldn’t go because I was at Fairbanks. I sat there looking my hands, and they were in awful shape. Bailey was asleep again. So I decided to walk out to the desk and let them know I was leaving. They said I can't because Bailey is not admitted and somebody needs to be here. And I said you know what, I have been here so many times and in other places so many times. Look at these nails. I need a manicure. I'm going with a mom who's got a son just like my daughter. You've got my number. I'm only talking about this because that was a brave thing for me to do.
So we're over here getting manis and pedis and my phone rings and it's Bailey and she's hysterical. She said she woke up and asked them to get me and they came back and said I left. She said, “My mom wouldn’t leave me while I’m being admitted”. She made them go back to look for me again and told them her mom would never ever leave her. And I said, “Bailey what do you want from me? There's nothing I can do.” So that was a good thing. She kept calling me back and I quit answering. She's like "How dare you?" But that's her high self talking to me like that.
Once when I was in church, there was this moment during the concentration of the Eucharist where I just felt this … I don't even know how to explain it but it was a moment. I am thankful that God gave me that moment. I always tell Father Pat what's going on and ask for prayers and everything. We had Mass and then afterwards I was in the sacristy. Bailey called me and she said she was with her counselor and they were saying how Baily really needed to live in the Sober Living Program (SLP) program. It was $196 a week, which we cannot afford. Father Pat kind of heard my conversation. He said, “The church has a fund. That's what the Saint Nicholas fund is for. That money is there because of our parishioners and we will help.” And Bailey, who has shunned the Catholic Church, she actually went to confession with Father Pat last Saturday and has met with him a few times to just tell him how she's doing. So she was able to be in the SLP program for a month. And then she got kicked out last week. There was this big to-do about her Gabapentin, which is an anxiety medication for addicts. There was an issue with some of her Gabapentin being missing. Bailey was peeing clean. She had a roommate. But the second time they did a pill count, she was missing 15 Gabapentin pills. So they kick her out. And there's always room for doubt. See, you're dealing with addicts so you don’t know, but I keep telling Bailey I believed her on this because she's testing clean. I wish there was just some way we could give her a lie detector test. I don't think she would have sold her Gabapentin to anyone because she doesn't have anything to show for selling it. Plus she loves it at the SLP and she is taking things very seriously. And Bailey just got a job for the first time in years. She's waiting tables at a restaurant and it's right across the street from the apartment. In order for her to keep Medicaid there's a limited amount of money that she can make, which is so unfortunate because they just keep people in their hole.
Bailey called Father Pat and made an appointment with him and she asked me to go with him. She told him what happened with the Gabapentin and he said, “We will still help you.” And so the church paid for a month for Bailey to live at an extended stay hotel until she can go back in the SLP. She has to wait for 30 days until she can go back in.
So right now she is currently living in this extended-stay hotel with a roommate. Her roommate works and she's clean. I don't want Bailey to be alone. So really in a way I hope it's a blessing. I do feel good about her being there. It is my hope and prayer that she will go back to SLP because she did love it. All the halfway houses are horrible. Any that I have found are in bad neighborhoods and they are just not in good environments. I feel good about her being at SLP. She's mad and hurt by the people that are in charge that she really trusted and she thought really loved her. But this doesn't mean they don't love her. And so she's got a lot to sort through. So we'll see how all that goes.
How is your child doing today?
Right now Riley is just amazing and she's a whole new person. She has a positive outlook. But she's incarcerated. Hopefully, when she gets out she'll keep that good outlook and keep her head on straight. And Bailey, she's fighting the fight with all her might. You know, it's a daily thing for her. She's been getting in an average of nine meetings a week and she's got a great sponsor that she's close with. She's surrounding herself with good people. When she witnesses somebody abusing something, she knows to get away. She walks away from it. So I'm pretty hopeful for her, again.
This is my hospital band that lets me in to see my grandson. The rules are there can only be four visitors. Only four people are allowed bands and you can't trade bands and it's not like I can say well can Bailey had my band today? I had my first grandchild on March 24th at 6:30 a.m.. They had very strict rules at the hospital for visitors. They only allowed four people and you get a blue band to go around your wrist. This is my son's son. They named him Joseph Philip. I'll go back today to see him. When Joe starts traveling they've asked me if I can stay with her while he's traveling.
When did you first realize you were dealing with a drug addiction problem?
It was gradual. A lot of denial delayed it for a long time. And also back then, there were not the resources that there are now to educate one’s self. Actual signs were, I would find aluminum foil and dirty tissues and used cotton. The girls would be locked in the bathroom for hours. My spoons were mostly gone and my jewelry, other than what I wear, that was all gone. And then with Bailey – when I was doing her hair that one time, I just looked at her. She was just a mess.
So for Bailey, my eye-opener was when we went to Fairbanks that first time. I never missed a parents meeting. I did nothing but research. Got involved in groups. Met other parents. Learned as much as I could. I would go to open meetings with her to hear other addicts. Bailey and I spoke at the State House to help pass the Narcan law.
During all of this what was your biggest fear?
Death. I don't want to lose my girls. You know it used to be that my biggest fear was jail, and jail isn't a good thing and it's horrible there. It’s heartbreaking. And now that Riley's incarcerated, just the rules of what I can wear you know and how and when we can talk – there's just too many rules in prison.
When you think back was there anything that put your child at risk for drug addiction?
With Riley I should have been firmer. She was just a really tough kid to raise. She was so defiant all the time. And I would lose control with her like none of the other kids because it was just always a battle. And now, I mean, she's just such a wonderful person. She has grown and she's done a lot of self-discovery. She's an avid reader. We've sent her so many books. She's reading a lot of self-improvement books and a lot of books about drugs and healing.
With Bailey, I spent a lot of the last six months of her senior year taking care of my mom. My sister was drinking then and the reason I finally stayed with my mom was because one time I just knew something was wrong. So I drove up there. My sister's car was in the driveway. I went in with the garage code. My sister was passed out with a bottle of booze in the bed next to my mom. It was a mess. And that's when I stayed there.
So I stayed there a lot over the last six months of Bailey's high school career. Did that really screw things up? I don't know.
And our divorce, I don't want to blame their father. Maybe if we could have figured things out earlier on. It got to be where we hated each other more than we loved our children in some of the battles. And that's just wrong. It's wrong. People know that more now than they did back then. If I could do anything in my life differently I would have tried to handle that differently. But he was an ass. He was just hard to deal with. Anyway, I'm sure I had my issues too.
Have you wondered whether you could have done something different as a parent to prevent your child’s addiction?
I would have tried to figure out a way to work well with their dad. But I don't know if that would have made a difference. I don't think I could have prevented anything but it's hard not to rewind and blame yourself for a lot of things.
Has your child's addiction affected how people treat you?
So the first few years, any plans we had, any invitations we had, I couldn't go. I couldn't face people and have them ask how my kids are doing. And so I missed some things. I missed funerals. I missed anniversary parties. I missed graduations. I missed a lot because I isolated myself. Also I couldn't talk without crying. During that time I didn't want to see anybody because I was bawling all the time and so I isolated. And then I came out of the closet and started posting on Facebook, speaking to groups, the State House, just doing all kinds of activist things. Bailey and I did a video with some people back in the day about drug addiction in Hamilton County. Everybody was so supportive and kind and understanding about it. But not that long ago, a friend of mine posted on social media a picture of the police on the road right by her house with a guy on the ground. She wrote "Look at that junkie. He's such a loser. I should let my dogs out on him." And then a couple other friends agreed with her. And these people know me. I would hope that I would never say anything like that to be unkind to somebody. These friends know me and they know what I am going through. But then again, why are they always supposed to be thinking about me and my feelings? This is not their thing. I don't usually write on Facebook, but I wrote and I said you know what, this is somebody’s son, brother, uncle, cousin, and he's very sick and he needs help.
Couldn’t your child have made better decisions and not abused opioids? Was your child just weak-willed?
I am not buying weak-willed. Bailey was always the most compliant child. She just went with the flow on everything. Riley was just always obstinate about everything.
Did you ever try shaming or punishing your child to make them stop.
Did you ever feel ashamed or disgusted with your child?
Honestly, never. Never. Love the addict but hate the drug. I've been frustrated but not disgusted. I've been disgusted by the way they live, you know, the pig stys and the filth. Riley wasn't a stealer. She wasn't a thief. But Bailey was, and I'm disgusted that she stole. I'm disgusted by the filth. But that's not by my daughter. She's in there though. Love the person and hate the drugs.
Did you feel hopeless or want to give up on your child's drug abuse?
No. It's not hopeless. And it's not giving up. For example, when I wouldn’t let Bailey come home because she was using, that's not giving up. I also let her know then that I would be willing to take her to detox. So I've never said don't call me again or I can't take this anymore. I have felt relief when she's been in the hospital or when she's been in recovery because I can breathe. I don't have to worry about what's going on or I don’t have to worry about what is going out the door. I don't have to hide things.
Parents in your position are often stuck between wanting to help their child and wanting to cut them off. Were you ever worried you were enabling the drug abuse by trying to support your child financially or providing meals or housing?
Yeah. I've done it. I've provided too much … and … I don't think I've provided too little. And there's always love. I have been diligent to try to figure out ways to help them where they can't hustle whatever I'm giving them into drug money and, you know, that's a challenge. It's still a challenge.
How many times did you give your child money and worry that they were just using it for drugs?
Well, I was telling you earlier they would berate me and never let up for 20 here, 20 here, 20 here. I probably knew they were using the money for drugs. I just wanted them to stop asking and leave me alone.
So I said to Bailey, “Remember the other day how you felt so scared and worried that you had done something wrong?” She said yes. And I said, “OK, you know how I gave you forty dollars a couple days ago? I have to share with you that I also feel scared and worried that I did something wrong by giving you money – and I worry whether I am getting hustled.”
We talked about PTSD or whatever you want to call it. I told her I feel really good about how she’s doing right now, and I'm really proud of her.
Where do you think the line is between supporting and enabling your child?
It's always moving. There's no steady line. Today I might trust this. Tomorrow I might not. Maybe that's part of the problem. I'm inconsistent. But it just depends on the situation. When Bailey was using this last time, I put her out again. I hadn't put her out in a long time. I did it because I couldn't take it anymore and because it wasn't good for her to be here anymore. She wasn't staying sober here. Something else needed to happen.
What happened or needs to what happened or needs to happen to get your child into recovery?
Well, prison for Riley. And I hope it's a permanent click. Riley was never sober until she went to jail. She was really never able to put in sober time together anywhere else. For Riley it took prison to get her sober. Bailey has gotten sober a lot of times. But she's afraid now. She is at the point in her addiction where she is scared. She is realizing that with these last two relapses especially – that just a taste – just a little taste of heroin sucks her right back. It just sucks her back in a blink of an eye. Her thought process might be, "I’m just going to try this one time". Or that, "I'm just going to smoke it and not use a needle and I’ll be OK." But it just sucks her right back in full speed.
Bailey is 26 years old. Riley has already lost her 20's. Bailey is on the verge of losing her 20's. She wants to get better. When Bailey was sick and withdrawing, she said she would do anything to get better. So now she's in this Fairbanks program. I've never met her sponsor. Bailey has been calling me less and calling her sponsor more. She's figuring things out on her own or with her sponsor or with other people that are in the program.
When their grandmother Betty died, Bailey did a reading at the service. She did a great job. It was big because she was very close to Betty. Family came in from out of town for the service and after we all got together for pizza and to play Euchre. I asked Bailey if she would come join all of us, and she looked at me and she said Mom “I am overwhelmed right now. I'm OK but I need to get back to my people.” That is huge. You know that was just huge. And I said you go. And I'm getting better by knowing to not put down the guilt of "well you know so-and-so is here from Virginia and so-and-so is here and you don't get to see them often." Well, that's not what's important right now. In the past, I might have told her she really needed to come and that they're going to be hurt if she didn't come. I was teaching her to think about others feelings before her own and take care of other people before her own, which I do all the time. And so you know that's the "great" example I am. So to see her go on her own and say I can't, I need to be with my people, I just leaped for joy.
Can you identify anything positive that has come from your experience with opioid addiction?
Absolutely. Some really good friends. You've met a couple of them – Dominique and Diane. It's so nice. We're just always there for each other. Always. And sadly it's frequently because our kids are handfuls. I've learned to never give up on my kids. There's a lot of satisfaction in knowing that even by doing this interview, I am making a difference. And I really believe that this addiction has made me more Christ-like which is how we're supposed to be.
What do you do to cope?
Prayer. Lots of prayer. My friends. Loving all addicts. I hate calling them that – I'll use substance use disorder. I've got so many that I love and try to help. And you know I can't fix it for them, but I let them know that they are loved. I don't discriminate whether they have teeth or not, you know. I just love them and I know that they are so sick. They recognize that love and appreciate that love. They can tell I'm not fake or out to get them or looking down on them. And Paxil has helped a lot.
How are you doing today?
You know what? Incredible. I did not ever think I would get out of the isolation hole. I went through a lot with Bailey's last relapse. All the hysterics like yelling and screaming that go along with the parent of an addict don't do anything. I've learned to reach out with love. You know, it's hard for others. It's hard for Joe, my son, who has been great through this with the girls and has financially helped them. And Doug my husband who loves my girls as much as if they were his own. He's such a good stepdad and an amazing husband. When something bad happens with the girls, he wants to turn it into protecting me. I mean, he doesn't resent them or anything. We're all at a good place. I'm in a good place right now.
Doug and I are selling everything and we are getting a motor home and we're going to live on the road. We have deadlines so we've started gathering things and purchasing things.
We want to go to Alaska. We're still young enough and my health isn't great but it's better than it has been. He's going to retire in October but he'll still work on the road remotely. We deserve it. You know we truly deserve it. I hope it's great for the girls to have us away. And if it isn't, it's not my fault. They can come visit.
Do you have any advice for parents currently trying to help the child deal with opioid addiction?
Immerse yourself in whatever kind of group you can find that you like. Get in some of the Facebook groups of parents – The Addicts Mom or the TAM group. When I thought to look on Facebook and I started finding groups, I would spend hours and hours reading and reading and reading and reading and reading because that's the real truth. Reading real stories will help. Like Bailey said she needed to go back to her people, Mom and Dad need to find their people too because they need them. And they're not hard to find. They're a lot easier to find today then they were a few years back. So you have nothing to be ashamed of. And don't forget no matter what, to love your children.
What advice can you give to parents of younger children so they can help their kids avoid opioids?
I think schools should teach the Twelve Steps. But they don't. I wish I somehow had incorporated the Twelve Steps into the upbringing of my children. It ought to be taught in school. It ought to start maybe in second grade. Or preschool. And not all 12 steps in one year. Make it so it is like English 1 in English 2 and English 3. Build on it.
List two things you think need to happen that will help put an end to the opioid crisis.
That's the million dollar question. If I knew I would be pretty darn rich. Yeah it's just crazy to have something like this and nobody really knows what to do. It is getting better.
My two things are harm reduction and get the supply under control. A lot of people hate harm reduction because they're not educated about it. They can’t understand why you would want to give somebody clean needles. Why would you give anybody any needles? Why don't you just give them heroin if you're given them needles? And Narcan – why can't a drug addict get Narcan if a diabetic can get insulin or a heart patient is going to have paddles used on them for free? It's a lifesaving thing. And then they're going to get treatment for their heart disease. Well, Narcan is only a lifesaving thing. And they're not getting free treatment after. And by the way, if we could figure out a way to pay for it, wouldn't you be happy for him to get help and treatment?
Why are you comfortable having your image connected with your interview?
Because I think people need to see that I'm a normal person. I'm a normal person. And there are plenty of other moms out there who are as passionate as I am. And sadly the way the world is, they're probably going listen to me before they would listen to someone else. You know what I mean? That's what made me start talking because I'm just the average person in Fishers, Indiana that has a decent life and shouldn't have these problems. But I do. And so I know there's other people that have them. And hopefully someone will see their own face in mine.