The Hungry Heart Radio Diaries Courtesy of Kingdom County Productions
Photos by Carley Stevens-McLaughlin
Radio Diaries Courtesy of Kingdom County Productions
Addiction Is Illness
An interview with two mothers of addicts on how communities help and hinder the process of recovery.
Mother 1: There’s a lot of people who look down on addicts. It’s not the kid that the people look down on, it’s the addict. These kids are not the kids that they knew. These kids are stealing. These kids are breaking into places. Taking money from grandparents. Taking money from family. They’re beautiful kids. They’re good kids. They’re sick kids. And there is a big epidemic around here of sick kids, and there’s too many people just walking by saying “pst, look at that.” That’s not what these kids need. A lot of people don’t get it, that it is a sickness. If there is a time in a kid’s life that they need you, it is now. If they’re an addict, this is when they need you. Don’t give up. Don’t stop talking. Don’t stop begging. Just be there for them.
Mother 2: When I look people in the eye and I say, “Yeah, my son’s an addict,” they don’t know what to say. And in the process some of them start learning. Tyler didn’t choose to be an addict. No more than Mary Jane over here chose to have diabetes. No more did this one over here choose to have cancer. Tyler didn’t choose to be an addict. It’s a disease. He needs to step up to the plate and treat his disease. But, the kid’s already down, why are you kicking him as hard as you can, when he’s already down? Offer him a hand. Help pick him up. One event by itself you might think, well, oh that’s not a big deal, but when you kick him when he is down, and then the neighbor kicks him, and the teacher kicks him, and the police kick him, and the principal kicks him, by the time he is all done being kicked, he is so far down into that ground, he has all that he can do to take that first step up. So you might think “oh well, I’m just one person”; you’re not just one person, you are part of a community. Nobody could think any less of Tyler than Tyler thought of himself. The last step was forgiving himself.
The Hardest Lesson
A story about a mother who lost what is dearest to her.
“That’s when reality really hit me, and my addiction really hit me. It was on my son’s 15th birthday. That morning I had dropped both of my children off to school. I gave them both a kiss, told them that I loved them. Told my son that when he got out of school that I’d have his birthday cake ready, that’d I’d be cooking his dinner for him, that we would do cake and ice cream and his presents. You know how much I loved them both? So much.
When my son got home, his present was that his mom is not there. His mom was in jail. What’s killed me is that my kids had only been away for maybe a weekend at the most. I have been their sole provider. I always had custody over them. That was definitely [what caused the] opening of my eyes and realizing that. From that day on, I was determined that my life was going to change. I had it in my head that I was going to be able to get out and like a month or two after that be able to go to rehab. But I wasn’t. I was in jail for eight months. I missed my daughter’s high school graduation. I missed my daughter’s 18th birthday. I missed my son’s 16th birthday. I missed a lot of very important events in my children’s lives by letting my addiction get the best of me. I’ve learned a very hard lesson.
World Gets Brighter
Three addicts talk about what they did to get drugs and what the world looks and feels like on the other side of recovery.
Male Addict 1: What’s kicking today? You know it’s like: “You guys got painkillers?” “You guys got weed?” “You got coke around?” “Is there some crack around’ ‘Is there some trip?” I might not get what I want from one day to another, but I guess you could say I get what I need. I’d get a high one way or the other. That’s the way it was. I didn’t really know what I was going to get, but I would get something that I would consider to make myself feel better.
It was a daily thing, and it really sucks that I had to waste three-quarters of my life away to realize that I’m freaking beating myself up. How much time I wasted of my life. How much time I wasted away from my children and grandchildren and all of the other precious things out there in the world that I never really realized were out there.
The use of drugs isn’t going to get me anywhere today, so I try and stay active. I work Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. I get up early in the morning. I have my coffee. I have my medication. I meet the bus. I head back home. I clean myself up. I go to a meeting. I come back home. I go to bed, and I wake up the next day and do the same thing over and over again.
The only thing that I am afraid of today is picking up that next drink or next drug, because I have had more than one second chance, quite a few second chances, and I might not be able to make it back if I go back out there again, because I might be so ashamed of myself and feel that I let everybody down that I might just want to kill myself and forget about it. I just feel like it wouldn’t be worth it. I have wasted way too much of my life, and I don’t want to waste any more. I want to make something of my life. Give back to the community that I took so much from.
Female Addict 1: I’d wake up, and my first thought would be drugs and alcohol. Shut the brain off before it even has time to wake up. It’s almost like you’re living your life in a dream. It’s like you’re looking at your life from the outside in. Getting sober, things aren’t so foggy anymore. The world around you just gets brighter.
Now, I wake up and my first thought is help me help another person. I have had a lot of help given to me in the last 16 months, and the only way to continue keeping what I have is to give it back. To step up when another alcoholic or a drug addict needs some assistance to be there for them. That’s my first thought every day now, “How can I help somebody else?” versus “How can I get high?” What am I going to do to help somebody else.
Male Addict 2: I really needed a pill, and when your high comes down, you want to get back up there. So no matter what it takes or where you have to go to do it, you’ll figure out a way.