The following story was contributed by Julia, MHAG’s Director of Recovery Initiatives. 

My mother had me at the young age of 16.  She married my father three years later.  The physical abuse I witnessed between the both of them was horrifying.  I remember hiding in the closets to try to disappear and escape reality.  My father’s addiction to crack-cocaine made him very angry and although he never physically harmed me he was verbally abusive and I was scared to death of him.  Finally during a violent fight between them one day I was able to get out of the house and call the police.  After the raid of my house and fathers arrest I thought I was in the clear and could finally start living my life with my mom.

We moved into a house with my grandmother and she started going out all the time and drinking excessively.  Life didn’t turn out the way I imagined it turning out and I was lonely.  I started drinking and smoking weed with people in my neighborhood and for the most part it went unnoticed until my mom met her new man that would end up being my stepfather. The years to follow were made up of being promiscuous, drinking and a lot of drugs that stripped me of all my self- confidence, self-respect, self-worth and love.  Till one day I thought I met the man of my dreams who I didn’t know was as broken as I was.  After a year of dating when I was about 24 I ended up getting pregnant.  There wasn’t a doubt in my mind whether I should keep this baby or not.  I thought I’d be a great mother and that we would all live happily ever after.  I even stopped my alcohol and drug use so I wouldn’t hurt my unborn child.  After I had her life still wasn’t what I thought it would be.  I was depressed and experiencing post-partum depression and my circumstances with my boyfriend weren’t good either.  We started using oxycontin together and continued to do so till the formula of the medication changed to one that our high tolerance could no longer get high from.  That turned us both into heroin addicts.  I felt like I sold my soul to the devil.  I knew I was an addict before but those pills had nothing on me like the heroin did.  I spent most of my day driving around in shady neighborhoods to get the drug and the other half in the bathroom trying to find a vein to shoot the drug.  At this time I had another child and bought a house.  I was a stay at home mom to these beautiful children and the worst possible person for them to be around.  One day my three year old and I went on a drug run and on the way back I fell asleep at the wheel and rolled my car across the highway.  Thank the Lord we were both okay.  We were a little banged and bruised but it could have been so much worse.  That accident put me in jail for 6months for an OVI and child endangerment. I lost my children and my house.   I didn’t learn anything there.  I was released from jail and in two weeks I was back again because I overdosed on heroin in a gas station public bathroom.  That time it was intentional but I ended up in the hospital alive.  I turned my self into my probation officer and got the remaining time which was another six months.  I knew this time that I had to do something different because I couldn’t live that life anymore.  I was in jail in Ohio and the day of my release I got in the car with my mother and headed to her home town in North Carolina.  A couple days later I ended up in a residential treatment center called Freedom House and it was there that my life started to matter to me.  I came to know the lord there and during that time the family meetings that we had helped to restore broken relationships between my siblings and I and parents.  I gained custody back of my children and gained hope for a future for myself with them.  Today I am believing God’s promises and following his will for my life.  It is hard but rewarding and with each new day I receive new blessings and a reassurance that I am going to be okay and so are generations to come.  I have had new challenges to face but no longer am crippled by anxiety and hopelessness.  Without the substance abuse my mental illnesses started to surface but I have learned healthy ways to cope with them and I can honestly say I am not disabled by them at all.  I live with my three children and I work full time at the Mental Health Association in Greensboro where I get to give back what people so graciously gave to me when I needed it.  Love, support and encouragement!!