Local mom struggles with life after addiction
From the moment she was born, Amanda was caught in the terrible swirl of addiction.
She went through withdrawal as a baby. Both her mother and father were drug addicts, she said. Her father died of cancer, but, she said, her mother “is still in active addiction.” Amanda said she was born addicted to crack cocaine. She was raised by her grandparents near Manassas Park.
At 19, Amanda restarted the cycle with recreational use of painkillers. She got pregnant, but kept using pills, including Dilaudid. “I wasn’t really educated about those drugs,” said Amanda, who spoke on condition her full name not be published.
“I’m a single mom. I’m an addict. I’m a felon,” Amanda said.
“It’s hard…it’s hard.”
Luckily, her baby daughter didn’t have to be treated for addiction. But Amanda’s drug use worsened and she turned to crime to support her habit. Bad checks, credit card fraud, probation violations. She spent a total of almost six years in prison, and in the process lost custody of her daughter, who now lives with the father’s aunt and uncle. At their request, Amanda has had no contact with her daughter for eight years.
How the opioid crisis impacts families, public services across the region
Not long after she got out of the Prince William Adult Detention Center in 2016, Amanda became pregnant again. She had gotten clean in prison, but relapsed into using cocaine early in her pregnancy. Through a recovery program, she was able to start medication-assisted treatment, first by taking Subutex, then methadone. Her baby, another daughter, needed to be medicated after her birth, and stayed in the hospital for almost a month.
She admits that she sometimes catches herself judging other young women using drugs while they’re pregnant. “I’ll think, ‘How can they be so selfish?’” she said. “I have to remind myself that I was that person.
“It’s not like you’re not thinking of your child,” she added. “You’re just too far into addiction that you’re not really aware of anything else. My baby wasn’t my priority. I just didn’t want to be sick.”
Amanda, now 32, has been on a methadone regimen for two years, with the dosage steadily reduced. She says she is committed to staying away from drugs and rebuilding a life with her 2-year-old. “I’m a single mom. I’m an addict. I’m a felon,” she said. “It’s hard…it’s hard.”
Recently, it got harder. A judge awarded temporary custody of her young daughter to the girl’s paternal grandmother. According to Amanda, he felt she needed more therapy to help her cope with the stress in her life. “He wants to make sure that mentally I’m more stable,” she said.
“Having to deal with this right now is extremely hard,” Amanda said. “Addicts don’t really cope with things well. We numb our feelings to escape reality. But it’s temporary. They say everything happens for a reason. I do believe it will be okay in the end.”
Amanda doesn’t try to pretend that her path forward won’t test her. She knows her addiction has followed her, along with the nine felonies that came with it. She has been to several job interviews, but hasn’t been called back. She doesn’t have a car. For now, she’s living with her boyfriend, who is supporting her during her therapy.
Her daughter steels her resolve.
“Every day I need to do whatever I have to do for her,” she said. “I’m not where I want to be, but I’m better than where I was.
“I lost a lot from being an addict. I lost one kid. I lost myself.”
ABOUT THIS SERIES: OPIOID RIPPLES
Opioid Ripples is an ongoing series produced jointly by four organizations: two independent, nonprofit civic news organizations, Piedmont Journalism Foundation and Foothills Forum; and two media companies, Piedmont Media and Rappahannock Media. The nonprofits provide the research and reporting; the media companies decide when and what to publish in their newspapers and on their websites.
Foothills Forum, founded in 2014, and Piedmont Journalism Foundation, founded in 2018, were created to increase in-depth news coverage and public discussion of issues in their communities.
Foothills Forum focuses on Rappahannock County. For more information, see www.foothills-forum.org.
Piedmont Journalism Foundation focuses on Fauquier and surrounding counties. For more information, see piedmontjournalism.org.
Community support of the nonprofits makes this and other projects possible. Funding for this series comes in part from the PATH Foundation, which provides grants to improve health and vitality in Fauquier, Rappahannock and Culpeper counties.
• The harsh reality is that most addicts relapse. Multiple times. We’ll look at why recovery is so hard and how local communities are struggling to meet diverse treatment needs.
• How the role of police in dealing with the opioid epidemic is shifting from making arrests to educating the public.
• For all the raised awareness about opioid addiction, its stigma persists and plays out in many ways. Also, how other communities are dealing with the challenges of the opioid crisis.
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