From Meth to Mom

Her skeleton frame began to tremble as she saw her reflection through the cracks in the grimy bathroom mirror, and she thought to herself, “How did I get here?”

Fast forward a few years, and she’s the person that welcomes new employees at the office. Her outgoing and bubbly personality is an instant source of comfort. She lights up every room she walks into with a beautiful and healthy smile that is as genuine as they come. And she always looks comfortable and natural. Her laugh echoes and invites others to join conversations. She has the biggest brightest eyes and breathes happiness. This is the girl I met. The only side of Mary [name changed] I knew. When I heard about her past, I was absolutely shocked. “Wait, you mean to tell me that she did drugs? You’re joking, right? Not Mary. No, no, no. She couldn’t have.”

Luckily for me, I got to know Mary better as we worked together for a few years before moving onto other chapters. She told me a bit more of her story, and I learned that she’s not afraid of her scars because she’s been healed. She loves to help others and has a heart of pure gold. She found a wonderful husband, and became a Mrs. while we worked together, and more recently she’s also become a mom. But not just any mom, an amazing mom that loves her sweet little girl with the cutest, chubby, rosy cheeks, blonde hair, and blue eyes. She’s committed to being the best mom she can be. And I got to thinking, now that is a beauty from ashes story, which I just love. So I asked Mary if she would let me share it [and obviously she agreed].

She knocked on my door, and I opened it to find the exact Mary I had come to love. She had on a San Francisco Giants sweatshirt, and her thick black-rimmed glasses, jeans, and sneakers. Her face always has this natural glow as she doesn’t wear much make-up, and she’s one of the few that can get away with it. She showed up early, and didn’t mind that my house was a total disaster. She even went outside and played on the swing set with my four-year-old while I put the baby down for his nap. We eventually got situated at my kitchen table with some peach tea, and the sun perfectly shining in on us from the back windows. We talked about the way we would share this together, and I was so eager to hear the whole story so I began:

Me: Describe your life growing up.

Mary: It was pretty normal. My parents did divorce when I was twelve, and my time was split, but there were really no traumatic events. My parents hardly even drank around us. I didn’t have any experience with drugs or really even know what they were. I wasn’t really into anything specific. I tried sports, but that didn’t really work out. I wasn’t good musically, and so I just didn’t pursue anything. I would try, but I would not be consistent and end up quitting. I grew up going to church youth group every Wednesday and church every Sunday. My dad even led a bible study at our house. I can’t really pinpoint the exact reason I started using. A lot of people do know what triggered it for them, but sometimes that’s also more of a scapegoat or an excuse.

Me: So how did you get into drugs?

Mary: When I was fifteen or sixteen, I started hanging out with people who drank and did drugs. I didn’t know about that lifestyle because I wasn’t around it. I was ignorant to it. I started partying and drinking and smoking pot occasionally. There were a couple of girls I really attached to. They accepted me and made me feel like I was a part of their group, and I hadn’t felt that close of a bond before. I felt different with them. They did a lot of drugs. One night a friend’s parents were gone for the weekend so a bunch of people from high school got together and tried many different drugs. They had coke, and I had tried it but didn’t care for it. I had done a bunch of Oxycontin at the time.


But from that night on, I was hooked.


 

I was on a prescribed antidepressant as well, and that night they said they had meth. I had no clue about meth. I had never been talked to about it. I figured it was probably just like anything else. But from that night on, I was hooked. I had a psychotic episode because of the mixture of antidepressants and other drugs being used. I took a couple of days to bounce back from that experience.

So near the end of that weekend, my mom came over to my friend’s house at about 7pm looking for me. She walked in with my brother and sister. It was a Sunday. I was sleeping for the first time that weekend. I thought it was 7am, and I was late for school. My mom realized something was terribly wrong. There was alcohol and drug paraphernalia everywhere.

After that I continued using meth for a while and ended up at a rehab center at seventeen-years-old. I got out and wanted to graduate, and by that time everyone at school was doing heroine. People were asking for more drugs so I started selling heroine to kids at school and dropped out again.

I used to disappear from my house for days on end, and my parents didn’t know what to do with me. They were at a loss. They would yell or threaten me, but it would happen all over again. They couldn’t control me so they let it go because they didn’t know what to do. They weren’t bad parents. They just didn’t know anything about drugs either. I went from 150 lbs to 90 lbs, and they were really concerned about me.

Me: Who were you when you were doing drugs?

Mary: I wanted the best most extreme high I could get ever since the day I started. I was all in. In my life I had never wanted to do anything to the best of my ability. It was hard for me to fully commit to something or be the best I could until I started doing drugs. Then I wanted to be the one that could do the biggest shot and blow the biggest cloud.

Me: What was your lowest point?

Mary: I had just started hanging out with a new boyfriend. We were in a shack downtown. There was one guy living in it. It had a dirt floor and a bathroom. I had been shooting up for a long time before I met him. By now I was nineteen or twenty-years-old. My boyfriend had used meth since he was twelve because his mom was an addict. He smoked it but hadn’t used any intravenous drug. I had recently gotten clean again, and then dropped out of college and was really skinny again- probably about 90 lbs. I was dehydrated and wanted to get high, but I didn’t have any veins.


I was frustrated but determined to get that high. My boyfriend looked at me and said, “I can’t watch you do this.”


 

I was sitting on the edge of the bathtub, which looked like it was in somebody’s shop because it was covered in dirt- and I was trying to shoot up. I had blood dripping from both arms because I could not hit a vein. I was frustrated but determined to get that high. My boyfriend looked at me and said, “I can’t watch you do this.” When a fellow drug addict is telling you something like that, that’s a sign. He left the bathroom. At this point I was physically in pain. I had poked myself like a pin cushion. I was mentally and physically craving a high. I looked in the mirror. It was dirty and cracked, but through it I saw myself. I looked like a skeleton covered in blood. I was so skinny my face was sunken in and my cheekbones were sticking out. I remember in that moment thinking, [Mary started to cry and then collected herself] “I wonder what my family is doing right now” and “I can’t believe this is my life”. I just felt despair. I can still feel the pain of looking at myself and being completely lost. But I just kept going. I thought, “I’m going to die like this. I’m going to die a junkie on someone’s couch. Selling drugs is all I will do with my life. I’m gonna do this as hard as I can until I die.” I was stealing and taking advantage of people, and this continued on until I got arrested a couple of years later.

Me: Tell me about that time. What changed?

Mary: A lot of really hard stuff took place between that and the time I got arrested. Once everyone I knew started getting arrested and going to prison, I started to realize I didn’t want that for my life. But I didn’t want to do it myself. I didn’t want to go home and withdraw on my own. In the meantime, a lot of federal agents knew who I was, and I was being followed. There was one in particular that really followed me. They would sometimes watch a girl and who she hangs out with. I was that girl. They had been to my house and talked to my dad so he knew my home life and knew I didn’t belong in that scene- not that anyone does. He would arrest me every so often and put me in jail for a misdemeanor. I would get out and go back to what I was doing before. He sticks out in my mind though. He told me to stop hanging around these dangerous people.

I was hanging out with a guy that was a drug dealer. He got arrested the day before I ended up getting arrested. Then his drug dealer got arrested. I had it coming to me. When I got arrested it was a super hot day in August. I was driving through town headed to a lady’s storage shed with her. I was proud of myself because I didn’t have any drugs on me. I had taken a step back. We were driving past a church when we got pulled over into the church parking lot. They wanted to search the car. I thought I wasn’t going to jail because I had nothing on me.  The detective was a jerk to us, but I was talking back to him as well. He eventually pulled a backpack out of the car. Inside it he found drug paraphernalia and pills. It belonged to the lady driving the car. Her son was the one that got arrested the day before, and she started telling the detective it belonged to him.


He began to arrest me, and as he was fastening the handcuffs onto my hand, I looked up and saw a sign above the church that said something about “being free”.


 

I felt like I needed to defend her son because I felt a lot of responsibility for him so I said, “It’s my backpack.” Little did I know just all of the items they would find in it. At the time I didn’t care about the repercussions. He began to arrest me, and as he was fastening the handcuffs onto my hand, I looked up and saw a sign above the church that said something about “being free”. I remember that moment vividly. “This is it,” I thought, “I am never going back here again. No matter what. I’m changing my life.” I wasn’t spiritual at the time, but I felt like God was saying to me, “This is it. This is your time.”

So I went into jail, which was horrible. I stayed there from August until the week of my birthday near the end of October. I was relieved when I first got there. Then a day went by and I was coming down hard. I was on the phone with my dad every hour just begging him to get me out. I was cussing at him, and wanted him to end this cycle of despair. “I’m not bailing you out,” he said. He had never said that to me before. I had messed up a lot of big things, and he always fixed it, except for this time.

The judge ordered me to complete a class while I was in jail, and once I completed it, my dad bonded me out. I got out and surprisingly I did not go right back to drugs. I moved in with my dad right away. I didn’t have any friends or a community at the time so I leaned into my family big time. My dad and I would be up every morning at 6am and have coffee together. I was searching and reaching for anything I could grab onto. I did a devotional I did every day, and I didn’t know what it all meant, but I was just trying to get by. Awhile back, my mom had started volunteering at a Christ-centered transitional living center. Throughout my addiction, she was always asking me to join it; I would tell her I would, but then never show up. I was desperate for some life skills and structure. I didn’t know how to gain that myself. My court date was coming up, and I didn’t want to go to prison. In January of 2011, I started this program. That’s where I really started changing my life, and God took a hold of me, showing me so much about myself. This program protected me and helped me to form who I was, and more importantly, who I was in Jesus.

Me: What did your past teach you about life?

Mary: After coming out of that lifestyle, the biggest thing for me was knowing I needed to have something to rely on other than myself. I needed to know the tools in order to function in life. For example: pay bills, have normal relationships, be a part of a bible study, etc.

Me: Did you ever see yourself as a mom?


I had given up on the idea of being a mom.


 

Mary: [Her eyes lit up and a smile spread across her face as she excitedly answered] I did! Although I miscarried while using and felt like I didn’t deserve to be a mom anymore. I had given up on the idea of being a mom. I didn’t really feel worthy until I married my husband and had been healed from that situation. I’ve always wanted to be a mom.

Me: Do you feel worthy now?

Mary: I think for a long time I didn’t. My husband and I tried to get pregnant for about two years. When I finally did get pregnant, I thought, “Ok this is supposed to be. God has given me this child.” I’ve been redeemed and set free from that whole period in my life. Because I’d had a miscarriage and an abortion, I carried around a lot of guilt for that. During our time of infertility, I felt like I was punishing myself, and God was punishing me- which wasn’t true. When I finally was pregnant, I knew that was God’s will for me. I was going to be just what she needed as a mom, and she would be just what I would need as a daughter.

Me: I know you had a natural birth. Tell me about that.


I’m really proud of myself knowing I can overcome and persevere through pain and reach the end of it.


 

Mary: You know, it wasn’t as horrible as I thought. I’m thankful I did it. Would I do it again? [Mary laughed.] I don’t know. I went into it with an open mind. I wasn’t sure that I wouldn’t use any drugs, but I also didn’t plan to have an epidural right when we walked through the door. My husband was praying over me the entire time I was in labor, and without that, I don’t think I would have made it through. It was an accomplishment. I felt good about myself, and we worked together as a team. My husband was there every step of the way. I’m really proud of myself knowing I can overcome and persevere through pain, and reach the end of it. It’s really rewarding.

Me: How has your story influenced you as a mom?

Mary: My past definitely influences me as a mom. I want to be really involved with her and truthful and honest with her about things, making sure she has a firm foundation and rooted with the Lord. I feel like that when you have that, and you have accountability around you, you are less inclined to waiver so drastically.

Me: What’s your favorite thing about being a mom?

Mary: [Mary thought for a second.] I love watching all the things she’s learning. She constantly learning. She’s a year old so I loved watching her learn to crawl, and pull herself up- she always looks at me and is so proud of herself and wants my approval. She knows I’m her mom and my husband is her dad. We’re the ones that take care of her and have given her a good life because we have sobriety. We are giving her a happy life. My husband and I both come from the same background. He knows the same things I know, and it’s not a barrier. God has changed us so drastically. I feel so removed from that life.  It’s almost like it wasn’t me. My life is so different now that it seems like it was just a movie I watched.

Me: What words of wisdom can you pass on?

Mary: Don’t ever be afraid to reach out to someone or voice your concern or share about freedom in Jesus because you could be the one that plants that seed. If you don’t do that, that person could completely miss out. So many people did that for me.


You’re going to have to make big changes, and it’s going to be painful…


 

For a person that is in bondage- whether it’s drugs or whatever it may be, the biggest thing is that you do have to reach out and ask for help and humble yourself and know that the way you’re doing things isn’t right. You’re going to have to make big changes, and it’s going to be painful, but [Mary paused, and then the tears started to fall] if you would have asked me ten years ago what my life was going to be like I would have told you I’d be dead by the time I was twenty-five, and I’m just really thankful …. [she paused for a moment as tears streamed down her face] because nothing I have now would have been possible without God, and the people who spoke truth into my life and didn’t give up on me.

I think the world is a more beautiful place because of people like Mary that aren’t afraid to show their scars, ultimately revealing the glory of the one true Healer. Pain and tears are never wasted; they just turn into stories. Our scars don’t define us, but rather remind us that we survived- just not alone. Only The Creator can truly transform the filthiest of ashes in our lives into our own unique beauty.

“…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”  

Isaiah 61:3

10 Super Quick and Healthy Breakfast Items

Disclaimer: The picture of my breakfast is false advertising at it’s finest. I had kids climbing on counters and/or throwing cheerios to get that shot. Usually it’s on a paper towel, folks, while I spin circles through the kitchen fulfilling toddler breakfast orders [yes plural- one toddler, many requests.] But who would be enticed by that?

If you’re like me, Mama, then sometimes your breakfast consists of a couple pieces of the banana your child chewed and then spit out or half of the granola bar they didn’t touch because halfway through eating it they decided they no longer like them. It’s only when I intentionally plan ahead, do I get to enjoy some actual food- maybe even something healthy. Read on for a list of super quick and healthy breakfast items:

1. Boiled Eggs

I try to have boiled eggs in my fridge often because not only are they a quick and easy breakfast item, but also can double as an afternoon filler, or triple as a bedtime snack. I usually just sprinkle a little salt and pepper on them, or if I’m feeling spicy, a little mustard. Plus: the toddler will eat them as well. Score!

2. Microwaved Eggs.

Yes, I said microwave. This was one of my college go-to’s. You know, back when I was so busy with tests, part-time work, and boys. It’s super easy. All you have to do is crack a couple eggs into a mug [sometimes I add a little milk] and heat in 30 second increments, stirring in between. I like to top them with salsa or even a little [or a lot of] cheese if I’m feeling naughty.

3. Avocado Toast

I had you at avocado, didn’t I? I love, love, love avocados, and my husband doesn’t so I hardly get to use them in our meals [how sad is that?] Anyways, throw your bread [I love a great multi-grain with lots of seeds] in the toaster, and right after it pops up, spread your sliced avocado over the top. It warms it just a bit and spreads oh-so-deliciously. You can sprinkle a little salt and pepper on top or eat it as is.

4. Peanut-Butter Toast

I don’t think this one needs explaining, but it’s a definite staple in this house. I used to only use the sugary Jif Brand, but lately I’ve been spreading an all-natural peanut butter [the kind that gets mashed into your container at the store before your very eyes] and it’s got the perfect amount of crunch and is more salty than it is sweet, and generally just makes me feel better about myself. Because I love peanut butter- maybe too much.

5. Overnight Oats

There’s a million different recipes for these so all you need to do is type it into Google or better yet, Pinterest. I’ve made these before in a mason jar. The idea is that you stick them in the fridge the night before, and then eat them in the morning. The batch I made last time lasted me a few more days as well. Add-ins in addition to oats may or may not include: greek yogurt, applesauce, peanut butter, chia seeds, blueberries, etc. I remember making some once that were an apple pie spin-off and another that included the berries and peanut butter. The possibilities are endless, Mamas!

6. Crockpot Oatmeal

This may be one of my favorites, you guys. Here’s what I do: The night before, I stick steel cut oats, water, coconut milk, a little salt, a little brown sugar, and vanilla extract in the crockpot. I turn it on low, and when I get up in the morning- ta da! I like to top mine off with a bit more coconut milk along with any of the following: bananas, almond slices, chia seeds, raisins, berries, more brown sugar…Ok you get the idea. Usually the liquid to steel cut oat ratio is 8 to 1, and you can find a recipe like this by searching for “crockpot steel cut oats with coconut milk”. There’s many out there. Try it!

7. Plain Greek Yogurt w/ Toppings

Again another one I love. I usually buy the Zoi Nonfat Greek Yogurt, and then add in any of the following: apple pieces, tiny chocolate chips, granola, almonds, chia seeds, berries, cinnamon, etc. Here are a few options:

Option 1: apples, cinnamon, honey [tastes like apple pie just FYI]

Option 2: apples, granola, chia seeds, almonds, and of course, tiny chocolate chips [thank you to my college friend for getting me started on this one]

Option 3: berries, chia seeds, granola, and a little honey or a few chocolate chips

You can mix and match or come up with your own concoctions until your heart is content. I have also put these in the fridge overnight and added the granola in the morning when I know I will be in a hurry the next day. I used to eat it in the car on my way to work. Enjoy!

8. Protein Smoothie

Because sometimes moms can only drink their breakfasts. I’ve tried several different protein powders and many make me feel bloated afterwards. I was so excited to hear about Orgain-this is a plant-based chocolate protein powder I started using when I was nursing and thought my son may have had a dairy sensitivity. And by the way- zero bloating. The best part? You can get it at Costco, and I’ve also seen it at Whole Foods. My favorite way to use it? In the blender with a frozen banana, almond or coconut milk, and you guessed it: peanut butter! If I don’t have time for that, I just shake it up with almond or coconut milk. I’m thinking next time I’ll have to try the Vanilla Bean flavor because talk about the possibilities…

9. Protein Cereal 

Ok, so we’re getting lazier here, but I do like me some Kashi protein cereal as a last resort. I use almond or coconut milk and sometimes add in a few raisins or cinnamon depending on which one I buy. There are several options and some are, shall we say, a bit less flavorful than the others. But you’re hearing that from a girl that loves a bowl of plain ol’ cheerios. P.S. There are other brands besides Kashi that are good as well. I’ve had a Quaker brand one before, Special K is always good, and Grape Nuts too. Now someone bring this mama a bowl!

10. Cottage Cheese and Fruit 

For some reason this one totally reminds me of my childhood. I think it’s because my mom used to give us cottage cheese and peaches, which I love. Since becoming a grown up, I’ve expanded my horizons a bit to find out that mandarin oranges are also very tasty, and possibly my favorite combination is cottage cheese and pineapple. My best friend also got me hooked on just adding a little salt and pepper to my cottage cheese for those of you that aren’t down with the whole fruit idea.

So there you have it. Ten breakfast item ideas, and hopefully at least one was news to you. As always, don’t let my words fool you. I’m no health nut when it comes to food, but I do try to balance between somewhat healthy and, well, the occasional Burger King when I’m in a hurry [last night and I LOVED it.]

Have it your way!

I See You, Mama

I see you, Mama.
You’re smart. You’re successful. You’re keeping it all together. You’re the one they all look up to. You can’t let them see you falter. But you’re not doing as well as they all think. You’re hurting. You’re worn out. You’re wondering how you got to where you are because right now it feels like everything’s sliding backwards.

I see you, Mama.
Your husband is away too much. You want to feel appreciation for all his hard work, but you’re burned out and tired of holding up the house on your own. The long hours are wearing on your body and your soul, and you’re feeling lonely in your own home.

I see you, Mama.
You work full time which most would think is forty hours, but if you include all the driving time it’s actually more like fifty. Fifty hours that you miss your children, but that you are providing for your family. You’re making a difference in the world, but your children are your world and unfortunately so much of your time with them is strategical and rushed.

I see you, Mama.
The books didn’t prep you for all of this. It’s new, it’s stressful, and you feel like you’re drowning. You’re learning as you go, but time is going too fast. You’re feeling unprepared for the next stage, and missing the one that just passed. Your child is growing, and you’re feeling the growing pains. You’re lost in this new life.

I see you, Mama.
Everyone comments on your perfect and beautiful family, but they don’t know what really goes on behind the closed doors of your stressful home. The marriage that once flourished is now falling apart and you’re hanging by a thread. You can’t let anyone in because it’s only your battle to fight.

I see you, Mama.
You’re not well. You need taken care of, but you have children to care for. You feel like you have nothing left to give, but somehow you’re doing it. You want nothing more than to be healthy for your children. You want so badly to play with them, to encourage them, to be there for them. And you are, but you’re struggling. You’re barely holding on.

I see you, Mama.
You just added another to your flock. You love being a mom, but with every child you lose a little more of yourself. You’re being pulled in a million directions at once. You’re spinning in circles, and you just need time to slow down a bit. You’re wanted by so many. You can’t handle the chaos and all life demands from you. You’re feeling inadequate and unappreciated.

I see you, Mama.
You never thought your perfect marriage would end this way. It breaks your heart that your children will grow up in more than one home. You want to find the real Mr. Right this time, but you’re terrified more than you are hopeful. You love your job as mom, but doing it alone is painfully difficult.

I see you, Mama.
The world was in your hands. You were going places in a hurry, climbing the ladder, and reaching for the stars. Your child changed all of that. You hold a different title now. Your dreams are slipping away as quickly as the time passes. Your priorities are changing, but it’s hard letting go. Your child has changed you, and sometimes you desperately miss that person.

I see you, Mama.
Your child is your joy, and your lack of another is your pain. You want more than one, but life isn’t panning out that way. You see moms with arms full of children, and your heart is heavy. You’re tired of waiting. You’re having trouble accepting. You’re worried about the one you have. You feel their loneliness as they longingly watch other siblings.

I see you, Mama.
You’re not sure what comes next. Your home is full and so is your heart, but you’re empty still. You’re up and then you’re down. You’re trying to balance it all, but you’re failing. You’re lost and confused. You’re tired and alone. You’re in love with your children, but you’re in doubt of where life takes you now.

I see you, Mama.
You’re barely getting by. You’re trying to make ends meet, and the future scares you. You’re taking care of your children with no change in your pocket. You’re envious of others who have it so well. You’re doing all you can, and it’s not seeming like enough. You’re broke and hoping for a miracle.

I see you, Mama.
They don’t know what you’ve been through. You once held life in your body, but not long in your arms. You’re still hurting and confused, and often angry. You’re jealous of babies that can walk and talk. Your child can’t be seen or heard but only felt. You’re a mom, but no one knows. Your child waits for you in Heaven.

I see you, Mama.
Your hard is not my hard. We think no one understands, and maybe no one does. Our journeys are unique. We know pain. We know beauty. We know something in between. We give and give, but sometimes we only want to take. We want someone to care. We want to feel loved.

But you see, Mama.

You are undeniably strong.
You are more than enough.
You are nothing less than amazing.
You are entirely beautiful.

You are His.

He knows your hard, and He understands. He planned where your journey takes you. He knows your pain. He created your beauty. He cares about you. He loves you unmeasurably. He’s your source of strength. His arms are open wide. Fall into Him. He’s patiently waiting.

He sees you, Mama.