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[ Personal Narratives ]

Losing Custody: The Battle For My Sobriety, And My Child


As I look back throughout my life at all the things I have seen and been through, I can honestly say it is a blessing for me to be alive today. In my short 28 years of life, I have experienced things that most people would never experience in a entire life time.

I am Danielle, and I am a drug addict.

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My body started to shake with intense fear, and agony. “Your son has been picked up from daycare and he is at the hospital being checked for abuse, he will not be returning to your care.” Those words are like a piercing dagger going straight through my chest. I will never forget the way I felt that day. I felt anger, resentment, sorrow, pain and helplessness. I was only 21 years old with a One year old son who meant the world to me. I would like to say my story and path of drug abuse, domestic violence, and abandonment started there however, it started at the tender age of ten.

As a child I had everything you could ever imagine, lavish birthday parties, parents who spoiled me, vacations, and a lifestyle parents dream of giving their children. All that came to a horrific end one day when I came home from school, I was in the 5th grade. My mother, who has always been my guardian angel, sat me down and told me that dad was not coming home… ever. 

I can remember weeks before this my mother always looking like she was on the verge of crying. I would ask her if everything was okay and she would respond with her caring, nurturing voice reassuring me that she was just fine. Now when I look back I know she really wasn’t okay. My mother has always been the rock of my family, working herself to the bone. She is and has always been my sanctuary, my safe haven, and my best friend. My dad had moved on, apparently had just got restless with us, and found himself a new family. I didn’t understand what a huge impact this would actually have on my life. My mother tried her best to keep us living the lifestyle I was used to, and she did a awesome job. My father would frequent my life coming in and out. I would sometimes go years without any contact with him, and yet he thought I should always be there waiting for his next visit, when it was convenient to him. This is where one major defect came into place, abandonment. 

It did affect me in every way; I became a rebellious teenager with a mean streak that could kill. I didn’t think I had issues, but I was so very wrong. I would lie, connive, sneak, and manipulate anyone and everyone that I could. My mother became one of my biggest victims. The love she had for me wasn’t enough to keep me from my demons.  

I remember when I was 14 years old I would sneak out of the house, steal cars, and drink alcohol. I don’t know if I did to gain acceptance, or if this was just the way I thought. Either way I was on a fast path to self-destruction. I eventually ended up in a lot of legal problems as a juvenile. However, I didn’t take any of the consequences serious, and I kept digging myself deeper into a black hole.

My first real charge and run in with the law came when I was just 18. “Miss. Kettle, can you please step out of your vehicle? We have a warrant for your arrest.” Wow things just got real. 

I had been wanted in my county with the narcotic enforcement agency. I had gotten wrapped up with selling marijuana in my town, and I had been doing it for some time. I had a “good” friend that introduced me to some older people who had been running drugs for a very long time, mostly marijuana and cocaine. We would sit around on the weekends, smoking pot, snorting cocaine, and throwing these big parties that everyone wanted to go to. In my eyes I had it all, I had that life that people wanted to be a part of, I was cool, and I was needed. That’s where my second defect came in, acceptance. 

Since I was a first time offender as an adult I received and slap one the hand. I mean I was charged with a felony, but what did that matter? All the people I hung with had felonies, and it seemed like they lived a great life. About 6 months later, I got picked up again for the same charge with the same narcotic enforcement agency. This time I wasn’t so lucky I did receive a short jail sentence. About a week prior to me starting my jail time I found out I was pregnant, I was 19 at the time. When I went into jail I knew this was my time to get myself on the right path. Which I had managed to do for the time being. I had an amazing job making extremely good money, I was clean and sober for the first time in my life, and I was going to be a mother.

Grant Michael was born on June 11th, 2008. He was honestly the most amazing person I had every laid my eyes on, I instantly fell in love. I could not believe he was mine, and he was going to be mine forever. No one has ever made me feel the emotions that that little boy has. He was my pride and joy. When I was in labor with him I had some complications that caused me to have extreme pain continuing after the birth. The doctors where great and quick to ease my pain trying after labor to make me comfortable. Yes, they made me really comfortable. It was that in the hospital on June 8th, I got high from the opiates they were administrating to me; I caught my first nod, which gave me that warm flow that rushed through my body was like a gift from god. 

I finally found my relief, my vacation from my own mind. The following weeks I was prescribed high doses of pain medication to keep me comfortable at home. I had taken a 12 week leave from work after the baby was born so, I stayed at home popped my pills and took care of my newborn son. I did not realize was I was about to get myself into a horrible cycle of addiction and withdrawals that I would encounter after I had ran out of my medicine. Soon I was buying pills from different people. My friends parents always seemed to have the best medicine cabinets.

When Grant was about 6 weeks old, his father and I decided to have a few people over to have some drinks, and play cards. After I put Grant to bed, I did enjoy a few drinks myself. After a while I had noticed that my boyfriend had not come back from the bathroom, when I went to check on him I found him unresponsive in his own urine laying on the bathroom floor. I did not understand why couldn’t wake him up? That is when I really started to panic and I called 911. I knew Grant’s dad had issues with alcohol and substance abuse; however I didn’t understand the severity of his issues. When I first met him he would drink from the time he woke up till the time he finally passed out, going through horrible withdrawals if he didn’t drink. At this point in my life I did not understand the illness of addiction. I thought we were young and just having fun. 

That night, when I found him unresponsive he had overdosed from the amount of pills he took and with the alcohol he mixed with the pills. When the EMTs and police showed up I had to call someone to come get me and Grant. I can remember not really understanding everything that was happening at the moment. I remember feeling panicky. The next day a DCFS worker showed up at my door. That day is a day that will forever be engraved in my head.

 “You need to call a family member to come get your son, or we will take him.” 

Is what this short, little funny looking man said to me. By the grace of god my sister and niece were pulling up to visit me, they had been on vacation in Florida and was just itching to come see the baby. They were my angels in disguise that day, a safety plan was put into place and my baby boy was placed with my sister. I had certain expectations I had to meet to have Grant return. Within 6 weeks he was able to come back home with us however, we were still going through the court proceedings.

Now this is where my third character defect came in, accountability. I never wanted to hold myself accountable for all the things going wrong in my life, I always wanted to put the blame on someone else. “I didn’t make it to a drug test, well I can’t drive legally. I missed a home visit, it was my caseworkers fault; I’m drinking, well of course that was the courts fault for stressing me out”. I started to loose grip of my reality, and I was losing it quick.

 “Your son has been picked up from daycare, he will not be returning home with you.” 

 Yes those words haunt me. It was the morning of one of our follow up court dates; I had taken grant to his daycare while we were at court. However, when we got there the lawyer told me that Grants father once again had a positive drug test for opiates. That my son had been handed over to DCFS to make him a ward of the state. I thought we were both clean, and had been clean for a while now. However, he had used behind my back putting our sons life in jeopardy. 

That day was the worst day of my entire life. The pain from that day still lingers inside my soul day in and day out. That day is the day I became mentally broken, frozen and suicidal. The state was going to termination of my parental rights, and I was going insane. I sunk into a demoralization of existence. I no longer cared about myself or what was going on. June 23rd, 2010 I signed my life over. I signed over my parental rights to my baby boy. I was pretty bad off by the time this happened. I was not the same person. It was that night that I drank a 5th of cheap vodka and took 30 anti-depressants. I woke up in the ICU at the hospital, I was mad that I had survived. I wanted my pain to disappear yet here I was sitting in the hospital reliving my hell. When I was released from the ICU I just went back to my miserable life. Everyone was giving up on me, I had given up on my son, so what else should I expect? But yet I wasn’t taking my actions into consideration.

Somewhere in the next couple months I found my all-time best friend.

 The one that was always there for me when I was down, his name was heroine. Oh good old’ heroin, there is nothing like having no feelings to feel especially, when all my feelings where horrific, and unbearable. I could not live with myself, so I thought I could sleep away my existence. I can remember the very first time I used, it was exciting, and I couldn’t wait to do it again. After this my life was spiraling out of control, each day becoming darker than the one before. I was stuck in a web of depression and self-pity. It had been 6 months since I had seen or even heard my sons little voice. 

It was in December 2010, that I was once again arrested, this time for forgery of documentation. I had been prescribed Xanax to help with the anxiety and depression I had after having lost custody of Grant. Well anyone who knows anything about addiction knows you cannot take Xanax without eventually abusing it. So I had attempted to turn in a foraged prescription. That arrest eventually led me to my first incarceration in the Illinois Department of Corrections. I had received a two year sentence. I can remember the day I pulled up to the prison gates it was April 1, 2011. I was only 22 years old and I was scared to death. I enrolled in many programs there; I graduated from their rehab and earned 16 college credits. I thought I was learning the nesssacary skills to live and cope with my everyday life when I would be released. However, I was so wrong. I don’t quite understand my thinking, because the day I was released I was shacked up with old friends getting high. Somehow I managed to continue my lifestyle for about another year or so. Constantly seeking my next high, still blaming my actions on everyone else.

While I was in Dwight, my sister had taken an order of protection out on me. This is where my fourth defect came, resentment. WHY? Why can’t she understand I’m the sick one, the one who has the bad luck, the one who is victimized? WHY? Why can’t my dad show up? Doesn’t he see he is in the wrong? I held on to these resentments every day for a very long time. Not knowing it was just making me sicker. My sister and I had always been so close, there was an 18 year age difference, but she was my big sister… the person I looked up too and certainly wanted to be accepted by. I didn’t understand that she had no choice but to distance herself from my toxic life, that it hurt her just as bad. 

My self-centeredness would not allow me to see things from other people’s eyes. It was in July, 2013 I was headed back to prison on a new charge, but this time only for a year. I was actually happy and relieved to be back in prison, I knew the time would pass and the second my feet hit the gates, I could get high again. And that is exactly what I did. I had to parole to my mother’s house, she was my only supporter who was still had hope in me. That night I told my mother I was going to am concert with some friends, and she was just so happy to have my home that she agreed and let me go. There was never a concert; I headed straight to the dope house. That night my mother and my older brother had come home to let out the dogs. They didn’t have any intentions on coming home, so something drew them toward the house. It was early January and it had been a really cold winter, we had around two feet of snow. My mother found me that night; I had been dumped off in my driveway, unconscious. I was robbed and left for dead by my so called friends. This still was not enough for me to stop, would I ever hit a rock bottom?

After a couple months my sons’ father was heading back to prison himself, for the second time. I found myself pregnant and alone. I did not want another child. I could not even care for myself, and I certainly could not go through another loss of a child. Losing my son was already almost the death of me. Soon after I miscarried, I don’t know if god knew it was not the right time, or if my selfish acts played a part in that. What I do know everything does happen for a reason. Soon after, I met my current boyfriend. He is a true blessing. After living in hell for nine years I finally was able to break the chains to my sons’ father. I thought that “X”ing him completely from my life would solve all my problems. It helped tremendously but didn’t solve my ache in my heart for my son.

It was June, 11th 2014 my sons 6th birthday; The fourth birthday that I had been absent. Since he was adopted by my cousins, I decided to give them a call to let them knowing I was thinking about Grant on his birthday. When my cousin answered the phone I was completely in shock, he said “would you like to talk to him?” I was so ecstatic I could barely breathe. It brought back a whole wave of emotions from happiness or worthlessness. I couldn’t believe it; I finally was able to hear his voice, that little voice that had played over and over in my head for the last four years. He had absolutely not a clue who I was, but I could accept that. I would accept any little piece of hope that a could grip on to. I think that phone call brought up some deep dark demons. It was a blessing, but yet a blessing I wasn’t able to deal with in a healthy way. 

On June 15, 2014 I was arrested yet again, it was only three days after I had a little bit of hope in the relationship of my son. I think there is where my fifth and my worst defect comes in; coping. I do not know how to deal with feelings and emotions. I cannot cope with any obstacles good or bad that are thrown my way, without using. I would take everything good and turn it into something terrible and dark. The what ifs? The could have beens? That is what eats at my head day in and day out. With the support of my mother and my boyfriend, I was able to avoid going back to prison for a third time. I had really turned my life around, for the time being. My cousins agreed to me coming to my sons sporting events, and eventually I was able to start doing other things with him. My heart should had been fulfilled right then, but it wasn’t. I was still hurting deep down. I still had underlying issues with my metal stability. In the back of my head I was still a horrible person, a even worse mother. Every time I saw my son he would give me the strength to Hold on to my sobriety just a little longer. I was white knuckling every day, looking for a purpose to stay clean, or just looking for a reason to use. Either way I still had major issues to deal with.

Finally, after a year of this going on, I was able to be considered in the county’s drug court program. The repetitive trip to prison was doing nothing; I wasn’t learning how to be a better person, or a productive citizen. I needed help; I was and am powerless over my addiction. Fortunately I was accepted in June, 2015 and the drug court program has honestly saved my life. Not only does this program work with you to keep you sober, it offers counseling, and treatment in the different areas that people struggle with. You are held accountable for every single decision you make. You face repercussions for the wrong decisions, and are recognized when you make the right ones. I have been able to make friends that are clean and sober through the NA and AA programs. I’ve learned you can have fun without using or drinking. I have learned self-worth and the importance of forgiveness. I know that my relationship with my son is not perfect, nor is it ideal. But I do know that my son will say someday “yes my mom messed up big time, but she has changed.” And I hope someday I can make him proud.

 I learned ways to cope with my depression, and I have been able to finally grow. I was able to finally let go of resentments. I can now work on rebuilding and mending the relationships I torn apart. I will be there to see my beautiful, smart and amazing niece graduate from high school, I will be there to hold my grandmothers hand, I will be there to help my mother as she ages, and I will be there to watch over my brother and his decisions. I will live my life to its full potential, and know that I am worth loving.

Today I’m 12 months clean. The longest I have ever been in my life, and this is the best I have ever felt in my life. I feel as though I have a purpose and I feel accepted for the first time. I see only great things in my future, and opportunities to grow. My relationship with my son gets only better with time, and for that I am ever most grateful.