Drugs -- Families Who Have Found Ways Out

My mother suffered from dilapidating health issues from the time I was about eight years old. My father worked two jobs to support our family and was often not at home. As my mother's condition progressed, I had more and more household and child care responsibilities. In was the 1970's. At 14, I remember lying in my bed and looking up at the ceiling and telling myself, I will never raise children this way but also, that same year I got my first job through the DECA program offered at the high school. That job training helped me throughout life. I married at 16 and had my first child, a boy. Two weeks prior to his birth, his father tries to kill me. We divorced. I married again approximately 3 years later and had a second child, a girl. During this marriage I embarked upon a career in law enforcement in arguably one of the worst cities that one could ever go into that field, Albuquerque. That marriage also did not work out and the divorce was contentious. I decided not to marry again, but eventually did approximately ten years later. I also decided law enforcement was not for me. So, to recap:

Born into a low/middle class family. Check
Family members struggled with medical issues. Check
Family members abused prescription pain killers. Check
Did not finish high school, but I did eventually get a GED. Check
Did not receive a higher education degree, but did go to approximately 2 years of classes. Check
Loved ones that used illegal drugs. Check
Trouble with the law/courts/legal systems. Check
Family members with mental health disorders. Check
Domestic violence. Check

There is no black and white and it seems a bunch of really smart people have spent countless hours of research and still have no idea how to address these issues. They are looking for one size fits most solutions. The families that have risen out of the circumstances they were dealt are not comfortable talking about addiction and how it affected their family. This is primarily because of the systems and attitudes currently in place. Our families are the only ones that truly know how they rose above it all, but many are afraid to talk. Laws like "three strikes" are not helpful. I've seen people tell their story and it is used to attack what they have accomplished. Therefore, except for a few of us, we remain silent. For the sake of all those who are still dealing with this currently, we must speak out. We cannot be afraid. Some of those who are still in the middle of are losing hope. Others are being told hope is lost and to write off their loved ones. Laws and attitudes need changed and you can only change them by speaking out. Then there are those who don't want you to ever talk about the things that have happened. They want you to "focus on the positive". OK, I am positive these laws need to change! The reasoning behind them was wrong to begin with.

For my own part, I have helped to raise approximately ten children. These include my own two, my three siblings (one of which the state gave me full custody of when she was sixteen), a neighbor's child who was kicked out of his house the day before Christmas and lived with us approximately one and half years, the three children of a woman who rented from us and went to jail for approximately six months, and my step daughter who came to live with us when she was twelve. She is bipolar.

Of all the children above, four went into military service, two went on to retire. three have degrees (one several), one with a Masters, two are in college, one is still in high school and one has their own business. All of them, except the one in high school works. To my knowledge, even though a few have done drugs, they don't do them now. In addition to these children, my husband has three children from other marriages that we also have helped to support throughout their lives. I'm not saying this for kudos. I got that from them when they became what they did. It's just important to know that set backs, even ones that end in jail time are not the be all, end all of one's life. Sometimes, it's only the beginning.

I remember when my son was approximately ten years old. He had just found out about one of his friends being hurt by his parents. He told me “Mom when I grow up, I am going to become a famous baseball player and I am going to buy a hospital and anyone who doesn't want their kids can bring them there where you can take care of them.” I still consider it one of the highest compliments I've ever been paid. So in short, love and perseverance is the way out. Families are key to providing that. How many chances should a person get? As many as it takes. How do you affect that once they are in custody? You visit. You make them face you while they are sober. You make them face their children and you don't let the criminal justice system stop you. You do it out of a need for punishment; but out of love and understanding and hopefully so that the kids will understand that the choices that were made were not their fault and they don't want to make the same mistakes. The rules and the way in which prisons make money tend to be an hindrance to trying to keep families together and that needs to change.

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Some of us know that road very well. After they are well enough to work at a real job, they need to be given that opportunity while inside. Programs that allow work release with a real and fair wage are imperative. They make it where those who are taking care of these people's children can get support. They make it where the parents are used to budgeting for that when they get out. It's also really important that the kids know that their parents are now caring enough to send the funds. They also make it where someone can save for getting out, so they don't end up right back on the streets trying to survive. You can't do that on .35 cents an hour. 

Many things need to change and the families need to make their voices heard in order to change them. There are those who want us to be quiet for their own comfort and/or ego. Now is not the time for that. Be heard. 

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