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CRYSTAL CLEAN is available on
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There are precious few things in this
life of which I am certain. One is the love I have for my
I was just shy of my twenty-third birthday when Andy was
born. My pregnancy was intentional. My son was no accident,
but my brief marriage was.
I was two months pregnant and decided I should marry the
"sperm donor" and make an honest woman of myself. Three
weeks after the ceremony, he hit me and I threw him out. The
divorce was final a couple of months after Andy was born. I
told my ex that if he left us alone, I would never go after
the child support, and that was fine with him. We never saw
As certain as I've always been about being a mother, I was
unprepared for the depth and breadth of my love for my son.
Andy was born with Down syndrome, and there were medical
problems. He had esophageal atrasia, meaning there was no
connection between his esophagus and stomach, so there was
no way to feed him. He was in neo-natal intensive care for
the first month and a half of his life, and he was two days
old when he underwent his first surgery to put a gastrostomy
tube in his stomach so that he could eat. He was five days
old when Dr. Curnow repaired the atrasia.
For six hours, I sat envisioning Andy's delicate skin being
sliced open with gleaming surgical steel, and of hands the
size of my son's torso removing one of his ribs and
repositioning his tiny organs.
The first time I held him was just before that operation. As
I was savoring the moment, holding the six and a half pound
person I'd been waiting so long to meet, a nurse clipped a
lock of his hair and made prints of a hand and foot. "Just
in case," she said. No one had to explain. I knew how
serious the situation was.
The feeling I had as I held him to my chest was almost
indescribable. My heart felt so full, I thought it might
explode. A wave of love, so pure it made my bones ache,
washed over me. I couldn't hug him tight enough. I wanted to
slip him under my skin so I could get him as close to me as
Even attached to monitors and machines, he was perfect.
There was a feeding tube hanging from his recently sawed
open tummy and he smelled like a hospital: all adhesive
tape, antiseptic and iodine. And he was perfect. He was the
yummiest baby I'd ever seen.
When I finally was able to bring him home, I would spend
hours just staring into those eyes. Like pools of cerulean.
We would stare into each other's souls, and I knew that he
had always been a part of me.
Andy spent the first three years of his life in and out of
the hospital. There were complications with the initial
repair of his esophagus. It was stricturing, trying to close
again. He had a hiatal hernia, causing his stomach to creep
up into his chest. At final count, Andy had fifteen
surgeries, twelve of which occurred before he was two years
The constant hospitalizations and anesthesia compromised his
immune system and he would get sick which, of course, meant
more time spent in the hospital. He had two complete blood
Between stays, when he was home, I fed him through the
G-tube that hung out of the furious red scar in his tummy,
and wheeled an oxygen tank around everywhere we went.
And he was perfect.
But those first three years were hell, and if someone had
told me I would have to live through all of that, I would
have said they were crazy. No way was I strong enough to
handle all of that, especially as a single mother.
But I was. And I did. And it was worth every horrifying
I tell Andy he's my bug in a boy suit, my perfect person and
the best human I've ever known. I tell him this every day,
because he is. One of the only things I'm certain of in this
life is the excruciating love I have for my son.
The other thing of which I am certain is this: no one wants
to be an addict.
Nobody wakes up one morning and says, "This is the day I
will begin to destroy my life and the lives of those who
love me. Today, I will begin my suicide. I'll start taking
poison. Not all at once, but a little at a time, so I can
experience a long, slow agonizing death."
I've heard it said, that if you drop a frog into a pan of
boiling water, it will flop around and do anything to
escape. But if you put that same frog in a pan of cool
water, place it on the stove and heat it up ever so slowly
to the point of boiling, the frog won't realize what's
happening to it and will stay there until it's dead. That's
how it is with addiction. Death comes slowly.
I doubt anyone has ever said to themselves, "My goal in life
is to lie, cheat, steal and beg to get my poison and I will
sacrifice everything I have in pursuit of my own death. I
will give up my life and give up my hope. I will give up my
dreams and my self-respect. I will give my soul."
No one wants to be an addict. Especially
a meth addict. Meth is dirty and disgusting. The media shows
us that it's made by shady characters with facial sores and
no teeth in trailer houses and sheds. Everything we hear and
see tells us that meth is a low class drug for low class
people like white trash and Mexicans. In my city, there are
towering billboards of the ugliest, scariest people you've
ever seen: teeth rotted out, lips cracked and infected, skin
hanging from the sharp angles of their bones, matted, dirty
hair and body sores.
Disgusting people, disgusting drug. How easy it is to
dismiss them and categorize them as an almost different
species because, after all, there's no way in hell you or I
would mess around with meth. We're not those kinds of
people. We're not stupid. We have lives and dignity and no
one with any self-respect would even think of sinking to
such murky depths.
That's what I thought, too.
At the time of my arrest, I'd been using meth for over five
years. Every single day. All day long. Without exception. I
was what's known as a "functioning addict." I worked two
legitimate jobs, was raising my son by myself, had a house
and a man I thought I was in love with. On the outside,
everything seemed fine. But barely scratch the surface, and
the chaos of my living hell was frightening.
I started using meth to study on the weekends. Then more
often during the week to get through my workday and still
have the energy to do what I needed to do in the evening:
laundry, dishes, dinner, therapy with Andy and my own
studies. I was an honor student, a teaching assistant and a
research assistant at the state school and hospital.
It wasn't long before I needed meth. Once I started, I was
trapped. If I quit using, I'd fall asleep for days and I'd
get behind. I couldn't let that happen. I couldn't fail, so
I just kept going.
The flip side of this is that I didn't like myself very
much. To be honest, I hated myself. Altering my reality with
drugs took me outside of my own head so I didn't have to
deal with the constant looping voice of negativity: not good
enough, not smart enough, not pretty, not a good enough mom,
stupid, lazy, ugly...
No one could ever make me feel worse than I could. I'd
perfected my self-loathing for most of my life. Meth took me
away from all of that. With it, I could do everything I
wanted and needed to do. I lost weight, I felt smarter and
funnier than I ever had before. My self-confidence was off
the chart. Meth made me feel like a whole person. It made me
It also robbed me of all my ambition. Everything else
quickly became moot. All I wanted to do was get high.
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