Not My Daughter

I am going to share my personal story of my childhood. My hope in doing this is to change the mind of one person. One parent. Although my purpose in life is to love and raise this beautiful baby girl into a strong beautiful woman, another purpose of my being here on this earth will have been fulfilled. 

Addiction: the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.

“Causes severe trauma”. Not only to themselves, but to those involved in their life. There is no question that addiction is beyond difficult to battle, no matter what your poison may be. And unfortunately, for some, they’re too far gone. For those reading this, please, if you know anyone expecting or are parents already, and are addicts, please share this story with them. If there is even 0.01% chance this could get them on the right track, it will be worth it. Being that I’ve had alcohol and substance abuse problems myself, I know that addiction is extremely powerful. It turns even the best of people into nightmares; into thieves, liars, cheats. One of the worst parts of being sober is having to come to terms with the things you’ve done and the person you were while under addiction’s spell. Unfortunately, sometimes the actions we’ve committed as an addict cannot be fixed, taken back, and/or dramatically impact someone’s life other than your own in an extremely negative way. 

Being that I am a mother now, I look at my daughter and know that I would never do anything to hurt her or put her in harm’s way. If anything I’m paranoid and overprotective. I often try to put myself in my old shoes, or my parents’ shoes and ask myself if I was still abusing drugs and alcohol, would I still have my maternal instincts? Would I still do everything in my power to protect my daughter? My answer is always yes, I would. I cannot imagine ever being in a state of mind where my daughter would be anything but my number one priority. I just can’t picture any drug or drink being more important than the most beautiful person in my world. Athena is my everything; I would be lost without her. So although I understand how horrible and complicated addiction is, I just can’t understand choosing a substance over your child. I’ve been sober for a long time, though. Perhaps if I was still in the mind state where I justified stealing my little brothers’ game controls and devices to sell, though, I could understand. Even then though, I doubt it. I’m not saying that I’m better than or above anyone, but the love I have for my daughter has made me question how far gone my parents really were. 

But before I got to this place of knowing that nothing that happened to me was my fault, and that my parents just had addiction issues, I constantly questioned my worth. I grew up wondering why my parents chose their poisons over me. My father was an alcoholic and my mother was a meth addict. But before I start talking about the end, I’ll start at the beginning. 

I’ve read about most of my early life from court documents. I only have a few vivid memories before (approximately) age five. There’s also what my mother later told me, but I ended up finding out more from those court documents than she ever revealed to me. So, to my knowledge, my mother relocated us to Northern California, not informing my father of our whereabouts. In 1992, she had my little sister (half sister; different dads) Brandy, who’s name has since been changed. During this time, my mother went to work and left us in the care of Brandy’s dad, Sal. We were in their care until about 1993. I was about two and a half, and Brandy was about one when everything came to the surface. 

The records state that we were physically and sexually abused. Upon further investigation, it was discovered Sal would burn us in an assortment of ways: curling irons, scalding hot showers, clothing irons, even (microwaved) burning hot milk. The records also disclosed that we were covered in blisters on multiple occasions and my mother did not take us to receive care. CPS ended up finding out about us because a roommate finally called and reported the abuse. Upon investigation, we were immediately removed from my mother’s care and placed into a foster home. 

My mother and Sal were arrested on multiple charges. However, my mother was given the opportunity to try to gain back custody. In the meantime, my father, Steven, was notified of my whereabouts and of the situation. My mother initially was compliant with all the guidelines of gaining back custody; staying clean, parenting classes, supervised visitations, and staying far away from Sal. However, when my mother’s brother abruptly passed away, it sent her off the deep end and back she went to Sal and drugs… ruining her chances of gaining back custody. Upon meeting the criteria, my father got custody of me. I am aware he tried to gain custody of Brandy as well, but considering he was not her biological father, and didn’t make the required income, he was unable to. Brandy was adopted (a closed case) and her name was changed for her protection. I haven’t seen her since; 24 years. 

This is an actual polaroid from around 1993. That’s me, my dad and his girlfriend at the time. This was a supervised visit at an office or agency of some sort. I feel so sad looking at this picture because I really love my dad, but at this point in time I didn’t know him and was maybe even afraid of him. My face was just so sad. That’s an expression I would never want to see on my daughter. 

So I moved in with my dad. I know initially, I lived with him and his then girlfriend. The only memory I have of that is biting my dad’s girlfriend on the arm for not letting my watch Beauty and the Beast. Other than that, I pretty much only remember life after my dad and I moved in with my grandma and aunt. I want to say I was about five or six. I lived there until I was ten. During that time, I lived with an alcoholic father. Early on, I can’t say I really noticed or that I was even bothered my dad’s drinking. He wasn’t a mean or violent drunk; more so stupid. He did become argumentative with my grandma and aunt at times, but mostly he just tried hitting on a lot of women. 

Over the years, though, things got worse. My dad began experiencing seizures about once a month, sometimes less frequently, sometimes more. It was always the same cycle, have a seizure, come home, be clean and sober (times varying from a few days to about a month), say he’s “just going to have a six pack”, and then back to the full on drinking. By the time I was around eight or nine, I saw less and less of my real dad. By this I mean he was there, but he wasn’t himself. He became more depressed, and often passed out. The visits to the hospital increased. He couldn’t see the things I was going through and experiencing as a young girl that no child should have to go through. And by the hands of his own best friend. Someone he trusted completely aided in destroying an innocent part of my childhood. I believe that if my father had been in his right mind, these atrocities would have never transpired and that I would have grown up a different person entirely. 

About a week after my tenth birthday, on August 3, 2000, I woke up and saw my dad laying on the floor. This was not unusual, as he normally passed out watching TV. What was an unusual was his appearance. He was a pale, grayish-green color and freezing to the touch. He legitimately looked like a zombie. He asked me if I could help him get up and walk him to the bathroom. Although my dad was very slender, he was about 6’2, so you can imagine me, barely ten years old, had a very hard time trying to assist him. He was so weak, and my strength gave. He fell, hitting his head on a cupboard door on the way down, and began bleeding and having a seizure. I yelled for my grandma and aunt, who had been asleep, and proceeded to call 911. 

My grandma and my aunt assisted my dad while I talked to the dispatcher. When the paramedics got there, my aunt escorted me outside to have a talk with me. Even though I already knew the answer, I asked my aunt if my dad was coming back this time, to which she said, “I don’t think so Britt”. I can’t explain how I knew, but I knew that was the last time I was going to see him. Maybe it was his appearance, or his icy cold skin. Maybe it was how weak he was. But I knew. The next day, I went to school. I was called to the office around lunchtime where I saw my aunt. She let me know that my dad had passed on. He was gone. 

Rest In Paradise Dad. A complicated, faulted man. But a great man nonetheless. I hope you have found your peace 💓💓💓.
My life didn’t improve much afterwards. My mother moved to Texas to get clean, leaving me in the care of a different aunt than previously mentioned. This aunt cut me off from the little bit of family I had left. Then my grandma passed away. My aunt ended up terminating her guardianship and I lived in a series of “eventful” foster homes until I was 18. That part of my life is a story in itself. 

My teen and early adult years were filled with feelings of insignificance. I constantly questioned why I was never good enough, even for my own parents. I wondered why they didn’t protect me. I constantly sought the approval (almost always from the wrong people) of others. I, myself, turned to drugs and alcohol for comfort. I can’t blame my parents’ choices for my poor choices, but I think if my parents had thought twice about their sobriety and made it a priority, I wouldn’t have gone down the road that I had. 

I have my boyfriend of three years, now, to thank for opening my eyes. I remember when we first started dating he asked me, “Do you have to drink to be around me or something?”. I was honestly speechless… no one had ever really confronted me like that before. I was taken aback but it made me realize I needed to get a grip on my life. Since then, I rarely drink, I quit smoking cigarettes, and haven’t touched drugs in years. About two months after I conquered my last addiction (cigarettes), I found out that I was pregnant. I thank God that I was lucky enough to have dealt with all my issues before this beautiful little girl came into my life. Some people aren’t that lucky. And to those that aren’t, I urge you to look at your loved ones and let them be your motivation to get your life in order.

Honestly, I wouldn’t take my life back. Sure, I wonder at times where I could have been if I had grown up with a stable home life, but if my life were any different, I wouldn’t have my man, or my daughter, or my family. So I’m happy with how my life is turning out. Chad and I will be providing that stable home life for our daughter, and there’s no limit to what she’ll be able to accomplish. 

I have forgiven my parents. Although I find their experiences and choices hard to understand personally, acceptance and forgiveness is the only way to move on. My dad didn’t have it very easy growing up. I know my mother did not have an easy life and experienced abuse as well; this is not an excuse, but I do have pity for her and can understand her seeking comfort in drugs. This is a cycle of abuse in my family that stops right here. My daughter will never endure the pain and heartache that I did. And yes, I can say never. One of the positives of growing up feeling the way I did is that I know I could and would never allow my daughter to be put through that. Not my daughter. She is my motivation and happiness. She is my heart and soul. And I am and always will be her protector. 

Please, for any parents or expecting parents with substance abuse problems, let love be your drug. I know that’s kind of cliche and lame to say, but let it. The love you feel for your babies is better than any high in the whole world, I promise you. And you’ll be an even bigger hero to your family for stepping up; as recovery is no easy feat. You’ll not only be saving yourself, you’ll be saving your kids. My story is nothing in comparison to some stories that I’ve read and have heard about. But even my story is not one that any innocent child should have to be put through. Don’t let your kids feel that pain, that insecurity, that doubt. Don’t allow anyone to ever hurt them. Show them that they are the most important thing in the world, because as children, you are their world.