In a celebrity-soaked culture, it’s easy admiring people for their looks, money, and talents. We ordinary folk see them as superstars and often ignore our own heroism. That’s a mistake.
Many people deserve celebrity-like admiration, including those we believe undeserving.
Let me introduce you to two such women.
At first, you might think Autumn and Amanda unworthy, even contemptible. Both lost their children to court-ordered foster and kinship care because of serious drug addictions that jeopardized the health and safety of the little ones they were supposed to protect.
No heroism there.
But as William Shakespeare wrote in The Tempest, the past is prologue.
Autumn and Amanda can’t change their pasts, but their histories have set the stage for great things to come. A new future lies ahead for these young women, whom I met while volunteering at ReUnite Ministries, a Christian-based nonprofit dedicated to reuniting mothers with their kids.
Both remain clean, despite life’s ups-and-downs that can steer a recovering addict off course. Both are dedicated to being the parents God intended them to be.
Here are their stories.
Autumn hit bottom the night she accidentally overdosed on heroin.
Inside her van that night were two of her four kids—including her three-month-old—and a young niece. Emergency medical technicians had to administer several doses of NARCAN Nasal Spray just to revive her.
At ReUnite, she and her counselor dug deep to uncover the root causes of her addiction that started with casual drug use as a teenager to complete dependence on pain pills, crack cocaine, and heroin a few years later. It opened her eyes to why she married two abusive addicts.
It took work gaining those insights, but she triumphed.
After years of separation, Autumn recently gained full custody of her four kids. Now living on her own and working full-time for a nationally known company, she is living proof that breaking the chains of addiction is possible.
“I’m doing life. It has been challenging. It isn’t all rainbows and unicorns,” she says, referring to the recent death of her father, coupled with raising four children alone. “But I’m so thankful to ReUnite. I needed the time to figure things out.”
Hopeful for perhaps the first time in her life, Autumn wants to give back. “I want to carry the message that anyone can recover,” she says. “I know I have a calling.”
When Amanda came to ReUnite early this year, she was an inmate at the county jail, charged with aggravated child neglect and abuse. If convicted, she would have served eight to twelve years in prison.
She hadn’t experienced childhood trauma, which often contributes to addiction. Her getting hooked on methamphetamine happened by mistake. She thought she’d snorted a line of cocaine.
“There’s no such thing as doing meth one time. It literally took me by the throat,” she says, describing the high she experienced. Unstoppable energy and a sense of invincibility and euphoria kept her going back for more. Her habit exploded from less than a gram every week to the same amount in five minutes.
And no one knew, aside from her live-in boyfriend, her son’s father, and a few close friends. Skin abscesses or infections, poor dental health, and unexplained weight loss— typical signs—never plagued her. Furthermore, the couple held full-time jobs, owned nice cars, and lived in a beautiful home.
To outsiders, Amanda had “a perfect dream life,” she says.
Until one night.
Though she quit using while pregnant, she picked up the habit almost immediately after her son’s birth. Thinking her baby safe upstairs, she and her boyfriend would take turns going to the basement to snort or smoke the clear, shiny crystals that affect users’ central nervous systems.
Her World Collapses
Before Amanda’s world collapsed, she had argued with a woman then living with the couple. Out of revenge, the woman called the Department of Child Services, and within hours, Amanda’s child was gone, and her troubles were just beginning.
A hair follicle test indicated her son had been exposed to meth even though she never used in the baby’s presence. Unbeknownst to her, the powerful drug seeped from her pores and onto him.
“Going to jail is the only thing that saved me,” Amanda says. “That woman wanted to ruin my life. Actually, she did me a favor.”
Now clean for more than a year, Amanda has a full-time job and lives her life with a renewed sense of purpose. She’s on track to regain custody of her son and is working toward reunification and marriage to her boyfriend, who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan and is now in recovery.
“What I want other addicts to know is their lives aren’t over. A future is possible.”
Heroism happens everywhere, including among people we often write off. Who needs a celebrity when you can look up to women like Autumn and Amanda? Their single-minded focus on overcoming addiction and regaining custody of their children inspire me. Thank you, ladies, for your heroism and giving others hope.