Annie is a mother. Not only is she a mother, but she is a very good one, though she is more likely to cite her mistakes than to applaud her own successes. Asked about her goals in life, her immediate response is: “I just want my kids to be happy.” Her struggle to take care of her children and maintain relationships with them has been a defining struggle in Annie’s life and in her battle with addiction.
Annie first began using at the age of nine. Addiction became a part of her life, and soon took over. She became “wrapped up” in herself and focused only on fulfillment of the need for drugs. She describes being an addict as extremely “tiring”: an exhausting experience that consumed all of her energy and focus.
When her eldest son was just half a year old, Annie was incarcerated and served a year in jail. During that time, her parents took care of her son, and brought him for regular visits to the jail. Her bond to her son remained strong, but her role in his life was constrained by the brevity of the visitations. By the time Annie was released, her son “didn’t see her as a mom” anymore—the most heartbreaking result of her incarceration.
A few months after her release, Annie joined Just Bakery, and began forming new bonds of trust in a safe community. She immediately established herself as a the backbone of the class. Anytime another student was struggling with a tough math problem or felt confused by a ServSafe quiz, Annie was right there offering a helping hand. She was the voice of common sense, always ready to bring the class back down to earth with her calm and straightforward attitude. She felt great—but the dark side of that elation was “recovery high,” a danger zone of perceived invincibility during which former addicts believe that they are safe from relapse.
When her first son was two years old, Annie gave birth to a second son. Around the same time, she relapsed; but rather than revocating her, Annie’s parole officer directed her to the Mothers and Infants Program, which allowed her to live with and raise her baby while working on her own recovery. Annie left Just Bakery and completely committed herself to MIP. She credits this support in her life with the success of her sobriety. She has been drug-free for over a year.
When her youngest son was six months old, Annie reached out to Just Bakery and asked if she could start over. Our immediate response was: Yes, please! She returned to us in April, and applied herself fully to learning. Being a full-time parent and a full-time student simultaneously was not easy, but that did not stop her from coming. Sometimes she even brought her baby to class with her and valiantly attempted to study while steering him away from wall outlets and electric cables.
Asked about other aspects of her identity besides motherhood, Annie shakes her head. “I don’t know who I am outside of my addiction.” Right now, she just needs to focus on “learning to be selfless” and putting herself “on the back burner” for the sake of her children. She is still trying to learn who her two sons are as people—especially her older son, whose trust she is starting to win after having been separated from him for so long.
Annie applies herself to the max because she wants her kids to see how much she pushes herself to give them a good life. When she was a child, her mother worked three or four jobs at a time to support Annie and her brothers. Although that meant less family time, they never lacked for food, clothing, or other basic needs. Annie wants to be able to provide for her kids in the same way, and to demonstrate to them that hard work can achieve anything.
Plus, pushing herself hard helps Annie to discover other things she loves in addition to her children, and eventually rediscover her identity as an individual. Learning to how to make herself happy and be at peace with who she is essential to being a healthy person and a strong mother. She has begun that process with us at Just Bakery, where she is currently in training to join our production and sales staff. She loves the program and the fact that is gives people second and third chances. After all, second chances are the reason Annie is able to be with her children right now—and that is the most important thing in the world for her. In her words: “every little laugh is worth it.”
…by Diana G…