In elementary school, there is the cheerleader, the nerd, the athlete, and the popular kid. As I moved through my life, I was always hurt by labels. This was because I was the fatty. Having been 172 pounds in the fifth grade when I was trotted to my first weight loss program, I felt the sting of this label. Well that and I felt the sting of the wooden chair leg type rollers that pinched my stomach as I leaned into them. Between that and the sand paper abrasion type butt shaker, I have never had to worry about hair in those areas - just stretch marks. I grew up as the fat kid with glasses, the center of ridicule, the punch line of many a juvenile joke.
Well, I went back to school recently as my daughter entered Kindergarten. This time, I had my own label. I was Heroin Mom. Underneath that flawless $40 outfit I pulled together from monolithic big box stores that supposedly cater to women lay my true identity. I am a recovering addict. But not just any recovering addict. I was featured in a 1999 movie called “Black Tar Heroin: The Dark End of the Street”. By the time my biological clock reached the fire alarm status, I thought my story would slowly fade away like my waistline after three children. But no, this thing called YouTube came along and I was pushed into the spotlight again.
It is not that I walk down the street and people point at me anymore. It is just I know that somehow I am different from everyone else. In some sense, doesn’t every woman feel that way? It as if the world is silently judging us. This feeling explodes around the time we decide to become a mother. I was completely unprepared for the diaper bag fashion shows, the stroller runway, and the breast feeding verses formula debates that make people completely lose their shit in the middle of the local coffee shop. I was worried that people would wonder if I should bring a baby into the world as a recovering addict but soon I learned the incredible weight of my cloth verses disposable decision. These things kept me up at night. What if I am at complete failure at being perfect! My child is going to be ruined if I don’t get the correct baby mill!
For the first time in my life, I found strength in being the heroin mom. Yes, I was a homeless drug addict wandering the streets of San Francisco with needles hanging out of my arm. That was me. But I survived that experience. I learned so many important lessons that got me to this place. I had stretch marks and track marks, oh my. I was going to learn how to be gentle with myself again.
In the early days of my recovery, I used to look at myself in the mirror and tell myself “I am enough.” Then one day, I learned to believe it. I learned to look at my scars as gentle reminders of where I had been, not where I was going in life. Suddenly, I realized I had character - not flaws. I am okay in my own skin. I learned to celebrate my accomplishments because I had fought for each and every one of them. I learned how to breastfeed and paper and type my graduate thesis at the same time. I am adaptable and I am teachable at this point in my life. I have learned that the strength is within me. I just need to tap into it. Not everyone gets a second chance at a first class life so I make the most of mine. My life is not defined by others. I am writing my own narrative and I am a woman making history.
One day, I took ownership of the title: Heroin Mom. I decided to tell my own story and that seemed like a good title. If I could survive the streets of the city, I know I can survive the things these three kids put me through. Some of the behaviors are the same--they fight like savages, they take things from each other, and they always want more. At least they give better hugs! Managing three children ages three, five, and six is not always easy but I like a challenge. When I laid in an alley, imaging the future, this was not the life I dreamed I could make for myself. It is much, much more.
I was back in the news recently as the Heroin Mom. Many women came up to me, emailed me, messaged me to say how much they admired me. Others wanted advice for a family member. Many just wanted a little bit of hope as they struggle with their own demons. As my kids watched the tv sitter, I took some time to answer all of their questions. Being the heroin mom has truly been a gift. Not everyone gets to go through such a trial and come out the other side. I am owning my role as we all should. Find the fabulous within ourselves. Find the thing that makes you special, then work it. Go beyond the label you have for yourself and find the fierce queen in charge of her domain.
So yes, I am the Heroin Mom. I am also Katie, Eddie, and Kelan’s mom. I am also a wife, a friend, and a writer. I am the PTA treasurer. I can work a $40 outfit. If only I could find good shoes for these tired arches.