Childrearing

I Did A Boatload Of Heroin Before Becoming A Mom

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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.

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74 Comments

  1. Véronique the Attachment Shark

    July 1, 2014 at 11:09 am

    Great story, very inspiring… but I have to say it @EveVawter:disqus… Don’t hate me!!! This needs some serious editing!! There are typos and some of the sentence structures should be re-worked… It’s sometimes hard to follow what the writer is saying :S. As an editor, you shouldn’t be scared to modify certain parts of a story to make it more readable, or ask the author to clarify what they are saying!! Make sure tenses fit with each other, sentence structures make sense, ideas are clear…

    • Eve Vawter

      July 1, 2014 at 11:13 am

      Hmmm, IDK, I had no issue with this, and neither did anyone eklse who checked it, but mmmmmkay. I mean I hear you guys on some things in other posts , but if something really BOTHERS you please be specific.

    • Véronique the Attachment Shark

      July 1, 2014 at 11:16 am

      a whole bunch of commas being misused – either absent, or in inappropriate spots. there are some typos also. For example: 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.

    • Kapibara-san

      July 1, 2014 at 11:18 am

      Also this: “Between that and the sand paper abrasion type butt shaker, I have never had to worry about hair in those areas just stretch marks.”

      At least I didn’t quite understand this sentence.

    • Véronique the Attachment Shark

      July 1, 2014 at 11:18 am

      that was the next thing i was going to say.

    • Eve Vawter

      July 1, 2014 at 11:22 am

      I can add a – there!

    • Véronique the Attachment Shark

      July 1, 2014 at 11:26 am

      ok, but what’s a sandpaper abrasion-type butt shaker exactly?

    • Eve Vawter

      July 1, 2014 at 11:28 am

      I envisioned it as a shaker style chair, but I really really don’t want to turn what I felt was a beautiful sincere post into nitpickicking because you may not like the writing style. 🙁

    • etbmm

      July 1, 2014 at 1:25 pm

      I don’t think it’s nitpicking to edit for clarity. It was a beautiful and sincere post. I would have gotten more out of it if it had been a little more clear and structured. There was a rambling quality to the piece — for example at the end, she said “I was back in the news recently as the Heroin Mom.” But she doesn’t say why. She also said she decided to take ownership of the label Heroin Mom (good for her!) but doesn’t say what she means. I kept expecting a link to a book, a news article, or something… Anyway, I am glad for the piece! Love these posts of different perspectives!

    • Eve Vawter

      July 1, 2014 at 2:49 pm

      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”.

      I thought that part was pretty clear 😀

    • Tracey Helton

      July 1, 2014 at 2:49 pm

      Thank you. I normally write in a different style that is less structured. I appreciate feedback.

    • Raquel

      July 1, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      I loved this article. The grammar Nazi thing is getting old. People need to quit trying to prove their intelligence by cutting down the work of others.

    • chickadee

      July 1, 2014 at 4:13 pm

      I can’t speak for anyone else, but I am bothered by a lack of clarity and proofreading in professional articles. I am not claiming superior intelligence by pointing out problems that should be corrected in editing.

    • Crystal Bearrington

      July 1, 2014 at 4:26 pm

      I found it to be an absolutely BEAUTIFUL article about a woman beating the odds and learning self acceptance. The ironic part, she’s talking about acceptance and instead of COMMENDING her, you nit pic about her writing? Have you NOTHING better to do? Bored, insensitive cows!!! How would you like it If someone came to Your work and ripped it apart? See, to you it’s just an article you can rip apart to somehow make yourself feel better about yourself, to someone else it’s more than that. I’m so glad I’m not like you!

    • Eve Vawter

      July 2, 2014 at 8:36 am

      ME?

    • chickadee

      July 2, 2014 at 1:22 pm

      Heh. No…me, I’ll bet. She would be fortunate to be like you.

    • brebay

      July 1, 2014 at 11:30 am

      It’s those kind of wicker-looking chairs that leave a weird imprint on your skin. And seriously, move on.

    • Heather

      July 1, 2014 at 11:52 am

      Ummm, I don’t think so. I think it is supposed to be the quackery weight loss equipment that put a “sander belt” type band around the fat part of your body and attached to a motor that shook the area vigorously in an effort to reduce body fat in that location. She was discussing being hauled off to a weight loss program, so sitting in a chair doesn’t make ANY sense at all.

      Her insinuation is that the belt that went around her butt rubbed her like sandpaper, thus removing the hair from the area permanently, which is a phenomenon that a lot of people notice in areas of their body with a lot of friction (men who wear socks might see they don’t grow hair where the socks sit, even if the rest of their leg is hairy).

    • Heather

      July 1, 2014 at 11:53 am

      So obviously, the writing was not completely understandable, because more than one person thought she was talking about a CHAIR… But it also wasn’t impossible to read and understand the points.

    • Kapibara-san

      July 1, 2014 at 12:17 pm

      Oh okay, well this explains a lot. I didn’t connect that sentence to the weight loss program, just thought it was at school and a chair was uncomfortable to sit on 😛

    • Tracey Helton

      July 1, 2014 at 2:39 pm

      These were machines that used to wrap around you that they had in weight loss clinics in the 70s and 80s.

    • etbmm

      July 1, 2014 at 1:22 pm

      I read it at least three times and couldn’t figure it out either.

    • Véronique the Attachment Shark

      July 1, 2014 at 11:20 am

      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.

      Here, she talks in the first person, the second person, the third person… It’s confusing.

    • mommabeer

      July 1, 2014 at 11:35 am

      I have to agree with you. The post is a bit rambling and hard to follow, at least for me. If that’s her writing style, fine, but I think she could benefit from some structure and grammar improvements. Just my opinion.

    • Véronique the Attachment Shark

      July 1, 2014 at 11:21 am

      I mean, all authors have their style, but there also has to be an effort made to make sure that english grammar and punctuation are respected… :S

    • chickadee

      July 1, 2014 at 1:16 pm

      Agreed. Plus, ‘versus,’ not ‘verses.’

  2. CMJ

    July 1, 2014 at 11:10 am

    This is really inspiring.

    • Eve Vawter

      July 1, 2014 at 11:13 am

      I love her too .

    • CMJ

      July 1, 2014 at 11:14 am

      I mean, it really resonates with me. People can turn their lives around after some pretty harrowing stuff.

    • Tracey Helton

      July 1, 2014 at 2:38 pm

      I agree and that was the point

    • momjones

      July 1, 2014 at 2:48 pm

      In writing, voice is a powerful tool. In your very poignant story, your voice is clear and profound. Thank you for sharing this part of your journey.

    • Tracey Helton

      July 1, 2014 at 2:50 pm

      thank you for taking time out to write a comment. That means a lot to me and to the readership.

  3. Valerie

    July 1, 2014 at 11:15 am

    I admire you very much for fighting against your addiction. Mom or not, I give major credit to anyone who overcomes something like this. Thank you for sharing this and best wishes for your continued health.

    • Tracey Helton

      July 1, 2014 at 2:40 pm

      Thank you for reading

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  4. The Redhead

    July 1, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Congrats to you for beating the addiction! I have an immediate family member who went through the same thing, so I have seen first hand what it takes to get clean from heroin. It’s quite horrifying. We didn’t know if he’d live a year, let alone long enough to have any kind of future. But now 12 years later he is married with a baby and things have turned out wonderfully. I think that it is great that you are willing to share your story, and I am sure it will inspire others.

    • Tracey Helton

      July 1, 2014 at 2:37 pm

      Thank you

  5. AE Vorro

    July 1, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. These kinds of stories are important, but rarely get much attention or a public mouthpiece.

  6. NorthernGirl

    July 1, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. It’s wonderful to hear about successful recovery. Truly inspiring!

    • Tracey Helton

      July 1, 2014 at 2:51 pm

      I am so happy you took the time out to read my story

  7. Tinyfaeri

    July 1, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    I haven’t seen the documentary, but kudos on beating your addiction! That’s a tough thing to do, and good job staying sober. As for what anyone else thinks, they can take a long, metaphorical walk off a nice, metaphorically short pier. Also, cool bottle cap. 🙂

    • Tracey Helton

      July 1, 2014 at 11:39 pm

      Thanks. I appreciate your time to make a comment

  8. Rata

    July 1, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    I just watched the documentary after reading your piece. I remember that time in the early 90’s I lost many friends to drugs, alcohol, and mental health issues. Your an inspiration thank you for sharing your life.

    • Tracey Helton

      July 1, 2014 at 8:15 pm

      It is a really good film. I also have some videos I posted to inspire those who came behind me that are struggling with addiction

  9. Nope

    July 1, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    It’s weird how some “heroin moms” are treated like pieces of worthless shit no matter what they do, and some are congratulated and wished well.

    Maybe one day I’ll be like you.

    • Tracey Helton

      July 1, 2014 at 8:12 pm

      I admire your strength

  10. Obladi Oblada

    July 1, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    As a recovering alcoholic myself, I understand how difficult it can be to talk about where you’ve been, where you are and where you’re planning to go. I appreciate the daily struggle to stay sober. Thank you for sharing your story.

    I also have to say that the grammar nazi thing is getting a bit old. Let it go.

    • CMJ

      July 1, 2014 at 4:57 pm

      I’m kind of disappointed in the grammar police on this post. It’s one thing to nitpick Eckler who is supposed to be a “professional writer” but this just seemed a touch mean girl.

      I don’t know, I just think the author’s voice and story is way more important than a couple commas and syntax errors.

    • Obladi Oblada

      July 1, 2014 at 5:50 pm

      Agreed. That’s what I took from it too. Made me sad for the writer.

    • Kapibara-san

      July 1, 2014 at 6:35 pm

      I think maybe it was more about editing (which people would expect from a site like mommyish) than criticizing the writer themselves. The article was beautiful and I don’t think anyone is denying that.

    • Tracey Helton

      July 1, 2014 at 8:14 pm

      Well I appreciate any feedback. I should have also had another writer go over it.I generally do but the three kids and full time job can make things challenging

    • Kapibara-san

      July 2, 2014 at 7:03 am

      I can understand that, even though I don’t have three kids, nor a full time job. Sorry if I sounded nitpicky. I actually had a dream last night where I was having a grammar test on my native language, and only got half points, lol. Maybe I am too passionate about grammar ^^;;

    • Sara610

      July 2, 2014 at 7:06 am

      Yes, I agree. People who make a big deal out of being “professional, best-selling authors” and then proceed to write at a fourth-grade level are annoying indeed and deserve to be called out on their lack of professionalism.

      Here, though, I think this is a different story. This woman makes no pretense of being a professional author–she just has something to say and is trying to share her experience. I’m not nearly as caught up in the little grammar-and-syntax issues; as long as I can understand the point she’s making, I really don’t care whether everything is “right”. If it were riddled with errors, that would be one thing, but that’s not the case here.

      I do think it is incumbent on the powers-that-be at Mommyish to make sure that before columns go live, they’re edited and proofread–just as part of general quality control and making sure that what you’re putting out there is polished. But I don’t see that so much as an issue on the part of the authors, and it may even be a case of my priorities simply being different from Eve and the Mommyish team. I think it’s really important to have published writing be edited and proofread; they may think it’s more important to preserve the author’s voice, even if that means leaving in some errors. It’s all about choices.

    • chickadee

      July 2, 2014 at 9:07 am

      I agree, and the discussion on this thread in which I was participating was Veronique’s, which was addressing Eve. My sister is a co-editor of a parenting journal, and they are required to fact-check, edit for style, and copy-edit before anything gets published.

    • Sara610

      July 2, 2014 at 12:24 pm

      And context is so important–I hadn’t even read the thread in which you had participated! On comment threads with a lot of contributions, it can get really hard to keep track of everything. 🙂

    • chickadee

      July 2, 2014 at 1:20 pm

      It is, and it is pretty awkward to make editing comments on someone’s work without sounding mean, but I wouldn’t think any author would take it personally. It’s a given that I’ll never get articles published without editorial suggestions (read: commands) so I just take them in stride and make the changes.

    • Tracey Helton

      July 1, 2014 at 8:11 pm

      Thank you for sharing your experience

  11. Lackadaisical

    July 1, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    Well done for beating your heroin addiction and continuing to beat it every single day. That must take a huge, huge amount of guts. Best wishes to you and your family for the future.

    • Tracey Helton

      July 1, 2014 at 8:12 pm

      I appreciate your support

  12. Amber Starr

    July 1, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. We all have our demons, but a lot of us are too cowardly (meaning ME) to be open about our struggles. You are inspiring and even though I don’t know you I am so proud of you.

    • Tracey Helton

      July 1, 2014 at 11:43 pm

      I think that with being in a major film about addiction, I was forced into self disclosure. I have chosen to make the most of it to guide others. There is also a lot to be said about people who struggle privately because we all have our issues

  13. Jezebeelzebub

    July 1, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    so, uh… why were you back in the news as Heroin Mom? was there a Where Are They Now special done or something? I just…. I really want to know. I’m sorry. But for real, tell me.

    • JenH1986

      July 1, 2014 at 9:00 pm

      She wasn’t. But society likes labels so infested of the hippie mom or the working mom or whatever she is the heroin mom

    • Tracey Helton

      July 1, 2014 at 11:41 pm

      When a few different celebrities died recently, I was on many media outlets and my short label was “heroin mom”.

    • Sara610

      July 2, 2014 at 7:00 am

      Can I just say how much I hate this trend of referring to women in the news as “XYZ mom”? Tan Mom! Princeton Mom! Heroin Mom! Octomom! I can’t put my finger on exactly why it bothers me so much, but I suspect I has something to do with cheap sensationalism at the expense of actual dialogue. 🙁

    • Jezebeelzebub

      July 2, 2014 at 12:07 pm

      Ahhhh, okay. That clears it up for me- thanks!

  14. Korine

    July 1, 2014 at 10:42 pm

    It must be nice to see the world in such black and white terms, but most heroin addicts don’t just start doing heroin out of the blue one day, in the middle of an awesome life. Many many become inadvertently addicted to legal prescription pain killers…which become expensive and then hard to come by once not prescribed anymore. Heroin comes into play because addiction is a disease, not a life style choice. But if “judgemental” is a quality you like about yourself, then by all means, keep your current opinion.

    • blh

      July 1, 2014 at 10:54 pm

      Sure, people start out by doing pills usually. But MANY people aren’t prescribed them, they just do it BC they WANT to. I’d rather be “judgmental” than dumb. People who do drugs like this are toxic and the damage they do to you is unreal. They have a choice to stop but all you can do is sit there and let them lie to you and and take advantage of you and watch then die or you can cut them out of your life. I’d rather tell my son ” don’t ever fuck with this shit BC it will ruin your life” than “oh, it’s not your fault if you do, you just have no self control.”

    • Korine

      July 2, 2014 at 12:12 am

      Yes, yes that was my point: That we shouldn’t even teach our children about how bad drugs can be. You have excellent reading comprehension.

      It’s not dumb to have compassion for those who end up down that spiral. NO ONE chooses that horrible lifestyle. I’m not saying all addicts are good people, but there *are* good people, who still have potential and hate what they’ve become…who have a fucking disease and can’t cure themselves…who deserve more than judgment and “well you knew what would happen…”

    • JenH1986

      July 2, 2014 at 10:57 am

      I would encourage you to rent or youtube snippets of “A Pleasure Unwoven”. It details how addiction isn’t about self control or will power. Most addicts don’t want to use. Using actually stops being enjoyable to them.

  15. Maria Guido

    July 1, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    You overcame something that cripples and defeats a lot of people and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it. The thing is, you get to choose what your life’s defining moments are – not your family, not your friends, not anonymous commenters on the internet. I’m proud of you.

    • Tracey Helton

      July 1, 2014 at 11:40 pm

      Thank you. I really appreciate people taking the time out to make comments!

  16. Sara610

    July 2, 2014 at 7:01 am

    What an inspiring story. Heroin addiction is a horrible beast–I’ve never dealt with it on a first-hand level, but I’ve read enough articles about it to know how incredibly hard it is to overcome. To do that AND get a graduate degree AND raise three children? Wow, lady. My hat is off to you. Seriously.

  17. Sonny

    July 9, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Wow I can’t believe it’s you! I saw the documentary you were in and I immediately recognized you when I saw the photo. I’m a struggling addict in recovery and seeing this is truly inspirational. I often wondered if you even survived as I was losing my battle with addiction. I’d never thought I’d be so proud of a woman I never met before. You are the perfect example of going to hell and back and conquering your demons. The light of the end of the tunnel, I hope to live with the strength and courage you have today. God Bless!

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