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Alcohol & Other Drugs

“It Helped me Forget”

A young mother’s journey through loss—and finding hope

Farren Whitford

Reprinted from "Opioids" issue of Visions Journal, 2018, 13 (3), p. 23

Growing up, I lived with my mom until I was about 12 and then I moved in with my grandma (me and my stepdad just didn’t get along). I lived with Grandma for about a year. She was an awesome lady. Then I got taken away by MCFD [Ministry of Children and Family Development, child protection services].

After that I was in foster care as a ward of the ministry. I’m 29 now.

Around the time the ministry took me away, I quit school. That’s when I started using drugs. I had smoked weed already, but somebody really close to me—one of my older friends—he introduced crack to me. I didn’t even know what it was at first. I thought he was smoking weed out of a pipe, but it was crack. So, when I started smoking crack, I didn’t even know what it was. I was also doing crystal meth, I was doing down* and Percocet and morphine. I was doing everything.

I thought I was having fun. It made me want to be with people. It helped me forget how fucked up my life is. I didn’t know any better. I was just a kid.

I finally moved in with Grace, my foster mom. She’s a wonderful lady; she never gave up on me. I stayed with her for about three or four years. We’re still close. I still call her Mom.

I still used drugs when I was at her place. But I quit for a year when I was 16. I was pregnant with my daughter and I went to juvie.** But then I quit and I could have kept my daughter. My grandma wanted me to keep my baby. But three days before I got out of juvie, my grandma passed away. I could have stayed in a foster home and had my daughter but I didn’t know if when I turned 19 if she could come with me or she’d have to stay in care. I didn’t want to chance it so I let my mom and dad raise her. I moved in with them and when my daughter was two or three months old, I got kicked out and then I couldn’t see my kid for a while. So I started using drugs again.

It wasn’t hard to stop (when I was pregnant). When a person is pregnant they should never ever do drugs. All my kids—I have four kids—I’ve never done drugs while I was pregnant, never drank. I never even took a Tylenol. Did labour all natural. My other three are in foster homes, separated. My oldest is 12, my son just turned 8, my daughter’s 6 and my baby’s 3.

I haven’t seen my kids since last February. I’m working toward seeing my kids now. I need to talk to a psychologist and do drug and alcohol counselling. I don’t think any of it will help. I just wish bad things would just stop happening. I use drugs so I can just stop thinking about everything.

When my kids were home with me, I was clean for many years. I quit when I was 19. They’ve never known me to do drugs; I never even drank. I despised drugs. I hated drugs. I did parenting classes and moms’ groups. I did a whole bunch of programs. I had my day scheduled in my day planner.

They didn’t get taken into care because I started using. I started using again because they got taken into care.

So my kids get taken. My kids’ dad ended up going to jail. I lost my house. My uncle died then, too (of ALS). I had to get an abortion around then. And then it was just me, alone. It was a brutal month.

The day they were taken, October 2014 … My kids weren’t even home; they were at school. I was cleaning everything up. My baby, he had his own area, like half the living room. His area’s all clean and he’s nice and safe. The rest of the house I had everything pulled out; I was cleaning while my other kids were at school. I had a new social worker for like two or three months. That social worker, well, she came over while I was taking my kids to school and all she sees is a big mess.

And then I went to go get my kids, and my son and daughter weren’t at school. I called my social worker and she tells me, “Come to the ministry,” and then she took my baby from my hands. They never told me for like a whole month why my kids got taken. All she kept saying was that I was a bad mom.

Then she blamed me because my daughter lost her hair when she was 10 months old. But my daughter has an autoimmune disease. Her hair grows in and then falls out, grows in and falls out again. She just kept saying it was my fault. And then my daughter’s hair started growing back in and they’re like, “See, this is how you’re supposed to look after your kids.” I was like, “It’s gonna fall back out,” and they’re like, “It looks like it’s growing to me.” And they’re like, “You’re just a bad mom and you can’t even take care of them.”

A few days later, my daughter’s hair started falling back out, so I said, “So it’s my fault it’s falling out, I’m stressing her out and everything?” So I said, “You guys are stressing my kid out. It’s your guys’ fault now. So how does it feel? It’s not my fault, it’s nobody’s fault.” They wouldn’t even apologize.

When they got taken away, I only got to see my kids like twice a week for an hour and a half. And then the social worker tells me I can only see my kids once a week—that was when they’d been there for like six months. I told them, I’ve been doing everything you guys want. You aren’t even working with me. And my youngest, he’s just a baby and you only let me see him once a week? Then I flipped out. I had been calm for like six months, I was doing everything she said. But I finally snapped and I got charged with uttering threats.

I finally have a good social worker now after two years. And I have an advocate helping me through the shelter, Seasons House. My advocate was a boss at the ministry for years. He helps talk for me and he makes sure everything’s getting done. He’s been around a long time. When I was a kid, I told my grandma that I was going to go to school and become a social worker one day and take his job.

I’ve been at Seasons House five or six months. I didn’t have to be homeless; I chose to be. I didn’t trust myself. I didn’t want me to have a place where I’m just going to do drugs and OD myself. I can’t do that. I can’t abandon my kids.

When my kids got taken away, I used again. Mostly I do speed, but for the past year and a half, I’ve been doing heroin, too. It just helps me forget. The speed calms me down, I guess, because I have ADHD and that’s what speed does for ADHD. Heroin is not a good drug to get into. People need to go get help and admit they have an addiction instead of hiding it. I kept trying to believe I didn’t have an addiction, that I could just quit whenever. Of course, I have an addiction now but I’ve been trying to fix it.

I’m not on any medication right now. I really suggest going on Suboxone. I was on it for a while; I just got lazy to go get it. It was f$%*ing horrible when I quit heroin this last time … like really bad flu. But it wasn’t like when I first quit heroin, when I just tried to do it cold turkey. Never doing that again! I’d never got sick because I’d always had it so I was always wondering what everyone was talking about. But now I know. You can get cold and hot at the same time, sweat and shiver, pain into your bones. I wouldn’t wish withdrawal on my worst enemy. The sickness lasted like six or seven days but the sore bones took a couple of weeks.

But then I ended up doing heroin again and that’s when I got Suboxone to help me quit. I decided to get help and finally admit that I have an addiction. I didn’t feel sick from stopping Suboxone. I would really recommend it. It’s really easy to come off of and you’re not going to be on methadone the rest of your life.

But I’ve still been doing speed every day for the past two years. I was prescribed ADHD meds when I was a kid. My doctor is thinking of getting me back on it so I don’t have to be doing speed to calm me down. My brain’s just all over the place if I don’t do it.

I have to keep going to counselling to see my kids again. And I have to get my own place. Winter’s nearly here and I kinda need a place. But I only get like $375 subsidy for rent and rent’s $750. I can’t afford a place as a single with $375.

The past few months, me and George from Seasons House here, we’ve saved three people with the Narcan kit. The first time was two people by the river: they were practically dead and then everyone was just standing around watching them die and so I jumped in there and told people what to do.

There’s fentanyl in the speed I take. I’m always alone when I use so I guess when I do it, I guess I just don’t care. I do care but I don’t. Just some days I get too depressed.

But I’m actually thinking of going back to school to be a drug and alcohol counsellor when I quit. And now I also want to learn my First Nations language (my grandma tried to teach me) so I can teach my kids; I think they would like it. My kids give me hope. They’re the only reason why I’m still here.

*“Down” is western Canadian slang for synthetic oxycodone, an opioid.

**“Juvie” is slang for juvenile corrections.

 
About the author

Farren lives in Quesnel, BC, currently at Season’s House Shelter. She is looking to be reunited soon with her four children, who are in government care. She’s a member of Lake Babine Nation and was named after her mom’s favourite character on the television show The Young & The Restless

Based on an interview with Farren by Sarah Hamid-Balma

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