Nichole’s mother and father were both addicted to methamphetamine. Enabled by her grandfather mostly, their reckless lifestyle didn’t catch up with them until their mid 40’s when they were out of excuses and had to serve time in prison and jail. Nicole’s story is amazing and truly inspiring. Although her mom and her have had a rocky past, through the grace of God and a prison ministry, today they are two peas in a pod.
What makes a home? If you look it up in the dictionary you will get something along the lines of a structure or dwelling that one resides in. By that definition alone it could be a Beverly Hills mansion or a tent on the side of the freeway. To me though, home is much more than where I lay my head at night. Home is a feeling of peace, home is a feeling of safety, home is family. For the most part during my childhood, I always lived in a good home. In fact, the last home I lived in with my family, we were the first people to ever live in it. I lived with my mom, dad, younger sister, younger brother and my grandfather. We literally had the nicest house on the block.
Unfortunately, what was going on behind closed doors was not so nice. Drugs had always been a part of my mom and dad’s life and it was in this nice home where their drug addiction was no longer kept hidden behind their bedroom door, it now consumed every square inch of that 2300 sq ft space and beyond. This was also when I no longer felt peaceful or safe and the comfort of having a family was slowly dwindling away.
In this house, I witnessed low-life’s coming in and out at all hours of the night, I witnessed my siblings and I feeling neglected and abandonment because of addiction. I witnessed interventions in the living room. I witnessed fights. I witnessed the after math of destruction after a police raid because my parents were not only using drugs, but they were now selling them. I witnessed my two heroes (my parents) turn into villains. I witnessed complete and utter chaos in a place that should shield you from it. That definition of home that I mentioned earlier is not how I felt during this time.
Eventually and fortunately, my parent’s erratic behavior and poor choices caught the attention of law enforcement. I say fortunately, because I not only hoped that they would get arrested, I would call the police myself. Call me a snitch, a rat, whatever you want. I would do it all again in a heartbeat because I’d rather be labelled a rat and have my parents sober and alive then stay silent and see my parents die at the hands of methamphetamine or another drug addict. My parents were finally arrested, in fact one of their charges is defined as a person who opens or maintains any place for the purpose of unlawfully selling, giving away, or using any controlled substance. The house I lived in was legally being defined as a drug house, subject to government seizure.
Now, with getting arrested comes consequences and that ended up being jail time for my mom and prison time for my dad. I no longer lived in this house because at this point I had a child and was out on my own. However, I still never felt those feelings of safety or peace. My parents were behind bars, something that I had wanted for so long. Yet, I still felt broken and a sense of incompleteness. A feeling comparable to a puzzle missing pieces. Even on days where you feel you have it together, as a whole, it’s not. Something is off. During my parent’s incarceration, I never responded to any letters and visited only a handful of times. I’m not saying this is right, but for me, it was how I coped. Their incarceration was something that I didn’t like to talk about and only those close to me knew. My dad was released first and shortly after my mom. I remember planning a “family dinner” right after my dad was released. Being the eldest, I have always felt a since of responsibility to take care of my sister, and brother. I wanted to shield them from so many things (which I was unsuccessful at) and I always wanted to try to make things normal, whatever that means. So- we had this dinner at my apartment. We decided to make taco salads. My dad showed up, quickly ate, and left. He left to go get high. I cried, not for my dad, but for my siblings because I hated to see them hurt, I hated seeing them let down, and I also hated feeling like I couldn’t make things better. I actually wasn’t upset at my dad as my expectations were honestly for both him and my mom to fail. I had been let down by these two people- two people who are supposed to protect you and keep you safe-more times than I can count. I was expecting them to go back to their old ways and boy was my guard up. It was built with the thickest steel, barbed wire at the top, surrounded by shark infested waters. But underneath all those walls I created, I feel like there was a small part of me-the child of Roy and Valerie who was screaming at the top of her lungs wanting to have her parents back. Wanting the puzzle pieces to fit-wanting peace-wanting safety-wanting family-wanting a home.
When my mom was released from jail, her and my dad both started to do better. They weren’t allowed to live with one another so my mom stayed with me. I was so guarded with them-I mean I had to worry about them as individuals and also as a married couple-who spent so many years as a team covering for one another, it was hard. I remember getting those feelings of anxiety and fear if my mom wouldn’t answer her phone or if my parents happened to be in the garage which used to be their hang out spot and for me the garage triggers so many negative images and feelings. I’ve mostly been the one in the family that is more vocal, so I found that talking or sometimes yelling about these concerns was more helpful than looking the other way and staying silent. I did set rules with my parents because if they wanted to rebuild the trust that they broke they would have to earn it and for me that is in your actions. I remember telling them that I would give them random drug tests and if they didn’t take it, I was done with them. Thankfully, drug court required frequent drug testing because I really couldn’t afford that.
Now, it took time for all of us to adjust. My parents, my siblings, my grandparents, my aunts, uncles, everyone. It’s kind of ironic because when you get arrested, tried, and convicted your sentence involves how much time you serve. As someone incarcerated and for family and friends of the incarcerated you despise this “time”. Time is the enemy, yet when your loved one gets out, it’s the opposite. The process of rebuilding these relationships that have been broken because of incarceration happens with time-so time becomes a friend, a saving grace. But it wasn’t on my time, it wasn’t on my parent’s time, it was on God’s time. God knew what I was feeling. He knew my anger, my sadness, my pain, my worries, my longing to have my parent’s back. And with God in my corner and time, I’m amazed to say that I have my parent’s back. They are 5 years clean and sober. I have a relationship with both of them; my daughter has a relationship with her grandma and grandpa and spends as much time as possible with them. This is truly amazing because there was a time when I wouldn’t even leave her alone with them and now they are as close as any grandparent can be with a grandchild. When my parents were released they came back to the same house-that same physical structure, same concrete foundation, walls, and roof- but it took time and God’s love to bring them home-home where we can truly be a family again.
Beautifully written. Enjoyed the connection between time being the enemy (when a loved one disappears to do jail time or is god knows where because of the substance abuse) vs an ally helping you rebuild a relationship that has been broken.