I am a girl from the New Jersey suburbs, born into an Irish-Catholic family riddled with alcoholism and drug addiction. My parents grew up two blocks from each other, and raised my brother and I in the town that they grew up in. My dad worked for the Elevator Union and my mom was a legal secretary for the police department where we lived. Early on, I was well aware that my family was as dysfunctional as they come, my parents were divorced by the time I was 3, my brother was maybe 18 months old. Growing up my mom instilled in us that the divorce was our father’s fault, “he never came home after work”, “that bar is more important than his family”. Really sick stuff to tell your young children, but it happens every day. She painted him as a villain, and although we never treated him like one, I came to find out many years later that she was in fact the homewrecker.
My mother was mentally ill, that much was for sure. From my own diagnosis, she had bipolar mania and maybe a split personality, but I have no doctors supporting that. We were with her on the weekdays and my dad every weekend. My father loved her, and he still does, with every ounce of his being. Whatever she wanted, she got. They were divorced and spoke on the phone every day, sometimes multiple times a day. They were “seeing” each other, while seeing other people. You can imagine how completely confusing this was for me as a kid, like ok they are not married and they don’t live together and they date other people… but… THEY’RE STILL TOGETHER. Needless to say, a healthy relationship is something that was never ever modeled for me, and it is a very strong indicator of why I am the way I am in relationships.
My mom started a pill addiction after one of her boyfriend’s beat her. It started with Vicodin and then increased slowly but surely (although it seems super fast paced when I think about it now) into doctor shopping and ultimately heroin. The things my mother did for drugs, the people who lied for her and enabled her, it absolutely disgusted me back then. But if I’m being completely honest, there was something about her horrible lifestyle that was so appealing and it drew me in. There were car accidents, sometimes we were in the car with her, sometimes we weren’t. The cops were called countless times because she had overdosed or fallen out and we didn’t know if she was alive or dead. The cops would come and put us all back to bed and then leave. Remember, she worked for them. Child services should have been involved, or at the very least my father. But no one would cross my mother, not us, not the cops she worked with, not even her mother. My mom was 5 feet tall and maybe 120 lbs, but this woman was scary. She was kryptonite to my father and she scared the hell out of us kids. She had a look in her eye that would make the devil flinch.
My mother died not long after starting her love affair with heroin. I was 10 or 11 and my brother was 8. The moment my father told us that our mom had passed away, was when I found my first drug of choice: anger. All the anger I had toward my mom for all the years of neglect and secrecy just came pouring out. I went into middle school and it was like the perfect storm of anger and insecurity meets experimenting with drugs and alcohol. It was put to me perfectly many years later, one of my therapists told me .. “Corinne, you had to be an adult at such a young age, you had to take care of everything for your mom and raise your brother and keep all the secrets, so after your mom passed it was like you could be a child again, a child you never had the opportunity to be. It just so happens that this was also a time when everyone around you, and everyone your age is experimenting with substances. Basically you put a bottle of vodka in a toddlers hands on the playground and the end result is you.”
Anger plus adolescence plus grief plus freedom equaled a very, very messy Corinne. By the time I was a sophomore in high school I was taking Oxy Codone every day before school, Xanax a few times a week, weed definitely every day. Weekends were about cocaine and alcohol, sometimes I’d go to school drunk. I just did not want to feel ANYTHING. I was always in trouble. My dad was trying to be an understanding parent but at the same time trying to keep me on a semi short leash. Nothing worked. I did what I wanted, I lied, I cheated, I stole, I had every single “ism” you could have even before I put a substance of any kind into my body.
A year after high school was when the heroin started. I went to my first treatment center when I was 19 years old, and I immediately went into the shuffle of rehab, halfway house, relapse, back to detox, rehab, halfway house, so on and so forth. My pattern consisted mostly of going to rehab because I was sick and “ready” and then as soon as I felt better, I’d find a guy and we’d leave together. That was quite the formula for picking winners let me tell you. They were usually the most messed up person in the place because that made me feel better about me. I always described myself as a “caregiver” but you really cannot help anyone until you help yourself. Oxygen mask on the plane kinda thing. Regardless, it was a way of distracting myself from looking at ME, because oh my God I did not want to look at me.
After moving to Florida and going to treatment for the third time, I did kind of well, and I went back home to New Jersey. My dad had me back on a plane to Florida within exactly 30 days. After getting off that plane, I met my daughter’s father and almost immediately was pregnant. I want to keep it really real and let you all know that I used my entire pregnancy. That’s just the truth, and it sucks. But it’s my truth. My daughter is perfect in every way and there is only one reason: God was looking out for all of us. My daughter was eventually taken by DCF and it was the single most horrific thing I have ever been through in my entire life. I will never forget that feeling. I will never forget putting my daughter in a car and watching a mini van pull out of my driveway with her in it and not knowing where she was going, who would be taking care of her, and for how long. I have tears in my eyes right now, and every time I think about that day.
But guess what, THAT STILL WASN’T ENOUGH TO GET ME SOBER. I went to treatment AGAIN. I met a guy AGAIN. I left treatment with said guy and went on a nasty run for a good year. I was homeless in a car that I bought with money I should have never had. I was maybe 100 lbs. I ate a pop tart as my one and only meal maybe twice a week. I WAS A MESS. My daughter, was being well taken care of by friends of my family (another bullet I dodged by having people who were license foster parents). I missed her first steps, her first words, her first birthday and Christmas, I missed it all. And when I finally saw her again, she didn’t know who I was. What they say about not being able to get sober for anyone but YOU, it’s the damn truth.
I have suffered many consequences. At 14 years old I was raped. I have been homeless, I have lost countless friends and family members to the disease of addiction. I have lost custody of my child. I have had hepatitis C and then my body fought it off. I have completely sold my soul. I have cost my family, especially my father, many nights of sleep and certainly peace of mind. God knows I cost him MONEY. My brother didn’t speak to me for almost 5 years. The hole that I had in my soul and in my heart was never filled, no matter how high I got or how much drugs I did. It was only filled when I finally gave up, gave in, and surrendered.
I went to treatment one last time in 2015, and I was told that my daughter was going to be put up for adoption because I didn’t get sober. In that moment, something in me changed, it clicked, it became clear. I told myself that even if she got adopted, I would stay sober. Because even if I never had custody of her again, my daughter was going to know that I fought for her. My sobriety date is December 15, 2015. IT CAN BE DONE. Getting sober really is the best damn decision I ever made in my life. After 9 months of sobriety, and working hard on loving myself again, getting a real job, humbling myself, finding a God of my understanding and utilizing him to the best of my ability every single day, I got custody of my daughter back. They told me this wasn’t possible, they told me once a case goes into adoption it can’t be reverted back to reunification. IT DID THOUGH. That wasn’t me, it was GOD, it was the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, my family, and my boyfriend. I could not have done it without the help I had from all of them. A lot of the time it was tough love, but I needed that. They had a right to be angry with me, but they never turned their backs. They supported my sobriety and they put me in my place when I needed it. Thank you, you guys, I love you all so much.
If you are struggling, I hope my story gives you some hope. I hope you find it within yourself to try, to reach out for help, to go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and get a sponsor. It is never ever too late to change your life. I was the girl who was NEVER going to get sober. I was the girl who was going to follow in her mothers footsteps and repeat the cycle. No. Not me. I am breaking the cycle, and you can too.
Some say a geographical change is needed, some say “you can get high anywhere”. I believe both are true. For me, I have lived in New Jersey, Philadelphia, and all over the east coast of South Florida from Jupiter to Miami. It doesn’t matter where you go, there you are. So no matter where you are, REACH OUT. Someone will help you. We give back to those what was so freely given to us. We will help you. Please, if I could just put my sobriety in a box and give it to you, I would. Unfortunately and fortunately, this is an inside job. You will be amazed before you are halfway through.