Only One Choice


At twenty-three, I gave birth to my first child, born in the middle of summer. Typically, women are ecstatic when they give birth, especially to their firstborn. I was not. Due to my situation, I did not leave the hospital with my baby. In fact, the moment the hospital staff told me I would not be taking my son home was the moment I fell into a deep, dark place. It would take me years to get out of it.

An Alternate Reality

My son was born a healthy little boy, but there was a problem. He had opiates in his system. I thank God to this day he was not born addicted, unlike his mother. I was a heroin addict, a junkie, and I rationalized my using for years. Even while I was pregnant. After he was born, I somehow, in my alternate reality, thought everything was going to be okay. I thought my little bundle of joy was coming home with me. I mean, nobody told me any differently. To this day, I have no clue what I thought was going to happen. If he had come home with me, I had no suitable place for him to live. I was staying in a cockroach-infested single room above a bar. I was not allowed to have children there. Hell, there was only supposed to be one person living in that room, but my heroin-addict boyfriend and I lived there together without management knowing.

Ten minutes before I was due to leave with my son, the nurse came in and said I was not taking my baby. I didn’t have to ask why—I knew. My mother came to pick us up, and I told her what was happening without even glancing at her. I can remember her yelling at me while I walked out of the hospital room with tears streaming down my face.

Next thing I knew, I was getting off the bus so I could go behind a building to shoot up. I was sick; I couldn’t wait till I got home. It was that day I realized it was over. The moment I had to walk away from my child, I knew life—if you could call it a life—was about to get a lot worse.

Living to Get High

I lived to get high. My daily routine consisted of heroin: getting heroin, committing crimes to get money, and doing more heroin. This was a routine for years.

There were certain things that I simply wouldn’t do. I still had morals. I had standards. At least I thought I did, up until this point—up until they took my child, or I gave up my child. It depends how you want to look at. Honestly, I still look at it both ways.

The next year or so was a downward spiral of jail stints, rehabs, and committing crimes. My son’s father and I were still heroin addicts. Worse than ever. I had always held a job, no matter how bad my addiction was. But being that we were now homeless, I had no job. We didn’t live on the street; we just bounced around from house to house, staying with other heroin addicts. When we had nothing left to offer, or the people got evicted, we moved on.

Eventually, my boyfriend and our friend were robbing houses. Sometimes a few houses a day. It was quick, easy money. They never let me go with them when they were robbing homes. I stayed in a hotel room, or even out in the middle of the woods. It all depended where we were at that particular moment.

They ended up going to state prison.

Finding Rock Bottom

Out of our original group of friends, they all went to state prison—one by one, every few months. I was the only girl out of all of us. I don’t think that matters. Maybe they thought girls were frail, or they were trying to be men and protect me from the cruel harshness of robbery. Who knows why they never let me go with them. They figured I would be happier not locked up for years. Truth be told, I was furious.

I mean, think about the bigger picture: everyone left me. Those boys were my family. I burnt my bridges with my mom and dad long ago. They were all I had, and they were gone. Not knowing what to do, I went to rehab. From there, I ended up in the cold and lonely streets of the big city. The extent of it didn’t hit me until one particular day.

I was homeless, lying under the bridge on a sleeping bag with the other homeless folks. (They are really nice, actually. People have the wrong picture of homeless people.) I learned how to panhandle, where to shower, where to eat. As a cute, young girl. I almost always had money.

I would say 99% of homeless people are drug addicts. They lost everything and ended up with nothing. Some homeless people work, others panhandle, and still others commit crimes. We all had one common goal: get money for drugs. Living under a bridge or in a train tunnel has its benefits. Yes, there are no showers or toilets. On the other hand, you don’t have to worry about bills, rent, or in this case, sharing your drugs with anyone. In the dead of winter, you could find someone’s house to crash at in exchange for a bag of dope.

One Sunday morning, I woke up already dope sick. The city was dead; it was like a ghost town. I was too weak to even stand. I knew that if I had to hold a sign for money, I would most likely be there all day, and I physically could not do it. I remember lying under the bridge, throwing up, shaking violently, and twitching. I was going through heroin withdrawal. The only thing I could think of was that it was going to get worse if I didn’t do something. It was going to get so much worse.

I looked like a corpse as I got up and forced myself to walk up to the main street. I saw a prostitute and her boyfriend waiting for a trick to pull up. I knew what I had to do. I walked over and said, “How do I do this? What do I have to do?” The girl said, “Oh my gosh, look at you.” She pointed to a car that had just pulled over. I climbed in the car and sucked off some guy for $30. It took five seconds, and I ran out of the car and straight to my dealer. Within two minutes I felt instantly better. I couldn’t believe how easy that was—and what fast money that was. Why the heck had I been wasting my time begging for money?

The Defining Moment

That was the moment that my life as a junkie got even worse. For the next few years, I was a panhandling prostitute who made money all day long. I was in and out of jail for different things—possession, paraphernalia, disturbing the peace, prostitution, etc. My way of living was out of control. I would date the drug dealers and use them until they had nothing left. I was still a pretty girl, and a junkie becomes a master manipulator.

Then one day I met my match, this guy who had just gotten out of state prison. Boy, was he something that I wanted. Tall, muscular, and handsome. What would he want with a junkie whore like me?

That guy and I ended up dating and forming a serious relationship. Sadly, I dragged him down to my level until he left his home and was living under a bridge with me, getting high. Yet, I felt we were unstoppable. He was a thug, and I was his girl. This was everything I always wanted, right? At least that's what I thought then.

But then, I got pregnant. For the second time in my life, I was a pregnant heroin addict, worse than ever, with warrants out for my arrest, and living under a bridge.

I knew right then that I couldn’t do it. I could not lose another child to the disease of addiction. My significant other told me he couldn’t do it—he would go crazy. And I believed him.

For weeks, my mind raced with thoughts. I wanted a magic solution. I was getting dope sick faster and quicker. I had no prenatal care—due to the outstanding warrants, I couldn’t get county medical assistance.

At last, I realized I had one choice and one choice only. It was the hardest decision I have ever made, but I knew what had to be done: I was going to jail. There was no other solution. 

If I turned myself in, every problem I was facing would be fixed. I wouldn’t be dope sick anymore: because I was pregnant, they would automatically put me on methadone. (There is a lot more to it, but that is the final result.) I would be able to get prenatal care for my child in jail. Plus, my legal issues would be getting resolved, so I could get on county assistance if I ever got released. My only fear was that I would have my baby while in jail, meaning the state would have custody until the baby’s father stepped in, which he would. Also, I had nowhere to go if I ever got out.

No Looking Back 

That fatal moment where I turned myself in was almost four years ago. I am now clean and sober, and have been ever since. Yes, I am in methadone maintenance treatment, and it saved my life. I am tapering off as I should, monitored by the medical staff. I will be off of methadone completely in a little over a year. My daughter, whom I was pregnant with in jail, is now three years old, and I also have a one-year-old son. We have a beautiful home. Yes, I am now married to that wonderful man. I am no longer on probation or parole, and I have not been back to jail. I am currently working part-time and am a stay-at-home mom. In the meantime, I am pursuing my dream of helping women in recovery and pregnant mothers in methadone maintenance treatment.

While that decision was one of the hardest decisions I ever made, it was the defining moment of my life. I took a chance, and I ran with it. The outcome is unbelievable, and I am eternally grateful. My family is a big part of my life, and my firstborn son is going on ten years old. He knows I am his mother, and I am building a relationship with him. He knows I love him and that, at the time he was born, I wasn’t in the state of mind or position to care for a child. Even though I would do anything to change it, I can’t. I was a bad person. All he says is that he is glad I am better now. He doesn’t know that person. None of my children do, and luckily, they never will. I dug myself out of the trench of addiction, and I am a new person in recovery.


Natasha is a recovering addict, loving mother to three beautiful children, advocate of medicine-assisted treatment, and an active animal rights activist. She believes every living creature has the right to be loved and treated with dignity. She is the founder of Maintaining Miracles, a blog dedicated to empowering women in recovery. The focus of Maintaining Miracles is to inspire, empower, support, and guide women to live they life they have always dreamed. She knows that creating a life after the chaos of addiction is both exciting and scary, and she is there to ease the transition, to help other women every step of the way so they can build a new life while finding themselves.

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