By Candice Wells
Sitting on the toilet seat, tears rolling down my cheeks, I stared at the six dollar store pregnancy tests in front of me. All of them read positive. All of them confirmed that I was yet another statistic: a teen mom. I was less than halfway through my senior year at an alternative high school. I was not capable of putting gas in my car before running out, let alone being responsible for another human being, but yet here I was.
Fast forward five years later, and I had everyone convinced that I was okay. I managed to finish a college course in personal training, became an assistant manager at a local gym, and had my own apartment. I was constantly being told how strong, independent, and confident I was as a single mom doing it all on her “own.” So, I thought to myself that I must be okay. However, I could feel this giant hole growing inside me, and I didn’t know how to fill it. I was constantly trying to fill it with clothes, boys, home décor, and being the best “mom” I could be. Even though I had the most beautiful little girl in the world saying to me “I love you Mom,” I was only certain of one thing: I would fail her. There were so many black and white rules telling me how to be a good mother, and I was falling short of most of them. I was able to provide for her financially. Working twelve-hour days, I was able to make sales goals and provide her with her wants and needs, but I was ignoring the fact that I was not meeting her emotional needs. At this time, I was aware that I was not going to be able to maintain this lifestyle. Working 60 hours a week, cooking dinners, helping with homework, cleaning house, and play dates were becoming unmanageable. I was constantly checking social media to see where I ranked with the other moms in the community. With the game I was playing in my head, I was always falling short, and always failing Brooklyn.
Then the day came when I found my solution through a prescription for pain meds from IUD pain. I found a way to carry the weight of the world that society (and myself) had put onto my shoulders. These “magical” pills also helped fill the void that was so big inside of me. I ignored all the signs that suggested this was a bad decision. I saw families all around me falling a part because of opiate addiction (including my own; Brooklyn’s father is no longer in our life because of his own demons with it). I became blind with only one thing on my mind: this is how I will do it all.
Five years into maintaining this addiction, my life seemed to be blooming on the outside. I had a high-paying career in a corporate office, and was looking into purchasing a house in Seattle. Again, the world was telling me I was okay. What they didn’t know was that I was a junky who had to meet a dealer daily to maintain this look. With my mom hair cut and new outfit from The Loft, I sat in an Albertson’s parking lot my entire lunch break getting high. I hated myself and I wanted to die. I felt like a fraud.
One day, I found myself making some desserts for a birthday party, and of course posting pictures of my daughter helping me on social media in order to keep up appearances. The reality was that I wouldn’t allow my 10-year-old to actually participate in baking because the outcome might not be picture-perfect. I decided that I needed a break, and that I deserved a night out with the girls. So I go out drinking, but with the opiates in my body I became heavily intoxicated quickly. I met a stranger, and he let me know he had drugs in car. I followed him out to the parking lot, and before I know it I was paying for a hotel for the both of us. I kept thinking to myself, “What kind of mother does this? He could kill me!” But that wasn’t the scariest part. The scariest part was that I suddenly got a sense of relief at the idea of death. I welcomed it. I wouldn’t have to keep my secret anymore. The wheels were falling off my bus quickly, and this was a way out. I had no idea what to do anymore. I was already dead inside.
The next day I found myself in a treatment center. When I told my daughter that I was “going away for depression for 30 days,” she wouldn’t even look at me. I knew then I was powerless over how others perceived me. My secret was out. Bring on all the shame and guilt. Everyone now knew that I was “a junky piece of shit,” which is how I saw myself. My friends and family would start to tell me how they missed “the old Candice,” but I had no idea who that was. I knew Brooklyn’s mom, Mike’s ex-girlfriend, the girl who climbs the corporate ladder. But I didn’t even know what my favorite color was.
As the drugs started to leave my system and my brain became clear, I caught myself laughing. Not the laugh I would often fake because it was expected from me, but a deep belly laugh, feeling happiness for the first time in a long time. I was finally able to start to let go of what the outside looked like and I started to look inside to find my answers. I started looking to a higher power to tell me I’m ok. The more I let people in the more I get let go of these ridiculous standards I held myself to. I also learned that most people were focused on themselves and not how I was ranking against them. I started connecting with other people who understood the pits of hell that I just barely escaped. These people—other addicts and alcoholics— didn’t judge me for not being the best mom, but accepted that I was sick and offered me a solution. We didn’t look the same and we all came from different backgrounds, but we had one thing in common: we were breaking free from the bondage of addiction. We were being healed by speaking the truth and accepting reality.
The reality is this. My favorite color is purple and I love rap music. I like to post inappropriate things online including half-naked pictures. The reality is I love my daughter and I love being a mom. The reality is I am still growing and learning more about myself every day. The truth is, although society tells me it’s not ok to be imperfect, I am; I am human and I am learning to be okay with that. The truth is that all the pain and trauma I have gone trough and put myself through is worth it if I can touch even one other woman out there who might have felt similar.
The truth is “even though I’m not picture perfect I’m worth the picture still” - J Cole