Falling Down a Mountain of Meth
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because there are LOTS of ways to end up in prison.
By Anne Emerson
It was 1997. The summer I graduated from high school. A group of my friends and I were going to a Pink Floyd laser light show in downtown Minneapolis.
They were all drinking. Me? I wasn’t a big fan of alcohol, so I was the sober cab.
“It’s not as fun if you aren’t messed up. I got some crank for all of us,” said one of the guys. So five of my best girlfriends and I locked ourselves in the bathroom at my boyfriend’s parents’ house, feeling scared, nervous and excited all at the same time.
It was 1, 2, 3, GO — and we all did our first lines together.
I was surrounded by police. My parents had told them I was there.
I instantly felt a rush of energy and … happiness. From then on and for the next few years, I used only on an occasional weekend: I was going to college and wasn’t going to let my use interfere.
I was almost done with my medical assistant degree though when I began using more to help me stay up to study.
Then I started to use every day. I ended the term with a C average.
My using continued for many years after that. So in 2005 I went to my first in-patient treatment. I had a son who was 15 months old, and it was time to grow up and be a mother. I worked full-time and took care of my son, but I was a functioning addict. And a mom.
By the summer of 2010 I was supposed to do 20 days in the Anoka County workhouse for a DUI charge I’d gotten for driving during an Ambien blackout. I never made it to the workhouse though: I relapsed on meth and a warrant was put out for my arrest.
My parents were furious. My son was sad and scared, and wondering why his mom couldn’t come to see him for two long months. The police had been to my parents’ looking for me, so my parents wouldn’t let me see my son. I had never not been with my son for more than a day, and now, because I was running from the law, I would be without him all summer.
But he was going to start kindergarten in the fall, and I was determined to be at the bus stop to see my son off to his first day of school. So I ducked and dodged the police for two months, and somehow, by the grace of God, I made it to that bus stop.
I put my son on the bus and was walking back to my parents’ house to go turn myself in, but as soon as the bus drove away, I was surrounded by police. My parents had told them I was there.
Additionally, the police had found the meth I’d had in my purse, which I’d left on the backseat of my mom’s car when I’d gone to the bus stop. August 2011, a year later, I was charged with third-degree possession of a controlled substance for the meth they’d found, and was sentenced to 24 months in prison.
I had just done 90 days in jail and nine months of in-patient treatment, so they stayed the rest of my prison sentence. I wouldn’t have to serve the time as long as I remained sober and law-abiding.
Which I did. For three years. In September 2014, though, I relapsed.
On November 24, 2014, I went back to court, and heard the words I feared and hoped to never hear: You are to execute forthwith the 24 months, and are hereby committed to the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Corrections.
I didn’t get the normal 30 days in jail. I had to execute my entire sentence. I wasn’t going home.
I had to call home to my son and tell him Mommy wasn’t coming home, not for 13 months. My son was only 6. He didn’t quite understand what all that meant other than Mommy wasn’t going to be there to tuck him into bed at night.
My parents were disappointed, hurt and angry. My dad had always made sure I had money on the jail phone account so I could call home to my son, but this wasn’t my first time in jail. It was my first time in prison, and now my dad refused to put money on the phone.
Prison was nothing like I expected. There was no fence at the time. There were no bars on our cells. It was like a college campus. Almost.
The way they make prison look on TV had me scared for my life, but in reality, prison in Minnesota was nothing like prison on TV. Doing prison time was easy. Everyone either works every day or goes to school.
Really, the worst part of prison is mental and emotional: being away from your kid, family and friends. You have no choice but to be sober. There are no drugs for you to turn to so you can numb the pain, shame and guilt. You are forced to deal with them.
I spent many long, lonely nights lying awake in my bunk, soul-searching, thinking about how much I had lost because of my addiction. Not being the mom my son needed me to be was the most painful of them all. I was committed to redefining myself while behind those prison walls, so when I went home I’d be the best version of me.
Every Saturday my parents brought my son to visit. I hated that he had to see me this way, and I prayed it wouldn’t be too damaging to him.
But I signed up for the parenting and meditation classes, and I worked out in the gym every day. Sometimes I hit the gym five times in a day. I was committed to keeping a positive attitude so I would feel good about myself inside and out. I attended church to strengthen my connection with God. I was not going home the same broken-down, strung-out meth addict I’d been when I went in.
On December 8, 2015, when I walked out of those prison doors, I felt like a whole new person. My mind was clear, I had set goals for myself and I felt like a new person ready for a new life. Outside those doors, waiting with a big ol’ homemade sign he’d made himself, was my son.
He came running to me with open arms and the world’s biggest hug. It didn’t matter to him that I’d made mistakes. His love for his mom was unconditional, and that unconditional love is what got me through prison.
Today, I have my life back. I am sober, a working member of society and law-abiding. I have my own place to live, and, best of all, I am the mom my son needs me to be.
- Anne Emerson, OZY Author Contact Anne Emerson