My father and mother loved me. They gave their best – it was hard. My father was illiterate. He quit school when he was sixteen. At school, they pushed him aside and called him “retard”. But he was a good provider and a loving man – very holy, very spiritual. We used to be in church an hour after the mass and my mother would say “Nicky, they’re going to lock the doors on us”. We’d be lighting candles. He lived to help others. He was a big, three hundred pound teddy bear. His family meant the world to him.
We didn’t have much growing up, but we had a lot of love. We were a really close Sicilian Italian family in Medford. My father worked for the city and my mother stayed home until my little sister was in school. We had clothes and we were fed. We were lucky to have my grandmother in the house because otherwise we would have been homeless; my grandmother lived on the top floor, my father’s only sibling was on the second, and we were on the first. We ate a lot at my aunt’s. In the summer, we went camping. That’s what my father loved; I never went to Disney world, but it really didn’t bother me.
I was the firstborn. I have special needs, too, but I was a happy child. I struggled through school. Reading was the big thing. I always felt alone, even though I wasn’t. I wanted to try different things. One time that sticks out and really affected me was when I was a Girl Scout. I love the outdoors. It’s quiet and peaceful. The Girl Scouts had a ceramics special. My sister and I were in the same troop. We wanted to continue it. My mother said: “I can’t afford both of you going to the class, and since your sister can paint better, I can’t pay for you to go”. It broke my heart. I never had a whole bunch of friends – my friends were my sister and cousins – and my cousins moved away.
I was about fourteen when I started smoking pot. I wanted to be part of something. I thought: “Why not? I’ll just try it”. I didn’t think anything of it. My father didn’t know. He said: “When you go to high school, if you see someone smoking in a circle – that’s ‘wacky tobacky’ – you don’t do that”. Well, when your father says not to do something, you rebel. I rebelled to a point. I didn’t run away or anything like that. I shoplifted a few times. I think it was just because the others were doing it – and for the thrill. I figured I’d get accepted, but I still felt different.
I joined the Key Club and met someone with whom I’m still friends now. We started doing a couple hits of acid and mescaline, THC pills, and black beauties. Then my father got sick. I used to go to church and sing in the choir. As soon as he got sick, I figured that would be the only way I could lie: “Yeah, daddy, I’m going”. I wasn’t going.
My father couldn’t come to my graduation. I was so proud of myself. I ran right home to show him my diploma. He died at Christmas time.
I did my first line the day after my father died. I thought: “Oh, wow, this is neat”. I was trying to forget everything. I didn’t do it a lot…until I met my husband.
I met my husband when I was nineteen. I knew he did a lot of crime – breaking and entering – but it was exciting. He was paying attention to me. He was so cute and so nice. He came from a broken home. His mother worked three jobs and his eighty year old grandmother watched him. He grew up with brothers who were ten years older than him. At nine years old, he started doing drugs. His brothers stopped, but he didn’t. I started doing B&Es with him. I was still mad at God for taking my father away. We buried him on Christmas Eve and came home to gifts under the tree. I vividly remember hearing my mother say: “What are we going to do?” She was fifty years old when he passed. He was forty eight. According to how I was brought up, you’re not supposed to suffer. That’s what Jesus did – suffered for us. But my father suffered. He couldn’t even get out of bed the day he died. So I was very hurt. In my eyes, if you’re hurting me, I’m going to hurt you.
I would do B&Es once in awhile, and we’d do lines. I didn’t go back to school – didn’t want to. Why bother? “I’m gonna go work for awhile and take the year off,” I said. No matter what I did, it never made my mother happy – at least that’s how I felt. My sister made high honors, and I just wasn’t good enough. When I was younger, I started going to hospitals – any little thing just so my mother would spend time and focus on me.
Before my first son was born, my husband and I went to New York City. My husband said: “I’m going to free base”. I didn’t know what he was talking about. He showed me. Now, I could cook up anything you wanted, but I let him. He always did it. He didn’t want me to touch it and he didn’t want me to get it – he would rather go to jail. We had a short run until I found out I was pregnant. I wanted a baby so much – someone to love me and not judge me. We had been together four years when I got pregnant. I stopped everything. After I had my son, my husband said: “Do you want to do some lines?”
“No,” I said. “I don’t want to, I can’t do that”. But the next time, I thought: “It can’t hurt. I can stop. I stopped when I was pregnant. No problem”.
We were bouncing around place to place, not staying anywhere. I started going back to work but then I stopped. I wanted to be with my son. I loved him and I thought he was my gift. I couldn’t miss anything. My mother stayed home and I wanted to do the same. I didn’t think I was an addict. I quit the free base on my own. I would stop for a little while, mainly because we didn’t have money. My mother-in-law was buying us food. But we had money for drugs – my husband made sure of that.
I lost another baby and then I got pregnant with my daughter. I really wanted her because I was very depressed after my miscarriage. I stopped doing drugs for my daughter, and less than twenty two months later, I had another baby. I stopped through both my pregnancies. My husband was in jail when I had my youngest. After that, it was a nineteen-year-straight run.
On November 13th, 2017, I closed at work. I went home and there were lines waiting for me in my room. I remember doing four. I don’t remember anything else. I must have walked down the stairs, because they found me on the couch. The next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital and someone saying “Susan”. I woke up to a face – I don’t know if it was the nurse. I looked for my husband because he was always there for me. He never showed up. The state police came and said the man had passed. I said “no,” and I was still looking and looking. I saw my oldest walk in with a look on his face and my daughter was crying. She’d found him in the bathtub.
They emptied ten Narcan dispensers up my nose. They didn’t stop at seven (they say they stop at seven). I was ninety-two degrees and blue. I was clinically dead. I had three drip bags in the hospital.
It was fentanyl… pure fentanyl.
I was in the hospital for two weeks before I went to the Process Recovery Center. It was the night before Thanksgiving. I didn’t want to be there, but my son found me the place. He didn’t want me to go to Massachusetts because I would have relapsed. He said: “Mum, do you think dad bought the fentanyl and wanted to take you with him?” My husband had been so depressed and so sick. The last six months were bad. He said: “I’m going to die in this house”.
Although I didn’t want to be in treatment, I learned that an addict will use when it’s in front of them and that my husband and I were codependent on each other. We used together. When he went to jail, I didn’t use. I didn’t want to do it without him. He broke up with me a few times, but I always stuck by him. It wasn’t an easy relationship but we loved each other. We were were together for thirty years before we got married. He was, in his way, an excellent father. He was very strict about school because he dropped out. His adult record is thirty-something pages long. He was talented but he never put it to good use. He should have been a tattoo artist or an illustrator for a comic book. He would do anything for his family, but for the drugs, too. He was a good man, he was just sick.
When my husband died, it was like a piece of me died with him. He was my soulmate and a very compassionate man. I miss him – and I think that’s why my recovery is bittersweet. If he was around, I would probably still be using. I have been given a second chance and I’m not going to throw that away. I’m not going to do it to my kids and I’m not going to do it to myself. It’s very hard. It hurts. I wish he could be here with me. But he’s in a better place… I know he is. He’s not sick or depressed. I love him.
Even though I’m struggling, there are a lot of people there to support me. I didn’t think people cared about me or appreciated me. I’ve got friends, and I’m learning how to be tolerant of people. I let God in and I’m happy with myself now. I’m getting to know my grandson and I’m not saying “sorry” all the time. My husband shows himself to me and it’s comforting.
I have a second chance to be with my kids and to see my youngest walk to that podium in June. That’s going to mean a lot. He still tells me that he’s proud of me – I’m so proud of him! I just wish Mitch could see our family finish growing.
You have to really want recovery: do the program, do the meetings. I didn’t like the first meeting, but it comforts me knowing that I’m not alone. I thought people were going to judge me. It’s not going to happen in a snap – you’ve got to work on it. Get a sponsor. Just do it – let it in. Don’t fight it. It’s hard for everybody, but you need it. You can’t do it on your own. I tried, it doesn’t work. It will work for you if you work at it. Let love in and let people help you.