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Maternal Instinct and Addiction Battle for Control

April 04, 1993|NANCY WRIDE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"I grew up upper middle class. Everything was so square. I thought, 'Ew! Cool! I'm doing something forbidden.' I thought it was so cool. I looked so square; I looked so girl-next-door. I didn't look like the people digging through the trash for things to sell."

With his clean-cut looks and Polo sweaters, her husband didn't look like a drug addict either.

Eighteen months ago they had Alexandra, a sweet-faced baby who Day says shows no signs of drug exposure.

"I didn't know I was pregnant but stopped using when I was three months' pregnant (and found out)," Day said of the codeine. Her husband continued shooting heroin.

She didn't last long after delivering her baby. Soon she and her girlfriends were shooting speedballs, a mix of heroin and cocaine.

"You know it would have to feel pretty great when people give their children, their houses and cars away for it. It's a 30-second rush, and it's like your whole body has an orgasm," Day said with a laugh. "Ten or 15 times a day we were using it.

*

Although she and her husband tried countless times to kick heroin, none of their efforts stuck for long.

One of the problems was that she'd had to leave her daughter behind when she checked into another rehab program, and Day swore she would never willingly part with her again.

It was only after her mother-in-law called a social worker and reported Day's heroin use that she sought rehabilitation help at Heritage House, which contracts with the county of Orange as well as taking private individuals.

She had to wait two months to enter the six-month program, which she pays for with her welfare check.

"I knew I'd lost my (oldest) daughter Sarah emotionally, who was living with her dad, and I was about to lose Alexandra, because my husband's mother would report me."

Now, her husband is in a clean-and-sober facility and struggling but staying off the drugs.

While her children may not suffer physical drug side effects, they suffered from her addiction in more subtle ways, she sees now, with the clarity of a month sober.

"I'd be up doing coke until 4 (a.m.) and sleep till 9, but Alexandra's up at 8. There were days she wouldn't go outside because I was too tired. So Alexandra was neglected in some ways emotionally."

Alexandra, she says, seems rather bright and advanced for her age.

"What I do worry about is in her tiny body; she has the seeds of addiction in her future."

*

Kim Holloway could have the same concerns about her son, Clifton, 4, with whom she has lived the past five months at Heritage House.

Holloway, 23, of Huntington Beach, also grew up middle class, and said she was introduced to speed by the mother of a high school boyfriend who was selling the drug. But she never thought she was an addict because she held a job at Sav-On Drugs and never injected or smoked drugs, she said.

"I got pregnant when I was 18, and I was about five weeks along before I knew I was pregnant," said Holloway, a pretty woman with long brown hair. "I was using heavily. I tried to stop but probably went on using it through my fourth month, then I smoked weed after that.

"I stopped probably about my eighth month, just before I had him," she added. "I'm not sure, but I think it was because he was moving so much more, I guess it hit me that when I did the drugs, he did the drugs. Before that I thought, 'maybe if I just don't use the last month, maybe the baby will be OK.' "

And he was, testing negative for drug exposure.

She breast-fed her son for about four months, she said, and smoked marijuana the whole time.

"As soon as I stopped nursing him I went back to using crystal meth(amphetamines) and smoking grass," Holloway said.

It was only five months ago, after she was reduced to living with her son and a drug dealer in motels and passing the day popping pills, that Holloway finally got help. Her ex-husband confronted her about the ratty way they were living.

She only checked in for help, however, when she thought her son's father might try to take him away from her. Holloway recently registered for classes at Orange Coast College, and when she leaves Heritage House in a few weeks she will continue her studies for a career in drug and alcohol counseling.

Of the four kids in her family, she said, "I keep trying to think, 'Why was I the one who got hooked on drugs?' I came from a normal family. I'm not really sure what got me into it, except I didn't feel I fit in anywhere, and using drugs I was able to be the person I thought I wanted to be."

*

Geri Williams, 36, of Long Beach, loved the biker life. Even after she had her first child 17 years ago, she hung out with the motorcycle set doing speed. Even after she got pregnant again six years ago, she did drugs the whole time, including the day her daughter was born. She knows her little girl is still paying the price.

"She's real hyper, hard to control, and she's been moved around because of my addiction, which has caused her a lot of problems," Williams said.

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