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Addiction is more than just the statistics we read about in the news. This series of articles about participants from the Fulton County Drug Court is meant to illuminate the human faces behind the numbers. They are all part of our Fulton County family, and they are moms, dads, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons. This is the next article in the series that features the story of Jessica Fonseca, as told to by Carol Tiffany, Drug Court Program Coordinator.
I’m Jessica Fonseca, a 44 year old mother of eight boys and eleven grandchildren. I’m also a recovering addict and will spend the rest of my life fighting this disease. Addiction and alcoholism were never talked about in our family when I was growing up. Consequently, I didn’t recognize the severity of my addiction until it was too late, and I didn’t know how to save myself.
One of my first vivid memories of early childhood was of my brother and I sitting in the backseat of a car crying. My mom was in the driver’s seat screaming. I held my baby brother as my father stood on the hood of the car smashing the windshield with a baseball bat.
He was drunk again. I was five years old and my brother was four years old. My mother ended up in a wheelchair from her injuries, and my father ended up in jail. I never saw my father again after that happened.
My mother went through intensive physical therapy for months before she was finally able to walk again. She was given pain pills during that time, and I believe that started her journey into addiction. Over the next few years, she would go out for days and “party.” One day, she never came back, and we were abandoned by our mother for seven years due to her selfish addictive behavior. Being a child, I was angry at her for leaving because I didn’t understand, as addiction was never discussed in our family.
After my mom abandoned us, my maternal grandparents took over custody and raised my brother and me. They also had a child, my uncle, who was like a second brother to me. Their main focus in life was that family comes first and that you work hard. At a young age, I was taught to cook, clean, and work in the tomato fields after school. I did well in school academically.
I had a lot of friends, played basketball, and participated in cheerleading. For fun on the weekends, we went camping and fishing, played cards, and ate around the campfire. We also went to church every Sunday. I was confirmed in that same church and took my first communion there. While under their watch, I had security and balance in my life and loved them as if they were my parents. They were the stability I had never known with my mom and dad.
When I was twelve, my mother returned and my brother and I went to live with her. I couldn’t understand why and was angry at this turn of events. Mom hadn’t changed and constantly had different men in and out of the house. Instead of being the mother that we needed, she tried becoming our friend. She would buy us alcohol, cigarettes, and let us have parties. I started drinking, skipping school, and smoking weed.
My brother was also attracted to the world of addiction. At the age of twelve, he was a “full-blown” addict. He ruined every relationship he was ever in, except with our mother, and they became “drug buddies.” Addiction led him to a life of crime. His charges ranged from domestic violence to attempted murder. He spent most of his life incarcerated, and he is still in prison to this day at the age of forty-three.
By the time I was fourteen, I had a child with my boyfriend who was eighteen. Three months later, my grandfather died. He was the only stability and real parent I had in my life. I felt I lost everything and didn’t know how to cope with this life event. My grief turned into bitter anger.
At age fifteen, with my mom’s consent, I married my nineteen year old boyfriend and had my second child. By the age of eighteen, I had four kids, got divorced, and became a single mother. My mother had two additional children, both boys, but she disappeared yet again, abandoning those children. I stepped in and became guardian to my two baby brothers and raised them as my own children.
I got remarried at age twenty-two and gained a stepson. As I was so focused on my family, I never dealt with my issues of abandonment, grief, anger, and trauma in my life. My hatred for my mother grew during that time, and I couldn’t understand how she could ever abandon her children. I vowed never to do what she did. I compensated for this by overprotecting and eventually enabling my children. I thought I was in control of everything, but in reality, I realize now I was out of control.
When I was in my late twenties, my uncle, who was raised with me, died at the age of thirty-six. I was devastated by his death, and without any coping skills, I turned to cocaine. It seemed to take away all the pain and fears and became my new “love.” It took over my life for the next few years. I also sold it to support my habit and take care of my family.
One day, I overdosed. I now realized my kids were more important than me. “Who would take care of them?” “What would happen to them if I died?” I quit cold turkey but still didn’t realize I had an addiction. No one in my family ever talked about what happened. For the first time, I was worried about becoming my mother but was able to stay sober for 16 years.
Starting in 2014, I needed a series of surgeries. To manage the pain, pills were introduced into my life, but I abused them. I never thought it was a problem because the pills were prescribed by a doctor.In 2017, I lost my middle child in an auto accident. Life changed drastically for me, and once again, grief made my whole world fall apart. I isolated myself and was so angry with everything and everyone. I turned to the only comfort I knew: drugs and alcohol. With my son gone, I believed life had no purpose.
The prescribed pain pills were not enough to dull my physical and emotional pain, so I started drinking heavily. I also used cocaine and meth which turned me into a completely different person. I manipulated others whenever I could and never cared about anyone’s feelings. I used profanity all the time to intimidate people, and I thought I had to be in control of everyone in my life. In truth, I was totally out of control.
My children were grown when I got my first felony in 2018 and went to jail for the first time. In order to treat my addiction, I was required to attend an inpatient rehabilitation facility for women called Serenity Haven. There, I was taught to deal with my past issues, and I finally learned about addiction. They gave me the tools I needed to cope in a healthy manner. However, I left Serenity Haven early against their advice and relapsed because I didn’t apply the tools I was given. I requested Drug Court and was accepted.
At first, Drug Court was a way to avoid jail, but little did I know, it would become a way of life for me! It became the best decision I had made in a long time. They held me accountable and loved me until I could love and be honest with myself. Drug Court pushed me until I felt like I would break, but I persevered. I was finally changing everything.
Today, I’m preparing for graduation which will be on November 5, 2020. Drug Court opened my eyes to addiction. I am now able to fight this disease and am in recovery. I have a sponsor and an enormous amount of sober support. I’ve changed my people, places, and things as well as my lifestyle. I’ve learned that I can’t control anything but my own actions.
I’ve learned to ask for help and to help others who may be struggling. I will share my experience, strength, and hope in order to give back. I’m learning to use my leadership skills to lead by example but not control or enable. I’ve learned to set boundaries with my children, and I will continue to show my grandchildren the beauty of sobriety.
The promises I made to myself and others are coming true, and I continue to set future goals. Today, I still have obstacles in my life, but I’m able to deal with them free of resentment and anger. I’m able to pray for others and also love myself. I am proud of who I am today.
Advice to an Addict
Change is one of the most difficult things that we, as addicts, face. We don’t like change because we become too comfortable in our lives. We get used to our friends, our homes, our jobs, and our relationships even if they are not healthy or good for us.
We get stuck in the same routine and make the same mistakes instead of changing. Why? Because it is familiar. Even when God blesses us, it doesn’t mean we should continue in our old ways. We need to be open to what God is doing for us now and listen to our hearts.
Change is about moving forward and believing God wants the best for us. We have to evaluate our lives daily and understand that some people are not supposed to be in our lives forever. If we don’t get rid of the wrong people, we won’t meet the right ones. In order for us to be successful in our recovery, we have to embrace positive change and eliminate the past baggage that weighs us down. Change is a way of life. Without change, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
Source: The Village Reporter