Don’t blame yourself… cause that’s what we do… addicts in general blame ourselves for everything and that’s what kills you… is holding on to that guilt and shame. It will make you go back out and use drugs. If you put that blame on yourself. Because I know I’m a different person whenever I’m using. I’m not, I don’t care about anyone and that’s just with everyone that I’ve met. So don’t blame yourself for things that have happened like in your addiction. Because that makes you who you are and that’s why I’m telling my story because it might help somebody else.
I’m Amber Lynn Nichols, I’m twenty-four, I’ll be twenty-five in like two weeks. I grew up in a very abusive household, like physically, mentally, emotionally and I was a very confused kid because not only was I getting abused physically and mentally, like my step dad and my half-brother were molesting me at the same time.
So I was like eight years old and all these people like said they hated me and they didn’t want me part of their family, they called me it because I wasn’t a human being, I wasn’t allowed to eat with them, like just really like twisted stuff.
My dad was like in and out of my life and he was an addict and I always remember like packing my bags and waiting outside for him to show up and he would never show up. Like he was just never there. But then when I was eleven, my dad introduced me to like drugs and alcohol and I started drinking and I started doing Percocet and Xanax and Adderall and before I knew it, I was like doing it every day.
That just like kinda helped me cope with the fact of what was going on and it helped me escape. Because all my life like I felt like I wasn’t good enough, like nobody loved me, I wasn’t good enough. And like that stayed with me my whole addiction.
And whenever I‘d drink and do drugs like… I felt good enough, you know? I never, I never felt good enough but whenever I’d drink and do drugs I did. Like nothing mattered. As soon as I took a drink or as soon as I did drugs nothing mattered.
I grew up in Cuba, Missouri. It’s a small town like a thousand people. There wasn’t much to do there so I hung out with kids that got high.
And my mom was so different back then. Like she was very codependent and she would do anything just to make a guy happy, so whenever he was abusive like she wouldn’t argue with him because she just wanted to be loved and we were like poor and we met my step dad and he was rich and so he was like ‘Oh I’m gonna save you,’ kinda thing like… and then he just turned into an abusive asshole.
My dad was, he was just, always my best friend, like he was not a dad. Like I can never honestly say he was a father because he wasn’t, like he was my using buddy.
Whenever I would go over to his house it was like socially acceptable for me to be drinking… so I loved going there and um, I just remember getting really drunk and he would take away all my liquor because I would just be outrageous. Like one time I broke somebody’s nose while I was drunk and my dad took away my vodka and then he gave it back to me because he was like ‘You don’t know how to control your liquor,’ like but I was really young so like of course I didn’t.
By the time I was sixteen, let me just fast forward a little bit… My mom had left my stepdad because she had suspicion like he was molesting me and she just was unhappy finally so she left him and by the time I was sixteen, I was always hanging out with older people because they were always getting drugs and drinking and so I started shooting up meth when I was sixteen and but my whole life, like pills, like opiates were a constant, like no matter what, I was still doing opiates, like I mixed in every drug there was but opiates were always there.
My mom had no idea, like that I was on drugs like she had no idea um, like the cops would bring me home and stuff when I was fourteen, they would like knock on the door and I’m like wasted, they’re like ‘We found your daughter in the back seat of two twenty-three year old males car and she was passed out,’ ha yeah like, I was uncontrollable.
Like my mom would ground me, I would sneak out, get arrested all the time, but um my mom would um… after she left my stepdad, me and her did not talk and she blamed me for us having to move out and her leaving him, um, we never talked about what she thought he was doing or anything but she ended up getting with another guy named Chris, and Chris hated me. He would like call me a worthless monster and just say I was no good, she should just ship me off and get rid of me.
And so my mom tried. She tried to put me in this place called Boys and Girls Town, its for like juvenile kids, like kids that have charges and stuff but I never had charges stick on me so when she tried to ship me off it didn’t work and he left her and he said it’s my fault because I was, you know, no good, blah, blah, blah, he couldn’t get rid of me…. and so my mom when he left her she’s like ‘I hate you, I wish I never had you,’ and I remember writing her a note saying that I was so sorry that he left her. And I just wanted to be her friend and she ripped it all out, like ripped it into pieces, threw it in my face and left.
I hated her, I hated my mom for a long time. Like, it just… I couldn’t, I couldn’t stand her and then on my sixteenth birthday we were going to the city because she was like ‘I’m gonna buy you a present,’ so I- I bought my car myself, and we got there and I said my foot hurt from driving cause it was like an hour and a half and I had just got my car. And she was like, ‘You’re an ungrateful little bitch, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,’ and she was just going off and we climbed back in the car and she was like, ‘fuck it, just get in the car.’ So she’s driving my car but she’s screaming at me and so I’m yelling at her back and she just reaches over and she backhands me. She had a ring on and it chipped my tooth. And I called my dad through like, I stuck the phone in my sleeve and I called my dad and my dad heard everything and my mom thought like I was talking to myself, like cause I was trying to explain where we were and um, I explained where we were and the cops came.
And she ended up getting DFS involved which is like [The Department of ] Family Services, um, they were at our house for like six months.
They came in and she was like oh, well like this is how she is, she doesn’t listen, she doesn’t show up for curfew, like she won’t listen to one thing I say and DFS told her, ‘Let her do what she wants, she’s just a teenager, she’s going through a phase.’
When I lost my virginity when I was fourteen, she pulled me out of school and homeschooled me but she had two jobs and she was in college, so she was never there, so I didn’t do any homework, and I would leave and go get high all day and then come back you know.
I always got shipped off places. So when I was nineteen I started getting shipped off to rehabs, um, because I’d be like, ‘Ah, I can’t do this, I want help,’ and they would ship me off to Florida, Mississippi, Chicago, Jersey, Philly and when I got shipped here I went to detox in Jersey and I AMA’d which is like leaving against medical advice, with some guy and I hitchhiked all the way from Tom’s River to Camden and they were like, ‘Oh no, I know a place you’ll love, Kensington, its zombie land, you’ll love it, everybody walks around nodding out, like they got the best dope, like you’ll love it.’ And that’s how I ended up in Kensington.
In my addiction I was a prostitute and I was a stripper but I put the prostitution behind me so I decided to strip in South Philly and so I, I didn’t sleep for the whole two weeks like I was so scared because I didn’t know where I was and I looked around me and the shit I saw… So I would like sit at bus stops and I would like nod out but as soon as I would come to, I would get back up and keep walking again. And the guy that I left rehab with wanted more drugs off me one night when I got off work from stripping and I told him no and he pulled a knife out and chased me and he was trying to kill me or whatever, I don’t know what he was trying to do, he was trying to rob me but… um, I got away from him and then I was just alone, in Kensington… yeah, it was not a fun time.
I was like on crack and heroin, so, like if I was feeling tired I would do crack but like, I’ve always loved heroin, I’ve never, if I, hands down you hand me like any drug, I will always choose heroin. Like, if I could use successfully without the consequences I would.
I always had sugar daddy’s, everywhere I went, like even when I was homeless in Kensington, my sugar daddy’s from St. Louis were sending me money. Yeah, so like, how I explain it was, I was a snake, like, I would slither into your life and I would stick my fangs in you and I would suck all you had out, like your emotions, your money, everything I could take from you I would, and when you didn’t have anything left for me I would leave, like, that’s just how I was. It was bad, it was a horrible way [to live], like I’m doing my step 4 right now and I really got to look at myself and how bad I hurt people.
I was engaged 3 times at the same time with all different people that thought I actually loved them and I didn’t, I loved heroin. I didn’t love anybody else, you know. I loved heroin more than I loved my son. I can say that because I know that it’s true. That’s all you think about, all you care about. And every time I would do heroin I would always mix Fentanyl and Xanax together and every time I would do it I would just wish I wouldn’t wake up. I would sit there and pray like, ‘Please do let me wake up.’ And I would overdose and they would Narcan me. And I didn’t overdose for a long time but then I started overdosing, like 3 years of straight heroin addiction and never overdosed, then I started overdosing.
In October of last year, um, me and my boyfriend, my boyfriend was sober, I was sober, I got paralyzed by a chiropractor and I was in Jefferson for a month and a half and they were giving me opioids for the pain. And I got out and I last like a week. I went to Kensington got drugs, yeah, that’s where everybody goes. And I used and then I set it right down and I went to a meeting. I had a week clean and then my boyfriend who had a year and three months came over and he was high. And instead of like saying… well I did try to call someone but he didn’t want me to call anybody. But instead of saying like get out, like I can’t be around you, I did what I always did. Like in every one of my relationships it was a using relationship so I was like if I use with him nothing bad can happen. And so I used with him and we went to Kensington, got more drugs, came back to his spot and then the last thing he said to me was, “I love you,” and “we’re not doing this tomorrow.” And I nodded out, when I woke up, he was having trouble breathing, but you know like with heroin like, sometimes people like have trouble breathing but they come out of it, so I threw water on him, I smacked him and I snorted another bag instead of calling 911 and I nodded back out. And when I woke up he wasn’t breathing. He was dead. And I have no idea for how long because I was out you know… and for three days after that I thought, I was in such denial that I thought he was alive but nobody was telling me. And I went to detox, but they had hit me with Narcan, when the ambulance got there, because by the time they got me to the hospital I had overdosed… so, but I didn’t like eat or sleep or drink anything for like 8 days, the whole time I was in detox because I just hated myself so much, cause anybody in their right mind who wasn’t on drugs would call 911. But my thing was, he’s not overdosing, let me snort a bag and figure out how to deal with this situation. Like that’s how you think on heroin. Like let me get high so I know how to deal with this situation.
Like, I get in my head about being on Suboxone because I was in NA and as soon as I got put on Suboxone my sponsor told me I wasn’t clean and I couldn’t claim to be. I, I thought about just giving up when she said that to me. Thank God I didn’t, but when she told me that I was like, ‘Why should I even do this thing?’ Like I couldn’t share and say, ‘Hey I have thirty days clean.’ She’s like, ‘You can’t do that.’ I was furious, I was in tears, I was like, ‘I’m not welcome?’ And I had been a member of NA for a year and I had all my friends there and everyone I asked said, ‘You’re not clean.’ All my sober friends told me, ‘You’re not clean.’ If I didn’t go to AA (instead of NA) I wouldn’t have stayed clean. I wouldn’t have…
If you were to tell my mom like, ‘Your daughter shouldn’t be on MAT.’ She would be like, ‘Well she would be dead.’
I mean I don’t run around with a sign on my head sayin’ hey I’m on Suboxone but the people that are close to me know. And like my boyfriend knows. He’s an alcoholic, he’s in sobriety, he has like 8 months clean. He knows I’m on Suboxone and he said okay. Like, I’m in psychology in school and I’ve seen the statistics of the maintenance combine with recovery and its positive. Like I don’t even care if you’re high and you come into a meeting. Maybe, in-between like nods or whatever, you’ll hear something that makes you come back. You know, you need to accept people at where they’re at. Like I’m a big fan of harm reduction. Because some people aren’t ready so like what can we do, like, don’t use alone, you know, use clean needles, don’t share needles… I shared needles! I’m really lucking I didn’t get anything. I was a sex worker! I’m really lucky I didn’t get anything. You know but, people are so easy to push people away because they are not where they want them to be.
In this stage of my recovery I try not to put myself closer to a drink or a drug. Have I helped people? Have I thrown out their drugs before in recovery? Yeah. I brought my friend Brandon when I had six months clean, I brought him to detox. I was just picking him up to bring him to a meeting and I talked him into going to detox, he’s been clean ever since. He has a year and a half now.
If I just help one person by saying look, like this is what happened and this is how I got through it and this is who I am today, like that’s all I want, you know.
And by the way, my mom and me are best friends now. She’s my biggest cheerleader. She’s, she never thought that she’d be able to see me sober. She never thought it. It was hard, cause I blamed her for a lot. You have to surrender. You have to want more like, I always say your rock bottom is whenever you raise it up to meet you. Cause I hit my rock bottom a long time ago. But I, you got to stop digging. That’s what it’s all about. I had to surrender to the fact that I’m powerless over alcohol and drugs and I can never use again. Like just for today. That’s all I try to do, make it till midnight, go to sleep. Some days it’s easy, some days it’s hard.
Like right now I almost have three months but the last time I used, I used for five days and I lost my house, I lost my job… in five days, I was broke, I went through all my savings and I got kicked out of my house, I lost my job, like it was horrible, for five days of using and I detoxed myself on my bed. And that’s hard to do, I’d never done that before in my life. I always like, anytime I would get sick, automatically, ‘Where can I get money? Where can I get drugs?’ Even if I’m broke, I’m either gonna rob somebody or I’m gonna have sex with somebody so I cannot be sick.
That’s the scariest part of the heroin addiction is your body, not only does your mind scream for it, its like your body screams for it. It’s horrible, I wouldn’t wish dope-sickness on anyone, not even my own worst enemy, I would not wish it on them.
I never thought I’d be able to say it but, from High School drop out… I’m a college student. I work 40 hours a week. I’ve had the same job for over a year. I’ve gotten three raises while I was at that job, like I don’t know… I wake up everyday and I’m not dope-sick which is like amazing and I don’t have the want to use drugs on most days which is a miracle because that’s what my whole, I don’t know, what, thirteen years of my life was about. And the crazy part about it is, is I have a life that I never thought I would. Even though life gets ‘lifey.’ Like, I never thought I’d be okay being a ‘normy.’ Like I actually look forward to doing nothing. Like, I like going home, snuggling in bed after a long day and watching a movie. Like, I’m boring or whatever, but like, I love it. I love like, I don’t have to like, run around trying to find drugs or figure out how I’m gonna get something to eat or figure out where I’m going to lay my head at night. Like my life is okay, like its stable and it’s only gonna get better. With recovery that’s what happens.
I have a good foundation of sober people and have a great sponsor. I go to five meetings a week. And like I do everything to combat against my disease. I found a higher power which really helped me. Um… but I think I really had to get beat down for that part because I didn’t believe in God or a higher power on anything. But I got to the point where I had to believe in something.
Ummm… my biggest fear is that I will relapse after I have time and die an addict still. That’s my biggest fear because addiction is so sneaky. And it comes to you and its like ‘Hey like, lets get high.’ And your brain just goes ‘Okay,’ one day. Every time I’ve relapsed, that morning I woke up, I didn’t plan on relapsing and it just happened. But that’s my biggest fear… that I’ll die and addict. A using addict. Cause I see people with thirty years, five years, they go back out and they die. That’s the thing about this disease, is you can be doing great and then the next day you’re not.
February 11, 2019
Embedded in the Badlands Video Series
At the start of 2018, I began shooting a series of videos in collaboration with reporter Courtenay Harris Bond and editor Hunter Siede about the opioid crisis in Kensington. Over the course of a year, we produced 7 short videos. See below. Warning: some videos contain graphic content.
Episode 1: Point in Time Count
Episode 2: Anna
Episode 3: Tulip Street
Episode 4: Angel
Episode 5: Kensington Avenue
Episode 6: Don
Episode 7: Medication Assisted Recovery Anonymous
November 27, 2018
My name is Hope Daniels. That’s not really my name.
Anonymous Portrait no. 1, 2018.
My name is Hope Daniels. That’s not really my name. I decided to go with that name because I got a new job and I feel like my job won’t want me or basically wouldn’t want to hire me if they knew that I was in recovery.
I used to use heroin. I used to snort it and inject it. And it basically took everything from me and it made me a monster.
What job would want me if I were to be honest and tell them I’m in recovery, uh, from shooting heroin?
I grew up in Upper Darby and I started to use heroin mostly in Kensington. I was using for about five years.
My mom noticed the whole alcohol problem, um, I would go to like bars and stuff when I was like 18, before I was even old enough to get in, 19. And um, it got really bad. I moved in with one of my EX’s and um he would buy me beer, get me into bars and it’s crazy cause I have a whole family full of alcoholics and I didn’t think I was one of them at all but like looking back the signs were all there. It started with like beer and then gin and then I would like only go to work to get a paycheck so I could have money to afford like the beer on the weekends or this or that and it got to the point of me drinking just orange juice and vodka just sitting home doing nothing.
So then I got put into the rehab. I said, ‘Fine, I’ll go.’ And I fell like that just opened the doors to so much more heartache and misery. I try to stay compassionate but a lot of people in there like, were, they still… sometimes they go because they are court mandated to or ‘Do you ever really want to be here?’ or, it’s a hard process. So yeah, there would be certain days where like, ‘Oh, I used to shoot up this and that, I used to 8 ball this and that, be on the street, dododododo’… Like trying to sound cool and stuff but that’s all they’ve ever known. Like, how do you have a normal conversation? Well, that’s how addicts have a normal conversation.
I got involved in a stupid rehab romance. All theses terms… if you’re in addiction you’ll know all of these terms… um but, I got into a rehab romance with this guy, we got out- or I got out and then I waited for him and when he got out we moved into his mom’s house and that’s where I actually tried heroin for the first time. That’s where I tried wet for the first time. That’s where I did some xanies, drinking, this, that, we stole to feed ourselves. It was a mess and by the time my mom came a rescued me, my mom is an angel, she’s, I feel like, throughout all this, she’s the main reason why I’m still here and um she got me outta there. And then I, she wanted me to go to another rehab um, up in the mountains and I agreed. And I was driven and hour and a half or so all the way up to there only to be kicked out, a few- lets say maybe like three weeks in, to be kicked out for fighting. And that was rehab number two. I’ve been to about six, um, been kicked out of two, the last one was in Florida. I thought maybe if I ran away and went far away from the main place where all this bad shit was happening and I couldn’t get set free from this demon of mine, I thought if I ran to Florida, everything would be okay but um… it wasn’t.
I caught a plane home… sorry… and I stayed clean a little while. But it was right back to it. And my mom saved me. She broke down my door. Where I had vomit all over me, my face in the vomit on the floor. And I just, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I just surrendered. And it was hard but I’m so, I’m so grateful for where I’m at today. I really am. Cause I don’t want my mom to have to find me like that ever again. While my son is sleeping in the other room I rush to go do that like? It was a whole process, we moved my back room all the way up to her side of the house and now my room is next to her’s cause she’s so scared and she loves me. I have a lot of guilt that I’m working through but I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna feel like I used to anymore and I don’t wanna to hurt her anymore cause she’s sacrificed so much for me. I don’t want to feel dead anymore.
Anonymous Portrait no. 2, 2018.
I don’t wanna like play the whole ‘daddy card,’ like I said I’m still working on that with my therapist. But like a lot of it, we discovered, me and my therapist, is the feeling of feeling unwanted, um not feeling loved, feeling, ugly, but mostly unwanted. My dad left when I was young and like I didn’t have a dad until I was about seven years old. So that void was there. And now I have my step dad who is like- he, he is my real dad. I love him. Um, but it hurts to not feel wanted, especially as a kid. And it’s not my moms fault. Um… but on top of that I was teased a lot, um I was called ugly, um… I was made fun of about my looks. Um… I was, I don’t know if I can say this but, white and black people used to call me ‘nigger nose’ because of my nose… Um… I’ve considered surgery, like… little things that may seem petty to people… You don’t know what we’ve been through. Or how we feel. Or how ugly we feel, you don’t know. So I was bullied a lot um… and I guess thats part of where my trauma started. And uh, I’m happy that I never did do any surgeries or anything because throughout all this I’ve learned that I’m beautiful just the way that I am. And if someone doesn’t like me, that’s okay because someone else will like me, someone else will love me, someone else will think I’m beautiful. But… even though I’ve moved past it, it still hurts. So that’s what I’m trying to work on right now. So that’s the trauma, that’s why I say I think it does go a lot deeper than just drug abuse, there’s something in all of us, some type of void, some, some hole that’s bigger than that other hole, you know.
The drugs and the alcohol made me feel beautiful and it was a lie. It was a lie because it was helping me to cope.
And now I’m clean and I’m starting to be okay with myself because I’m putting the work in with myself. Not just sitting at home twiddling my thumbs waiting for a change. I’m making that change. You know, um, I’ve been out of work two months. After interview, after interview, after interview, after no, after no, after no, I finally got a Yes! And a salary increase and benefits and a full time job and this is just one prime example of you accepting yourself, you loving yourself and you putting that work in to change to be the better person that you know you want to be.
I reached out because I try to stay humble and I try not to forget where I was. You want to remember and look forward to where you’re going but try not to forget where you’ve been because that kinda makes you who you are. And so sometimes I’ll read and I’ll google up on like ‘heroin news’ or uh ‘Kensington news’ to remind myself of where I don’t wanna be because any time I do read on it or if I’m craving and I read on it- it’s strange, like I said, you gotta figure out what works for you. Like, who would wanna read on it and that helps them heal? Well, that’s what helps me. Reading on it, and seeing people that have like, like the skin problems, or teeth falling out, like, I don’t wanna be there ever again, you know, the track marks, the people nodding off on the buses like, damn, I don’t wanna be there. So then my craving, that I was craving for a little bit, it goes away, because yes, for that instant little high, look what you’re gonna have to sacrifice for it. And it’s like, ‘What the heck? No, I don’t want to do that.’ So I’m like you just gotta play the tape through. All these terminologies from the rooms and this and therapy and rehabs, it’s starting to click. And maybe it’s because I’ve heard it over and over and over again but I don’t know, I’m just trying to figure it out and stay aware.
Anonymous Portrait no. 3, 2018.
September 14, 2018
RIP: Debbie Lynn McConnell
Debbie McConnell stands with her mother Laura Bailey Talbert in front of a wall of family photos at their home in Staunton, VA 2017.
Deborah Lynn McConnell, 38, of Fairfax County, passed away unexpectedly Saturday, August 4, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. Her body was found at the corner of Willard and Hollins Streets in West Baltimore.
The manner of death is undetermined however the medical examiner reports that Fentanyl was found in Debbie’s system.
Debbie was found on August 4th but her family wasn’t notified of her death for an agonizing 7 days, during which time her mother frantically searched the streets of Baltimore and struggled to get her on the Missing Persons List.
Debbie was born August 12, 1979 in Chester, Pennsylvania, a daughter of Laura Bailey Talbert, William and Christine McConnell.
Although Debbie struggled with drugs throughout most of her teenage and adult life, she was also able to maintain extended periods of clean time. Most recently, from 2013 to 2017, Debbie was living drug free at home with her mother in Staunton, Virginia.
In addition to her parents, family members include daughter Cheyenne McConnell, of Staunton, son, Joshua Biondo of Maine, four sisters, Jamie (Richard) Sullivan of Staunton, Gina McConnell of Pennsylvania, Cara (Evan) Yocano of Pennsylvania and Audria McConnell of Pennsylvania, two brothers, Theodore Manna of Staunton and Tyler Manna of Staunton. Numerous nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and cousins. She was preceded in death by a sister Megan Lynn Manna.
A cremation will be conducted by Simplicity Crematorium and Funeral Home. The memorial service is scheduled to take place on October 20th, 2018 at 1pm at Friendship Church, 1601 W Beverley St. Staunton, Va. 24401.
Laura Bailey Talbert writes, “We would love it, if everyone wore something “GREEN” that was her favorite color or sport your Philadelphia Eagles pride. That would be great.
She would love that. She missed her birthday by 9 days . So we will be having a BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION PARTY after the Church memorial service.
The following letter was written by Debbie’s mother, Laura Bailey Talbert.
Dear mothers and daughters,
Like always, we think we have taught them all we can to protect themselves from this great big world… And then we find ourselves wondering what went wrong?
My daughter was the kindest person in this world. She was my best friend and co-pilot in life. She began early in life, getting into some legal problems, and it quickly became the drug scene. She was so bad into them, I asked her to tattoo my phone number on her so if she was found they wouldn’t have any problems getting ahold of me. And if she was in jail, I knew she was safe. Three meals daily and clean. She had been to several rehabs to no avail. I was always on pins and needles when the phone rang, knowing that it would be bad news about Debbie. She had been on the avenue for quite some time. I would go walk the streets to find her. Begging for her to come home, making sure she had clothes, shoes…..sometimes I have even given her money to buy what she needed to get her in the car and bring her home.
You have to understand our relationship: we were the best of friends but as her mom there was a line in the sand. She knew disrespect was not an option. There came a time she got into some serious trouble and I would not bail her out. I told her that was it And that was that. She was on her own. I couldn’t just keep living her demons. We had not spoken for three years. Then her sister passed away at 29 and I had to go tell her that face to face and that started our relationship over again. But Debbie had a different outlook on life & family after that. We visited, talked, and had quality time to figure out what path we were going to take. Things just fell into place and our relationship got to the point that I trusted her again.
When Debbie was released, (the last time she ever went to jail) I think the death of her younger-sister really made her think & she chose her family. I trusted her and let her come home. We have always been close. But the drugs masked the “BEAUTIFUL” (my nickname for her) person she was inside. I’m sure all of you mom’s out there going through this, know exactly what I mean… You still see your little girl in her eyes but her appearance was not the girl you knew at all.
To the daughter’s out there who are still on the avenue, or wherever you are, please know, that no matter what, your mom loves you with all she has .
Or a family member, who has been a mom to you.
We’ll never give up looking for you, even if you think that’s the case . If you haven’t called home, please do so because the person on the other end, loves you, needs you and will help you. They just need to know your alive and to hear your voice, will be the best day of their lives . Because they pray everyday for that . And know there is a chance to save their babies. Call your mom please . You’re both feeling the same way, just on opposite sides: lost lonely scared a hole in your where each of you belong, and can only be filled by hearing each others voices. Because I know the pain, sleepless nights, uncontrollable emotions that comes with not hearing my (BEAUTIFUL) daughter’s voice ever again .
Debbie was clean for years after she was released from jail. Together we got her back on track. Alimentally (she had to do the work herself) but knew she had a family that loved hera cheerleader momwho at times was pretty tough on her, but always had her back. There were times she would tell me to back off, she was a grown woman and didn’t need me to be a mom. But I’m fierce as a mom
And Debbie did not always make the best choices, when it came to men & friends. If she had a date and I didn’t like the on line dating thing anyway because people are not going to tell you their real story… And when it came to Deb she almost always believed what anyone told her . So I would sneak out take a picture of the car and plates so if I didn’t hear from her, I knew I could track down the person she went on a date with
One day she needed my phone, and was scrolling thru my pictures and discovered the pictures I had taken of the cars. At first she was like (MOM REALLY) I said “YUPPERS”. No one is going to take you away from me I brought you into this world, and I’m the only one who gets to take you out We laughed our asses off….. to the point of tears . She hugged me and said “ONLY YOU WOULD THINK TO DO THAT” and maybe that was true but I’m sure that all of the moms out there, that have walked the streets of addiction to hell and enough to find their daughters, have done something like that. So they knew where to start if their daughters were not home by the next day .
Debbie and I were very close, co-pilots, partners in crime, best friends. We could finish each other’s sentences. We were rock stars in the car, singing & being silly. There was not a subject we couldn’t talk about (but had to remind her occasionally) that there are somethings I didn’t need to know as her mom . She didn’t care…. She said we’re both grown women, and you’re the only one I tell everything too .
We went and did everything together.
But she needed her own life also. She didn’t like that she couldn’t have overnight company, a house rule but respectful, and to set the example I never had anyone over, or spent the night. We had some pretty heated argument at times. Mostly because I didn’t like the people she was hanging out with. Because I could see she was being used by these people….. I knew she would be the child that was always going to live at home, because she spent more time of her life in the system & on drugs. She struggled with how to conform to the rules and ways of communicating with the outside world. She said what was on her mind, no matter who she spoke too. It was difficult for her to keep a job, because she would call you out if you were not doing your share of the work, and it always came out like she was being bitchy, because of her tone. And 99% of the time she was just trying to express her opinion, not in a mean or nasty way but in the only way she knew how– blunt & to the point.
In November of 2017. She met a man and moved in with him. She lived just 1 mile from me so we talked and texted everyday. It was like she lived at home but slept there . We had coffee together most days. Nothing really changed except her address . She had slipped up a time or 2 but came clean to me about it and we found a doctor to help and went to a meeting. I went with her sometimes when she wanted me to so she knew I was in her corner % of the time. But in March I saw the change in her eyes…. New names popped up?? And communication was only text & she was becoming distant. I went to her house to see her and knew immediately that she getting high again. I called her out about it and she told me it was the Suboxone and Seroquel that she was prescribed that was making her loopy. Her boyfriend was evicting her, she was out of control, in trouble and needed to get help immediately. And she knew it. We talked about it and found a place for her right away. But the day we were to go she had a million excuses to put it off. So I went to her house, packed up the rest of her things, put them in the car and said “LETS GO.” She said she wasn’t going, she was a grown woman & I couldn’t make her go I said I trump that because I’m the mom and could care less how old she was
She needed cigarettes, but I refused to move my car so she could not get her car out. I said fine get in the car I will take you to get cigarettes and bring you home. If you want to throw away all your hard work over the years that gave you your family & life back, so be it. But I’m not going to watch you go down that road. She was withdrawing and a bitch on wheels because at that point so was I I couldn’t & wouldn’t let her fall down that rabbit hole again. So she got in the car. We went to the store. And I just started to head for the rehab she was going to. To say that she was not happy was an understatement. She was pissed I tricked her . But she would have to get over it. We arrived. I unpacked the car and told her she either goes in and gets with the program or she could sit outside. Either way I was going home without her. She got up, and asked me to go in with her . She knew she needed help and I was so proud of her. And told her that she did so well and looked as “BEAUTIFUL” as ever. She even extended it for 2 extra weeks. She liked the area she was at because there were people her age, more things to do. She came home to get her car and her things that were here. She found a place to live, worked a crappy job to pay her rent, but continued to look for something better . She had been living in Northern Virginia for 3 months by now and was very proud she was clean living on her own making her own money . And I was very proud of her for really giving it her all .
I became very ill in July and it was a touch and go situation but I pulled through it and told Debbie she had nothing to worry about. She needed to work. That I was good to go. Then a week later I was back in the hospital . Wild horses couldn’t keep her away this time. She came to the hospital to see for herself, that I was TRUELY going to be ok . She had to get back to work though but came home on July 31st because she had a court date on the 1st of August. It was nice having her home for a few days. I was still not 100% well so she was in nursing mode making me crazy. I couldn’t move at all without her following me, making sure I wasn’t doing anything .
Debbie left to go home on the 3rd…. With plans to be back for her birthday on the 12th. I gave her kisses and hugs and for her to let me know she made it home safe. She sent me a text around 8pm. She made it home ok……… that would be the last time I would ever hear from her
I text her the next day & she didn’t answer? I thought she was sleeping in. She mentioned something about Baltimore before she left my house to go home but didn’t elaborate so I didn’t know if she went out or not at this point. I called and texted her all day & nothing. Not like her at all, we communicated 10x’s a day or more. I was concerned that I didn’t hear from her at all on Saturday. Sunday I was calling and texting still nothing. I was in panic mode, something was wrong I could feel it. Every Mom has that built in mechanism that you feel it when your child is in trouble I called her roommate and she said she was concerned also because she had been trying to get ahold of her also. She last heard from her was at 3am on Sunday and Debbie was in Baltimore then.
Clearly Debbie had not returned any messages, her phone went right to voicemail. She would never leave without her make-up if she was not coming home I called the police to do a safety check on her, however, they did nothing. She was old enough to go where she wanted, did not have to tell anyone, so the Fairfax police would do nothing. I called for a second safety check, this time her roommate was there. She told them the last time she communicated Debbie, she reiterated what I had been explaining to them that Debbie wouldn’t leave for 3 days without taking some things with her. Her car, clothes, make-up, toothbrush…. everything was at her house but her
So at the 2nd check the police said they could not search the car without a warrant (REALLY). She is missing, 2 calls to check on her, and they needed a search warrant even though I gave them permission So while the police were there, Debbie’s roommate searched the car and her ID wallet and a receipt from McDonald’s was found inside So clearly she was a missing person
FOR ALL OF THE MOMS OUT THERE THAT KNOW WHAT THAT SICK FEELING IS TELLING YOU, THAT YOU KNOW THE OUTCOME BUT WILL NEVER STOP LOOKING, BECAUSE YOU NEED TO SEE IT TO BELIEVE IT Three of my sisters all turned into private detectives, and were relentless in calling everyplace in Baltimore to see if she was hurt or….anyplace they could think of.
We tried like hell to get her on the missing persons list. Fairfax wouldn’t do it because they suck and are lazy. They said it had to come from where I live because I was making the report. At this point I was going to call the national guards if that’s what it took to make someone get off their ass and listen to the facts. Her sister had had enough of the BS and come hell or high water was getting her on the Missing list. And she didI have no idea how she worked that miracle but she was an angel with powers that be. So we know Debbie was in Baltimore and still missing. Me, Debbie’s sister and brother walked the streets in search of anything we could find out. To no avail. No one there wants to talk. But we were not deterred. We kept asking. And we found the woman that found Debbie. So when the police showed up at my house, we at least knew where she was at. AND WOULD HAVE KNOWN SOONER IF DETECTIVE MASON HAD GOT OFF HIS ASS and went to Baltimore to identify her the first time the coroner called him. She did a tremendous job & research. She found my news cast and Debbie’s picture in the Kensington Blues book. She called detective mason again and told him she had my baby and he had to come identify her. But he blew her off again so she made a call…. and poof. There he was. Identified her and washed his hands of it.
I could go on and on…
Moms alway be there for your daughter. Keep the lines of communications open, that’s so important .
And go & get her out of the hell hole even if you just don’t know what to do to get out. But you need to be the one to find her and be patient, it’s a struggle. Please don’t give up.
We had a great relationship before she was taken from me .
For the moms out there your daughter is looking for you to find her, love her and help her get through issues. I feel to have had years of clean time to really know her as a person .
I love you my “BEAUTIFUL” baby.
Laura Bailey Talbert