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07 – Being a Mother

being a mother


The world hates people like me. They especially hate mothers like me. From the time I was 13 my life has been shaped by mental illness and substance use. I have been told from the time I was young that I don’t care about my family, that I don’t love my children or my friends because I am a person who uses drugs. I can’t tell you all of the times a social worker or police officer has said to me, “If you loved your mother you would stop this.” “If you loved your child you would not do this anymore.” I have been told I only love drugs and that I am immoral at my core.

Every mother thinks about all the things they wish they would or could have done. I have certainly spent much time worrying about all the things I could have done differently. My daughter Selena died of a drug overdose at age 19. She died in a California drug rehabilitation program that did not have Naloxone on site. When my daughter died, my world ended. I thought I neither would nor could ever go on. Selena was my world.

I had to call my own mother in order to write this. I needed someone to reassure me that I was a good mother to my daughter. My mother told me, “Oh, Louise, you were a beautiful gift to your daughter—oh, how she loved you.”

From the day Selena was born and I looked into her eyes, I knew my life was hers. My daughter wanted nothing more than to be with me, to be around me and like me. She loved me like no one else ever will or could. She slept with me well into her teenage years whenever I would let her and she knew I would protect her from anything and everything I possibly could.

Over the years I did everything a mother does and more. I fought for Selena. I attended functions for Selena. I played with Selena, taught her to swim, and had birthday parties for her. I researched daycares for Selena, then elementary schools, then middle schools and finally high schools. When my life spun out of control, I went to rehab and worked on my issues with substance use and mental illness. I visited my daughter every weekend without fail. I wanted to give her a better life so I returned to school and graduated college. I completed graduate school and began a harm reduction program and fought for people like myself.

One of the difficult things that I did for my daughter was when Selena was about 7. Selena’s father died when she was 2, leaving me a single parent. I, like most mothers, wanted what was absolutely best for my daughter so I chose to move in with my mother so she could have every opportunity and the most stability possible, even though I would have preferred to have more independence.

All of these things I did, I did on my own. They were my decisions. I did them because I loved my daughter and wanted the best for her. Substance use disorder and mental illness are not things that go away. They are often lifelong struggles. Selena always knew of my struggles. She was in counseling from the time she was in elementary school. I never wanted to hide my struggles from her. We dealt with my struggles together. This is what families do.

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