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Road to recovery: Her baby gave her a second chance

While the country is battling an increasing opioid epidemic, other drugs are still taking the lives of Americans daily. Addiction can end in one of two ways: recovery or death. Kerissa, who was a meth addict, had to choose her path quickly because not only did addiction threaten to take her life, but it could have also taken the life of her baby when she was three months pregnant.

“One night was all it took to get her addicted for the next four years.”

Kerissa’s addiction started when she was 17 at a local strip club in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Kerissa, who had used cocaine before, thought her friend was taking her outside to do a line of coke. Instead, she unknowingly used meth for the first time. One night was all it took to get her addicted for the next four years.

After that night she began using meth occasionally, but it quickly escalated to every day.

“I needed it to wake up,” Kerissa said. “I couldn’t just wake up and go to work.”

The drug would often keep her awake for days on end. The only way she was able to motivate herself to do daily activities was to continue with the vicious cycle. This is when Kerissa realized she was an addict.

According to the National Survey on Drug and Health, 14,464,000 Americans 18 and older have reported using meth once in their lifetime in 2016. Meth is a highly addictive stimulant that is chemically similar to amphetamine, which is the drug that is used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy.

Living on her own since the age of 15, Kerissa did not have her parents around to stop her from going down this path. With her own apartment, the 17-year-old’s home became a place where all her friends would come over to get high. They would get high for hours.

“God, I remember just sitting in the room forever just smoking and smoking,” Kerissa said.

On June 19, 2014, Kerissa found out she was pregnant. She was 20 years old.

According to Drugabuse.com, maternal complications of using meth during pregnancy can result in reduction of a woman’s placental blood flow causing fetal hypoxia, an insufficient amount of oxygen to the fetus.

“I was still using and I was pregnant,” Kerissa said. “I didn’t feel pregnant, I didn’t look pregnant.”

She tried to stop using it, but she would fall back into the trap.

“Our friends would come over and everybody was doing it and so I would go do it. I would be high and I would just be so depressed that I had gotten high knowing that I was pregnant,” Kerissa said. For her, meth was an escape from depression.

But she knew she had to get clean if she wanted her child to be healthy. On Aug. 28, 2014, she stopped using meth.

“The first day was the hardest day, but I said no. I avoided getting high one time and then I did it the next day and the next day,” Kerissa said. A week went by and Kerissa remained sober.

Kerissa shows a picture of her baby. (Photo by Jianna Vaszquez/Kokopelli)

“That was all the confidence I needed to get sober,” she said. The temptation always lingered, but Kerissa’s willpower was strong. On the road to recovery she quickly realized she was traveling on this road alone.

“There wasn’t a lot of support at all, it was just me,” Kerissa said. Her boyfriend at the time and father of the child was still getting high on a regular basis, and so were her friends. They would come over just to get high, but when it came time to do things for the baby, like baby shower shopping, they would leave.

“It was hard to stay sober in a house full of everybody getting high,” she said.

Kerissa would sleep for hours during her recovery. She remembers always feeling tired. When she was awake, she would make an attempt to eat, but more often than not it ended with her throwing it back up. Never being pregnant and never being sober confused Kerissa. She didn’t know if these effects were from her pregnancy or from her detoxing period.

Although it took her a while to get sober, she did it. On February 26, 2015, Kerissa gave birth to a baby boy.

“Getting pregnant is what sobered me up, but I wish I hadn’t had to do it when I was pregnant. I wish I would have been sober and gotten pregnant,” said Kerissa. Her son gave her a second chance at life. “If I hadn’t gotten pregnant I’d still be using.”

Now when Kerissa looks back on her life she realizes she wasted so much time getting high. Despite all the setbacks that were caused by her addiction, she has now gone back to school to study dental hygiene, she has an apartment, a car, and has been employed at the same place for two years — something that would not be possible if she were still using meth. At times she says it’s harder to focus and remember things during school, a lingering reminder of her addiction.

Kerissa has been sober for over three years. Her life is in a completely different place now. Her son is the number one priority. Overcoming addiction has been a difficult journey, but it has made her life better.

“Now, I love my life. I love waking up to my son, I love being able to take him to school. I love being able to be there,” Kerissa said. “Parenting is hard. It is so hard, but I would rather have a hard day parenting than a hard day using, any day.”

This article is part of a series titled The Opioid Epidemic in America. To read more stories in the series, click on the links below:

Collegiate athletes especially vulnerable to opioid addiction

A small town of 10,000 struggles with the opioid crisis

In New Mexico, opioid addiction does not discriminate

N.M. officials, activists, leaders unified to fight opioid addiction

Police, firefighters get certified to use Narcan

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