Ruth Bryant, 36, a mother of four children ages 11 months to 15 years, was a waitress and lab assistant until she became addicted to cocaine. She overcame her addiction with the help of Restore, a Mid-City rehabilitation program that serves 30 to 50 women a year who have problems including drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness and emotional problems. Bryant's name was changed to protect her privacy. She was interviewed by Nancy Slate.
I was the last person my friends ever thought would resort to drugs. I was raised up in church, always went to school, always worked and tried to do better for myself. So when they found out I was doing cocaine, they were amazed, astounded. But sometimes that's the way it happens.
I was on welfare. I did a lot of demoralizing things to my kids. I even took their food stamps.
One day, I looked in the mirror--I always did drugs in the bathroom--and I didn't like what I saw. I didn't want to demean myself anymore. I wanted to be the mother I once was. I wanted to be the worker I once was.
Then I got arrested. Someone called the police, thinking my family and I were being hurt. But in reality, it was me being wild and crazy.
I went to jail for a week, which was a nightmare. My kids were taken away from me. That was the hardest thing I ever had to live through. I still get shivers thinking about it. I missed them so much. I even missed yelling at them and saying, "No-no"--all those little things a mommy does.
After I was arrested, I met a lady who referred me to the Restore program. That was March, 1992. I lived in the Restore house for 14 months, and it wasn't easy.
Life was very structured. I had to learn to conform to rules and regulations. I went to Cocaine Anonymous meetings, self-esteem classes, counseling, and parenting and child guidance courses. I took some of the courses over and over because I wanted to show the court that I had a burning desire to be with my children.
Restore taught me to be respectful again. Drug addicts lose respect for themselves and others, and those values had to be instilled back into me. And I came to the realization that I was where I was because I put myself there.
A lot of things are different for me now. I no longer need Mr. Fix-It (drugs) or other people to validate me, because I know who I am. And I'm not self-destructive anymore. I'm more at peace with myself. Circumstances don't get me so stressed out. And I have lots of self-esteem.
I got my kids back. Now I give them quality and quantity time. It's being there for the school assignments, doing things with them, teaching them values. Things I didn't do when I was addicted.
I want to talk to teen-agers and adults about my addiction and my sobriety. When I do, I'll say to them, "Get a grip. There's more to life than drugs, because life on drugs is death."