amber builds a foundation
It took several years for Amber to put a cycle of healing/relapsing behind her. When little Paizley came into the world two years ago, “She gave me the reason to try again,” Amber says.
Lacking a Model
It can be very difficult to build a stable life when you have virtually no model for doing so. And Amber certainly didn’t. Her dad suffered mental illness challenges, and living with a youngster wasn’t something he could handle. As Amber neared her early teens he exited the picture.
Her mom was an addict and gave Amber a first taste of narcotics as a reward for cleaning the house around that same time. That sent Amber in a direction that would take her many years to change.
After her mom overdosed when she was 17, Amber bounced between her two older sisters. They took her in and gave her a place to live, but didn’t really provide guidance. “I never had someone to show me the way,” she says. “I could only learn from my failures.”
Living in Pain
The next decade was a roller coaster for Amber. She describes good streaks when she held jobs and went to school off and on. But she suffered plenty of bad times filled with drugs, homelessness, and abuse. She believes it can be hard for others to imagine “the pain of being homeless.” She tells about having to walk almost ‘round the clock, and searching for food constantly. She acquired a couple of misdemeanors – stealing liquor to sell and even prenatal vitamins.
Yes, she got pregnant, more than once. And she shouldered more pain when her kids were taken by Child Protective Services. It was probably best for the youngsters at the time, but Amber just could not bear the thought of having it ever happen again.
A New Start
Two years ago she was staying with Trey, Paizley’s father. When she discovered she was pregnant again, he prevented her from getting treatment. “He knew I would leave him.” Trey was unpredictable and abusive, and he finally attacked someone in a store and got arrested. Amber started calling around for rehab services the next day.
Amber has been fortunate enough to receive help in her recovery from several organizations. She’s especially complimentary about Brigid Collins Skagit Family Support Center, where she worked with a terrific PCAP counselor (Parent-Child Assistance Program). PCAP is specifically for moms in recovery, recognizing that children are both motivators and stressors in the lives of their mothers. Amber has set her sights on becoming a PCAP counselor herself, and is currently in training at Skagit Valley Community College.
As she progressed in her recovery, Amber remembers she “called Nina at the Family Center almost every day!” She was determined to get housing for herself and Paizley at AFC, and her wish came true.
Not every aspect of the program was a slam dunk for Amber at first. She initially resisted the requirement to budget, for instance, thinking she could manage her money without help. Now she embraces all of AFC’s offerings, realizing she has the chance to build her skills and establish that positive family foundation she never had as a child.
She also appreciates the support of AFC’s staff. “Bea really had my back,” Amber asserts, telling how her caseworker helped convince Child Protective Services that Paizley is in a healthy home.
Amber is certain she’s on a good path. She plans to graduate in a year and turn some of her attention to helping other moms get a firm foundation for the future, giving some much-needed guidance to women just like her.