The Story of Meth Anne
The following is a story describing the life of a fictitious child named Meth Anne. Unfortunately she is all too real to the specialists in their fields who collaborated to tell her story from a compilation of actual events.
My journey into this world was not like that of other babies. From the moment I came into existence, I was exposed to the methamphetamine my mother injected into herself. Unaware of the effects this had on my development, she continued to “use” despite knowing she was expecting. Her addiction caused many health problems, among them high blood pressure, stomach cramps, insomnia, paranoia, and hallucinations.
Inside her womb, I suffered with her. My blood pressure spiked again and again, bringing me very close to a stroke and hemorrhages in my brain. My developing body was traumatized when she neither slept nor ate for days at a time. A normal sleep state was something I rarely experienced because of her chronic drug use and the tortured life she lead. I had no prenatal care.
As soon as my mother gave birth to me, I was whisked away to a neonatal intensive care unit where I stayed for the next month. I was born with a hole in my abdomen, and my intestines formed outside my stomach. I underwent surgery to repair my intestines and afterward was fed through a tube in my nose. When I was finally able to have a bottle, I choked on the formula so often that it filled my lungs and caused me countless infections. Many saw me as the “irritable baby,” and my mom drowned out my screaming by taking more drugs.
I was suffering without the steady diet of drugs she once had provided so reliably before my birth. Withdrawal caused me to shake and, occasionally, suffer seizures. My immature lungs made it difficult to breathe; the ever-present cigarette and marijuana smoke in our home made it even harder.
I grew, but I was smaller than other children. I also fell behind many of my peers when it came to developmental milestones such as crawling and walking. Doing simple things such as playing ball or figuring out how to play with a particular toy often were beyond me. I became stressed when there was too much commotion or noise in a room. I had frequent fits of anger and began to bang my head against walls and floors. It hurt, but it also relieved my wracking tension—and it at times it actually felt good, especially when it caused an adult to notice me. People called me “hyper.”
At home, I was often left alone for hours at a time. As my toddler years ended, I became even more aggressive and distant. As a mere baby, I acquired one of the personality traits that would define my life: I learned to distrust every adult in my life.
Hughes, Early Intervention Specialist for Early Childhood
Intervention in Greenville,
I remember how excited I was to start kindergarten. … The feeling didn’t last for long. When the teacher often had to call me out because I wasn’t paying attention, classmates began to see me as an easy target far taunting. It didn’t help that my clothes were almost always dirty—as was the rest of me. Hygiene wasn’t a big priority for the adults at my house. All the joy I had once felt about going to school quickly vanished.
As the years passed, I learned more reasons to dislike school. My inability to concentrate frustrated me. My classmates called me lazy and stupid. I had trouble reading, and that meant I had trouble in every subject. Convinced that no teacher could ever like me, I decided to attack them first, treating them with hostility and arrogance.
When I’m on edge, I have a habit of picking at my skin. Because school made me so nervous, my arms were always covered in open sores. I had only to look down at my raw forearms or to see others at their desks quietly concentrating on reading their textbooks or to catch a stray glance from my teacher to start the paranoid cycle of thinking that everyone was talking about me.
It wasn’t so far from the truth. Teachers disciplined me frequently for failing to complete homework and returning papers signed by a parent or guardian. Anything I was supposed to do at home was a lost cause.
Sometimes my teacher would pull me aside to say, “Meth Anne, do
you realize how far behind you are in your studies, and how important
it is for me to reach your parents?”
I remember one day in particular that I didn’t make it to school. The night before, my parents were cooking methamphetamine in the kitchen when something went wrong. Kaboom! The house shook violently, and flames quickly engulfed my room as I fought the fumes and smoke to escape.
The next thing I knew, I was running crying down the street. Someone found me and took me back to the house where police were handcuffing and taking my parents away. I soon went to live with strangers.
Through the next few years I was shuffled from one foster home to another, and my academic problems increased with every move. I fell further and further behind in school.
Cowan is the school counselor at Carver Elementary and serves on the DFG Board of Directors
When I was in kindergarten, my teacher read a book about how nice police officers are and how children could go to them when they were in trouble. So the first time police came to my house, I ran to them and hugged their legs. But after they left, Mom smacked me and said the police were bad and for me to stay away from them. She said if I was naughty she would have the police come and take me away to where they lock up bad people. For a while I was confused. My teacher said the police were good, Mom said bad ... but then, Mom said Teacher was bad, too, so maybe that explained it.
I was in first grade when the police came again. This time they arrested Mom’s boyfriend and took him away. She cried and begged the police not to take him, but secretly I was glad because he was mean, and he hit Mom a lot.
After that we had to move to an apartment because Mom couldn’t afford to pay the rent by herself. She told me that the police had forced us to move.
In second grade the police came again—this time to my school. The counselor told the police that my mom wasn’t taking care of me and that I was abused. I didn’t know what “abused” meant but I could see that everyone looked serious. The police officer asked to talk with me but I knew Mom would smack me if I did, so I said no. Eventually a lady from something called CPS. (In coming years I would learn all to well that CPS stands for Child Protective Services.) She took me to another family who I thought were called the Fosters.
I finally got to go home when I was in third grade. Mom wasn’t sick anymore, and she had a job and a new apartment that was clean. She told me she loved me and had missed me. I had never heard her say anything like that before, and it made me feel so good. It was the happiest I had ever been in my whole life.
Of course good things never last. I was always having trouble at school, getting into arguments with the other kids, making bad grades because I couldn’t concentrate or read well. I was angry all the time, and I started fighting a lot. Sometimes the school called my mom, and sometimes they called the police. Either way, Mom had to leave work and come get me. When she lost her job, she yelled at me that it was my fault for being bad. She started smoking that funny stuff again. I just got angrier.
In fourth grade they kicked us out of our apartment. The place was dirty anyway. Mom hadn’t cleaned anything in months and there were roaches everywhere. The apartment manager told us we were “trashy” and that the neighbors complained about us all the time. After the police came and made us leave, we moved in with the man who brought Mom the funny stuff she smoked that made her act weird. His place was nasty, too, but Mom said it was home and I better be grateful I had one. “Meth Anne, this is your new daddy,” she told me.
By the time I was in ninth grade, the police had come to my house more times than I could count. It wasn’t even a big deal anymore. A few years ago I would run away if I saw them coming, but now I didn’t even bother. I had learned a lot in the last few years. I knew what drugs were and that my mother was an addict. I knew “Daddy” made drugs and sold them. I knew school was for stupid people and a waste of time. I only went because Daddy let me sell to the other high school kids and keep some of the money for myself.
I knew what juvenile detention was, and it didn’t scare me. Being locked up at least means you get a hot meal, some clean clothes, and a room to yourself.
Part 4: Meth Anne Goes
After being medically cleared, I was taken to the juvenile detention center and booked. I was stripped, searched for contraband, taken to the showers, and finally presented with a lovely orange jumpsuit with matching orange sandals before being taken to my cell.
I had already been to the detention center four times previously, so it was pretty easy to maintain my typical I-don’t-care attitude. Whenever that doesn’t work for me, I resort to angry belligerence. Which is why almost always lose any privileges and end up spending most of my time alone in my cell.
I’ve fought most of the other girls in the detention facility at one time or another. It’s funny. Fighting is actually my primary means of human contact because I don’t have visitors or phone calls. My family doesn’t care enough to make the effort.
When my detention time was up, they finally were able to find some family to take me in. But it won’t last. It never does. I usually stay out all night or just run away. I’d rather hang out with older guys and girls, most of whom do drugs and already have criminal records.
When I left the detention center, I was on probation for possession of a controlled substance, theft over $500 and assault. I steal to support my habit. I’d already been through two inpatient drug rehabilitation programs, and one time I even got a job that I held for about a week until they caught me stealing from the till. I needed the money for my next drug buy.
They kept trying to get me to go for counseling, but I’ve only shown up for one appointment. I just didn’t see the point. It’s the same for high school. I mean, I’m already failing every subject. They also kept warning me I’d end up at the Texas Youth Commission if I didn’t stop using drugs and skipping school.
Well, it finally happened. I got sent to the TYC. But I think it was pretty good for me. I had to go to counseling, and my days were so regimented that I didn’t have the chance to skip out on doing the things everybody had been trying to get me to do. My grades came up, and things were looking better.
I finished the TYC program in nine months and was sent back home on parole. The bad part is I got sent back to my same old neighborhood and same household environment. I couldn’t seem to get a job because of my past, and my old friends kept calling, wanting to hang out.
I lasted one month before I started using drugs again. Right now I’m working on a plan to rob the neighborhood convenience store. Hopefully I’ll score enough cash to keep me high for a long time.
Sandlin, Hunt County Juvenile Probation serves on
the DFG Public Education Committee
I had been incarcerated in a Texas Youth Commission facility for a while and then turned over to the next in a long line of foster parents. It would never work. I had tried living with foster families before, but the adults never wanted me around the other children. Well I didn’t want to be around them either.
I decided to try to make it on my own. I worked her way from place to place, sometimes sleeping in a sleeping bag on the ground, sometimes finding a place inside for the night. But wherever I went, I had a knack for finding the one comfort I could count on —the meth. Meth was my life, my reason for existence. It’s all I had.
Then one day someone from my school found me while I was cleaning houses with a friend. They wanted me back in school.
Could it really be true, I wondered? I hadn’t been to school for a long time. I had actually been to a regular high school only for a brief time. In fact, all my high school credits were earned while I was locked up in the TYC. That was where I learned to read, to write a complete sentence, and to multiply and divide. I have to give “the system” that much credit.
Could I do it, I asked myself. Would I be able to stay inside a building all day? What about taking a shower and washing my clothes? I hadn’t cared about that stuff for a long time. What I did care about was finding someone who was cooking a batch of meth.
Just thinking about school was really getting to me, making me feel nervous and not good enough. If that’s what school does to you, I wasn’t sure I needed it. After all, I had gone this long without an education and my life was OK. Sure, it was a little rocky and most nights I didn’t even have a bed to sleep on. But still, I wasn’t doing too bad for myself—especially if I could hook up with somebody cooking a batch.
I decided to think about school later. Life was for me to live, to breathe, to be free, and to find my next fix.
Linda Folden, Greenville High School Success Counselor, is also a member of the DFG Public Education Committee
But when this order is altered or ends prematurely, it leaves us deeply saddened and filled with questions—one of the largest being “What if?” We cannot help but wonder what a young life might have accomplished. These are the questions we are left with following the all-too-premature death of Meth Anne.
Her life began with the disadvantage of having a drug-addicted mother. Meth Anne’s early childhood was difficult. Her mother’s addiction caused her to neglect Meth Anne and exposed her to very adult situations. Her mother’s constant search for love, peace, and her next fix meant Meth Anne was moved from place to place. Her life was filled with unkept promises. She quickly learned not to trust.
Meth Anne’s first encounter with drugs came at the hand of her own mother when she furnished them in utero to her unborn daughter. Later, in an effort to buy herself some free time so she could use drugs herself, Meth Anne’s mother gave her a small dose “just to help her sleep.”
Later as a young girl, Meth Anne accidentally overdosed on pills she found lying around her home. As a preteen, Meth Anne began to notice and comprehend the drug use in her home. The seeming pleasure it offered caused her to sample drugs just to see for herself what it felt like. She experienced the false sense of euphoria and the feeling of being able to escape her difficult life for a short while.
What she did not realize was the drugs had begun to sew themselves into her heart, mind and body. She quickly progressed from sampler to regular user. Her needs quickly drove her to harder and harder drugs.
The fatal blow came when she experienced methamphetamine, or “meth,” bringing her full circle to the very substance her mother had introduced her to while she was still in the womb. Her addiction quickly seized control of her life, taking her to dangerous places and other desperate people.
In order to feed her addiction, she found herself stealing—even from friends. When she could no longer steal to support her habit, she traded on only thing she had—her body. The wasteland that her life had become drove her into an ever-deepening depression.
Her answer to the pain was to stay “up,” which required larger amounts and longer periods of drug use. Sadly, Meth Anne took her last “trip” one sunny afternoon when her heart simply failed. She died in the back room of a deserted, fetid house not far from the place she was born. Her short, pain-filled life was officially reduced to that of a statistic.
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