Tiana Dayton (a pseudonym) knows from personal experience the anguish and powerlessness many single mothers experiences when they struggle with drug addiction. She has experienced the pain of addiction, the peace of life without using, the nightmare of relapse, the torment of having her daughters taken from her, and the joy of a future without drugs. However, she refuses to take a sentimental or self-pitying approach when reflecting on her time spent dealing with Child Protective Services.
Dayton gains insight through her pain
Dayton’s voice projects an elegant introspection. She invites her listener in with a degree of vulnerability that invites closeness without feeling invasive. It is clear that she takes her message seriously: like others before her, she took her most recent drug use for granted until her daughters’ lives were impacted. She speaks in what sounds like hyperbole, but she is not exaggerating.“It was all about me,” she says. “I had to lose everything before I got the wake-up call.”
Years of living with addiction caught up to Tiana several months ago, when law enforcement officers received a tip that Dayton’s home contained drugs and drug paraphernalia. Sure enough, when the drug task force executed their search warrant, they found narcotics in her home.
“The first time, I chose [drugs]. But the second time it chose me, and it went downhill,” she says. The raid resulted in her two daughters being removed from her care for the first time and placed in protective custody. She also lost her apartment and was forced to live in a homeless shelter for an extended period of time.
First time in Child Protection
To compound her difficulties at this time, in order to regain custody of her children, Dayton had to participate in a grueling child protection case plan. This plan required her to complete a number of tasks: participate in an intensive parenting education program; attend inpatient and outpatient drug treatment; participate in individual therapy; submit to random urinalysis twice a week; and attend court appearances to monitor her progress.
Dayton’s prospects might have appeared bleak as she faced down what it would take to get her daughters back in her care. But she has been demonstrating an ability to overcome staggering odds for many years, ever since she was a teenager.
“I wanted to be accepted,” she says about befriending peers who were a poor influence on her. “I was angry; violent and hated everyone. And they were cool and accepted me.” And sadly, she could not find a way to satisfy her perpetual hunger for self-love and inner peace. The magical cure she wanted to escape her, wherever she looked. Friends who were a bad influence combined with her own lack of strong identity, led Dayton to experiment with drugs for the first time at the age of 11. She says she would remain an “addict” for the next 15 years.
Getting control over her addiction
Finally, Dayton realized her substance abuse had gotten out of control and was creating a sense of further emptiness and loneliness. So in 2009, she went through a program called Teen Challenge. This national program focuses on delinquent and at-risk behaviors within a faith-based therapy framework. “They taught me how to live happy,” she says. “It was an 18-month program and it was life-changing. It was very a spiritual experience.”
Dayton remained sober for five years. Then a personal tragedy tanked her efforts; her grandmother passed away, leaving her with another hole in her life that she would seek to fill. Dayton says the passing of her grandmother left her with psychological scars, and the only comfort she found was in drugs.
Ironically, the death of Dayton’s grandmother, which led to her relapse into addiction, and the law enforcement called to her home, which led to the removal of her daughters from her custody, combined to create a positive outcome for her. Together they set the stage for the intervention she needed in order to see and combat the control drugs had over her.
Her life today
Today, having worked hard to regain her sobriety, she focuses on being resourceful, independent, and pragmatic when dealing with personal setbacks. She worked successfully with her parenting worker several times a week for over four months.
She graduated from an intensive chemical dependency treatment. And her evaluation report reveals that Dayton wasn’t merely getting through the program; rather, she was attempting to do the emotional work by understanding the emotional and psychological control that her drug use had on her.
Dayton is willing to take her time and be cautious when choosing her friends this time around. For example, she attends support groups for single mothers; a benefit to this part of her social life is that she has regular contact with women who are on the same journey as her.
Throughout her recovery, Dayton has had exposure to professional female staff, who can serve as models of strong, successful, independent career women. And three weeks ago, Dayton was able to secure her first job in over five months.
Tiana Dayton was diligent in her efforts to locate an apartment, using as limited assistance as possible. And four weeks ago, her efforts paid off. She and her daughters have more than one housing opportunity and are making their final decisions about which apartment they want to move into.
After her involvement with Child Protective Services and her setback with drugs, Dayton has learned to trust her inner voice, a simple act that has made a major difference in her life. She spends less time seeking love and approval from others and is learning to trust herself.
She has worked hard to turn her life around, and it may look like her success is all her own doing. But she says it wasn’t her effort that made the difference.
“The minute my kids were taken, it wasn’t about me. I had to stop being selfish,” she says. “My kids suffered because of my addiction. And I couldn’t wake up another morning without my kids. I had to do whatever it took for them to get back to me.”
Sure enough, her kids have been reunited with her. And with the assistance of her professional team, her mother and especially her daughters, Dayton has demonstrated the discipline, faithfulness and emotional strength it takes to remind mothers in similar positions of an important truth. “There’s always hope,” she says. “God didn’t give us kids to play around with.”