Sabrina came into my world on September 28, 1994. I was 21 years old. A single mother, college drop out, and lacking direction in my life. But all of that changed when I laid my eyes on her. I had found my purpose in life.
Throughout Sabrina's young childhood she filled this family's life with such joy. She was ridiculously cute, fun and mischievous. Her cousins were her best friends even though she often led them to a little harmless trouble. She has left us with a lifetime of funny stories to share. Her family was her greatest love. She was adopted by her dad (on his birthday) when she was four years old and she was so proud to take his last name. Soon came along her sister, Kyla. Kyla was not only Sabrina's sister but her truest and most loyal friend. Their bond was unbreakable. Jimmy and Tommy, her brothers, were her heart. She was so proud to have them. Her family had grown so big and she loved every minute of it.
As Sabrina grew into her teen years, she struggled emotionally. A child so full of life could not find her own internal happiness. She struggled to make and keep friends. This beautiful girl overflowed with love for her family, but for some reason, she could not feel all the love everyone had for her. Sad and lonely while surrounded by cherished family. So my daughter began to self medicate to feel better. Starting out like so many other stories, using alcohol & marijuana. Over time, she would be introduced to harder drugs by the people she surrounded herself with. We went through several schools, counselors, psychologists, and programs to try to help her. Nothing seem to work. Sabrina dropped out of high school and her father and I divorced. She was working on and off and we continued to work together as a family to support her. We believed her made up stories as to where she had been and where her money came from. We had no idea what we were dealing with.
In the summer of 2014, I remarried. I vividly remember Sabrina and I going for mani pedis before the wedding. I commented to her about the marks on her feet. She told me it was poison ivy. I believed her. A few weeks later I got a call from her while on my honeymoon. She was in the hospital. She went on to tell me that she had been there for three days. That she developed an abscess in her arm. I asked her how that could have happened. She told me it was from an allergic reaction to Tide. I wanted to believe that, but I knew that something was wrong. I called my mom and my sisters and asked them to go to the hospital, I was on my way home. As I was sitting on the bus back to economy parking in Boston, I got a call from my mother. Sabrina admitted to her that the abscess was from shooting up heroin. I cried out loud on that bus. How did this happen?
The next 24 hours were the most difficult. It was like she was a different person. All she cared about was getting back to the boy she was using with. It was like she was possessed. She again and again refused treatment. So I provided her an ultimatum. "Take this opportunity to get well and we will support you fully or if you will not accept treatment, you say goodbye to Kyla, Jimmy, and Tommy. They would not be part of you life if she continued to use drugs. Thank God, my girl was still in there. From deep inside she rose up and agreed to get help. She was discharged from the hospital and on a plane to Palm Desert, California.
Sabrina spent 45 days in detox and a rehabilitation facility. During this time, she had the opportunity to learn about her disease and also get help from a psychiatrist. But 45 days was not enough time to face the traumas of the past or rebuild a fulfilling life. So when she finished, she made a very hard decision. She was going to stay in California and work on herself.
Sabrina entered into a structured sober living program, as well as an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). During her time there, she attended daily AA or NA meetings. She had half day sessions with counselors and groups. She was given a safe environment to confront her past. She was educated in the disease of addiction and she found peace through the 12 step program. She found employment. She learned to support herself. She left Desert Palms Recovery with a solid program and a community of sober support. Sabrina moved into her own place in the desert. She obtained her GED. We were all so proud of her. She continued her education and received her esthetian's license. At which point, she rented a small space in an area office building to start her new business. Life was really going well for her. Unfortunately, the busy life of a new business, a home, her dogs and a relationship left her very little time for recovery meetings. She spent less and less time with her sobriety support people and more time with new friends she made during schooling etc. Invitations to "go out for a drink" became to hard to pass up. She wanted to belong. Addiction was waiting patiently for this opportunity.
Things in Sabrina's personal life took a turn for the worse. The relationship that she thought was her future ended. It was a blow she was not prepared to handle. She begged us to come home. We all agreed. What we didn't realize was that although she was running away from the pain of a failed relationship, she was also leaving her program and her sober community too. Addiction was ready to seize it's opportunity.
At first having her back home was wonderful. She was helpful and happy. Everyone had missed her so much. She went out to California as a child and was back here as an adult. She got a job waitressing while she worked to transfer her esthetician's license to MA. Sabrina lived with Mark and I and we were helping her get back on her feet. She talked of planning to go to meetings and she gave excuses of why she didn't. But she seemed good, we didn't push it very hard. She had always been a kind person. She spent a lot of her time helping friends that were trying to to get clean, giving rides to people with no transportation, just being there for those in need. Through all the ups and downs she never stopped being that angel for others. But at the same time, the lies were starting again and I was blinded. The downward spiral had already begun but I could not see it.
Until the day... Mark and I were having lunch when Kyla called. She said that Jimmy and her were trying to wake Sabrina up and she was not responding. I raced to the house and called 911. Two shots of Narcan later, we were in an ambulance on our way to the hospital. That overdose did permanent damage to not only her memory but her soul. She lost her faith in recovery. Addiction had found it's way back inside. We desperately tried tough love to break, what felt like, a curse. If she hit her rock bottom, I would be there to pick up the pieces. But she always seemed to hover right above it. She spent Christmas alone in a hotel room and shortly after she was out of options for places to crash. So she entered a treatment facility. She left treatment without a program or a community. She experienced highs and lows after that point. One bright spot was getting a job at a salon and moving in with her boss. A wonderful woman that treated Sabrina like the daughter she never had. (We love you Joanne). Unfortunately, Sabrina had reverted back to surrounding herself with people who use drugs. And she became much better at hiding it from everyone who loved her. On February 13, 2020, my daughter died at the age of 25 of a fentanyl overdose.
I would give anything in the world for this story to have a different ending. Her infectious smile can never be replaced. I will never see her get married and I will never see her become a mom. But there is something I can do. I can help another woman change the end of their story. So what do I know now that I didn't know then...
A solid program does work. Sabrina spent 4 1/2 years creating a beautiful life. I also know that addiction is a disease. There is no cure for this disease but there is treatment. That treatment is a life long commitment to a program and community.
Rise Again supports women in their battle for sobriety and that beautiful life.